How does it happen so fast?  One minute they’re little babes in your arms and the next minute they’re talking about careers and getting married and all those grown-up things.

My youngest just turned 13 this past week.  I can’t even believe I’m typing that.  13??  Goodness.  And my oldest will turn 20 on his next birthday.  It feels weird to know I have a child who’s almost 20.  I don’t think of myself as being old enough to have a 20 year old.  But then age is just a number I guess.  At least that’s what they say, whoever they are.

I’ll be honest though.  I’ve been in a bit of a panic about it all because while age might be just a number, it’s a number that keeps increasing every year and I look around and think, but wait…I’m not ready to be 45 years old.  I’m not ready to have one child hitting his teen years and the other getting ready to leave them behind.

I’m not ready.  Will I ever be ready?

I look at my oldest son and I worry that I didn’t do enough.  That I didn’t give him all the guidance that I should have.  That I didn’t tell him everything he needed to know.  That I didn’t teach him all the things I was supposed to.  He’ll soon be out in the world on his own.  Did I do everything I was supposed to as a mom so that he’ll be alright as an adult?

I guess, though, that that’s the worry of most parents.  Did we raise them well enough?  Did we do it right?

And really, I don’t know that there is a “right” way to parent.  Every child is different, even children within the same family, raised by the same parents in the same home.  My boys are so different.

Over the years, my oldest has sometimes complained that I do things for the younger one that I didn’t do for the him.  And there’s probably some truth to that.  There’s six years between them, so I like to think that I was less stupid and maybe had learned a bit more about what it means to be a grown-up by the time the second one came along.  (I also remind my oldest that while it seems like the younger one gets away with more than he did, he also forgets what he was like as a little one and doesn’t remember all the things he got away with then.)

And then, you add in all the the things you are either trying to avoid or trying to emanate from your own childhood.  You’re either trying to give them better than what you had and trying to avoid being like your own parent or parents, or you’re trying to be at least as good as what you had because your folks set the standard high for great parenting.   

I guess I say all that to say, on this Father’s Day, that parenting is hard.  You make all these assumptions when you’re standing in the check out line at the grocery store behind a parent with a screaming child about what you’ll do when you have kids, but then you do and it’s usually way harder than you thought it’d be.  Now you’re the parent standing in the grocery store line with a screaming child while some know-it-all behind you is rolling their eyes.

Be kind to yourself, Dad.  Give yourself some grace, Mom.  We’re all out here trying to do the best we can with our little ones…and our almost-grown ones.

Just love them.  Love them and encourage them.  Be there to listen and don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes.  Teach them about Jesus and pray.

And know that God loves them even more than you.

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