Dear New Daddy - On Beginning with the End in Mind,
"For I too was a son to my father, still tender and cherished by my mother..."
Solomon, Proverbs 4:3
My son David Paul and his precious wife, Jordan, had their first baby boy this week. By mid day of the birth David Paul posted a beautiful picture of his son with all the words of Proverbs 4. It was his prayer for his son. And by verse 3 I was weeping. To say that he is cherished by me is an understatement; but that he chose this as his prayer helped me see that our prayers for him of long ago are coming true every day.
For Dave and I, by God's grace alone, we understood that when raising a child you have to begin with the end in mind. Not the "end," as in death, but the "end" as in "mature product." Our goals for David Paul were never what he would be, as far as career, or financial security would be, though those were things that would be a part of it - but we mostly prayed for the kind of person he would be. The character he would have. The kind of husband and dad he would be. These were the goals we had for him. And so - with those "ends" in mind we began to train him.
We began with scheduling and order when he was an infant and toddler. We practiced what it would be like for him to sit in Church and be respectful. We lined up chairs in our living room and Dave "preached" and we showed him how to be considerate of others around him. We didn't "baby-proof" the house, but taught him to respect the objects around him - knowing that we needed to teach him to respect our property so that he would know to respect other's property when we went to their homes. In the grocery store he was taught to stay with me and hold onto the cart - and not to ask for anything, or to throw a fit over what he couldn't have. ( And when I babysat for friends with 4 children - they did the same with me.) We taught him to order his own food at the fast food restaurant as soon as he could speak, teaching him to look at people when he spoke. We continually reminded our son that we were teaching him to be a respectful and beneficial person to society as a whole. We wanted to raise a child that others would want to have around - not a cautionary tale that warned new parents that they might not want to venture down the path of child-bearing.
And now, as an adoptive mom, I am doing it all over again with children that I did not birth, but that I chose. And training is twice as hard. And it has different variables because these are not the children of my womb, and I have not had the advantage of the "birth years," and believe me, it makes a difference. But I am learning even more about keeping the "end" in mind.
In a recent conversation, and in a few before now, the tendency can be to look for pity from me - because of their history. And it is tempting. I would love nothing more than to coddle and feel sorry and say, "you poor thing." But I don't. Something deep within me has risen up to think farther down the road, especially for my girl, and to tell her that I do not feel sorry for her. I feel excited and hopeful. And that the past for EVERYONE holds things that we wish had not happened. BUT, God is faithful to redeem that and to grow her, and to grow me, and together we can move into a future that is prepared for both of us. With joy and anticipation that great things are in store. Hard things, too, maybe. But she is capable of doing hard things - because she already has.
So this week, when my first grandchild has come into the world, I unite with my son and say "Get Wisdom at any Cost'. Proverbs 4 is a great place to start. And do the hard things of training your children for hard things. This is the pathway to true love - for it prepares them for the world. There is plenty of time to hug and hold and have compassion, but without the discipline and training, we raise children that are ill-prepared for the world and will become dependent on it. And that is not a happy picture.
We prayed mostly for a son that would know the Lord and follow Him with his whole heart. He is not perfect and has not arrived at this place without scars. But he has done hard things, and he has overcome. And he is someone you want to have around, at your home, in your community, and in the world at large - and now he is passing this along.
P.S. You who know me, know that we haven't done this perfectly - I just wanted to share some of my thoughts as I reflect on this new chapter.