Some subtle shifts and adjustments ...
When the children were young and still at home, I learned a lot about parenting by just being a parent. As they grew, my skills did too, and my experience served as a support when facing new situations. It was a day-by-day growing up process for me as a parent.
Then there were the school years, and in our case, homeschooling our children. I didn't intend to continue straight through from K-12, but that's how it unfolded. We found our children loved being schooled at home and we enjoyed it, too. As a Mom, it was a real challenge and motivator in my life to know I was shaping three children for the world beyond our doors. Thankfully, the principal (their Daddy) was very much involved, too, and we are thankful for those 18 years of hands-on education.
Later, as they grew up and flew the nest, I learned yet more parenting skills. The most obvious was learning how to breathe and trust they would be okay when I was no longer a hands-on Mom. Our children were now out in the 'big world' for which we had been preparing them all along -- but it was still scary. Would they remember to buckle their seat belts, watch out for the other driver, not get lost on the freeway? Would they do well in college, as employees, as roommates? Would they (ahem) survive without me?
I'm thankful to tell you they did survive and thrive. Our youngest is advancing in his career as an IT specialist; he is also taking classes to further his skills and has been tapped to possibly move up as supervisor on his job. At 24, he shows a maturity that is a profound blessing to us.
His older brother is finishing college after continued service with the USMC, majoring in homeland security and studying Arabic. There may be other deployments in his future, and as a Mom, I must trust he's man enough to know how to care for himself in that, but I will still do a lot of praying. I'm thankful to say he's also a good husband to our daughter-in-law and great Dad to our precious 14-month old grandson.
Our only daughter went through college and on to graduate school to earn a Masters degree in music/piano. She now teaches private lessons in her home and plays keyboard for the choir her husband directs at their home church. It's a blessing to know she's happily married, loves to go hunting with her man, and is a happy homemaker and mom to our 19-month old grandson.
So where does this leave me as a parent? I'm not planning to abandon my post anytime soon. In fact, I love getting those phone calls asking for tips and advice, a recipe, a photo from childhood, or just to see how hubby and I are doing. Hey, I'm still SUCH a Mom, as the boys used to say, and I love my job!
As for the subtle shifts and changes, I'm in a different phase of parenting, now. In fact, I have been over the past year or two and especially the past six months as I assist our parents. I'd always heard of children "parenting their parents" and now understand what that involves. My responsibilities will increase as they age, but I am thankful to help them as I can.
My father-in-law, who is 89, is the same man that raised my husband to be a hard worker, a person of integrity and a good family man. He is still that example of integrity and strength of character himself, but he has a little trouble putting on his jacket or remembering the names of his grandchildren, and that's okay. It's a blessing to assist and accompany this man I call "Dad."
My mother, who is 86 years old, raised six children, fed a family of eight and made a nice home for all of us. She could make a wonderful meal centered around a few cheap cuts of meat and we were none the wiser. Mom still cooks, but there is the concern of her leaving the burners on. I help her with daily decisions and banking and remind her how to take her medicines. The woman who taught me so many things has almost forgotten how to do them herself.
Do I say these things to be disrespectful? Not at all --I only share them to point out the changes that have taken place in our parenting process. As I tie a shoe or button a button, buckle them in the car or serve our parents in other ways, I want my touch to be tender and my speech to be seasoned with love and respect.
As long as this earth stands, there will be changes in the parenting process. From raising our own tiny newborns to adults and then having a few years before assisting our own parents -- these changes occur in the natural parenting process. May we always remember that "parenting someone is more than just a process. It is the choice to do it with our hearts."