“You can always pray.” This was the message I received on my oldest son’s 19th birthday.
Being a parent is hard work. It is physically demanding when your children are small. It is emotionally demanding when they grow up. Being the parent of a 12 and 19 year old, I have been through the baby, toddler and teenage years as a parent. I always thought that the toddler years were the hardest. What a stage in life! Here you have a little person who is discovering their independence for the first time. They are learning to walk–getting around on their own–going where they want, when they want. They are learning to talk–and why is it that their favorite word is No!! They are learning that they can do things on their own and they WANT to do these things on their own. They WILL put the spoon in their mouth themselves, even though the spoon is upside down. They WILL NOT sit in the stroller, they want to walk instead! When you think about it, this assertion of their independence as a two and three year old is much like their assertion of independence as a 17 and 18 year old. Things circle back around, and now you have a big person who has learned how to drive a car, how to hold a job, how to do things that THEY want to do. The biggest difference as a parent between these two stages is the amount of control the parent has. When they were a toddler, yes, they wanted to do things on their own–but ultimately, the parent had more control over which things they did. As a teenager, yes, I was still able to set some boundaries such as curfew–but the amount of control you as a parent have slowly starts to dwindle. I can demand that you be home by midnight, but I am not there with you while you are gone, helping you make the right choices. And while I know it is a good thing to give your child the independence that they so desperately crave so that they become productive, responsible adults…it sure is hard. For me, being a parent now is much harder than it ever was when my kids were little. Then, I was their world and I knew what they were doing, when they were doing it and I was able to make sure they were safe and happy. Now? I am not their world, nor should I be at this stage. I HOPE that they are safe. I HOPE that they are happy. But my control over that is slowly slipping away.
The night before my son’s 19th birthday, I was at Mass praying. My heart was so consumed in prayer for my son that tears were streaming from my eyes. I want so much for him to be happy, to be loved, to find his path and to remain close to God. Those are my deepest desires for my children–they are what I want more than anything in this world. At one point in my son’s life, I could provide that. Now, I must rely on God to provide that for them. The feeling of helplessness, on my part, filled me with despair.
The next morning, on my son’s birthday, I read my devotional. God spoke to me in this sentence, “When you see a need, don’t ever think there is nothing you can do, because you can always pray.” (Love Out Loud by Joyce Meyers)
I pray for my children every day. I pray for them now more than I ever did when they were little. When I think about it, I don’t think I prayed much for them when they were little. Why would I need to? I was taking care of them. I was in control. Silly, yes, but that was my thinking. Now I realize that as my control slowly begins to fade away, my prayers for them have increased tremendously. And that has made me realize that now they are in much better hands than they were ever in when I was their world. Now, they are in God’s hands.
A parent’s work is never done, it just changes. God has shown me that as a parent of a young adult, I still do have some control. I can control how often I pray for my son and what I pray for. My despair has been turned to hope, knowing that through it all, I can always pray.