One evening, in the fall of 2002, I called my Dad and his wife to share some good news.
We were expecting baby number three and were super thrilled. A few months before, we’d made the decision to leave our family planning and timing up to God, and this was our third baby in three years.
Instead of the excitement and congratulations I was expecting, I got condemnation, criticism, and judgment. Over the course of too many years, I received even more hurtful emails, letters, and phone calls. How are you going to buy all those kids the things they need—the things you had growing up? How are you going to put them all through college? You’re homeschooling? At least put them in a real school! That baby you lost was God’s way of telling you he’s ready for you to be done having kids. One phrase that hit me hard that night and still resonates today was this: You weren’t raised that way.
Before I go any further, let me add that my Dad and I are working on mending our relationship and there has been some apologies and forgiveness that has taken place. You may be wondering why I’m writing this article–if not to just air my dirty laundry–but it’s more than that. This issue of today’s parents wanting to do a “new thing” with their families, and getting flack from their own parents about it, is the single most common subject that I get emails about. The Bible tells us to respect our parents, but how do we do that when they have no problem disrespecting our adult choices?
My husband and I, as well as many Christian parents today, have no desire to raise our kids the way we were raised. This is difficult for our parents to hear because they take it as a personal attack against their parenting. Yet, every single “bad” thing I was involved in as a kid happened because my parents failed in some way. I totally own every single heart issue—but improper actions were only allowed to happen because there wasn’t a parent there stopping me.
My parents chose to allow me to attend public school. They allowed me to begin working at age 14. They allowed me to attend sleepovers with families they didn’t know, and ride in cars with boys, and date without limitations. I had unlimited access to television and internet (even though it was the 90s and no one really knew what the WWW was). I moved in with my Dad on my 13th birthday and his biggest dream for me was to go to college. Didn’t matter what I was studying or if I even wanted to be there–it was just a given and I was going.
Not one of these things is being encouraged for my daughters. Every one of them is actually being avoided like the plague. We are doing everything humanly possible to guard our children’s innocence as long as is reasonable and to gently introduce them to all they’ll need to be fully functioning adults–in a way that honors God. Still, there’s no guarantee that any of this will work out the way we’re hoping. It ultimately depends on their hearts and choices, as they’re free to make them.
So here’s my point. We think we’re doing a new thing. We think, If our parents would have just understood these principles of good parenting, then we wouldn’t have so much about ourselves that needs fixing now. We blame our parents for not doing enough or being enough or being there enough. What parents of adults, as well as we adult children need to get, is that our “new thing” is the same new thing that all the generations before us did. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Even though I wasn’t raised “this way”, I’ve got to have grace for those who’ve done this parenting thing before me. While it may not have looked the same, it was definitely done with the same desire that I now have to see good fruit come from my kids. My Mom would have made an excellent homeschooler, had homeschooling been a “thing” in the 80s. Having never had a sister, my Dad was a bit too worried about the boys who would lead me into trouble, than the reality of it being me leading them. He was trying to allow me to be that Independent Woman that his generation cursed my own with.
My advice to my readers who write me with this struggle is to not let it be a divisive issue, as much as it depends on you. Stand your ground, and stick to the commitment you and your husband have made for family structure and philosophies, but respect the fact that your loved ones are often speaking out of fear and ignorance and give them grace. You might never make them understand the whys in what you’re doing, but you don’t have to—that’s the beauty of adulthood, right?
Many of us are doing different actions with our own children than were done with us, but the heart issues are still the same. The unity between generations happens when we understand that we all want what’s best for our children, no matter how old they are, and that the only perfect parent is our Heavenly Father.