I fear failure as a mother.
I want to do it well. I want my daughters to grow up as healthy, functioning, well-transitioned adults. And more importantly, I want them to share my faith. But how does that happen?
For the past two and a half years since my husband’s death, I’ve struggled with detachment from the passion for my faith. I’ve struggled at times with severe apathy toward parenting itself. It has felt like a rickety bridge. As I cross on my own, the sways and creaks underneath me make me want to cower and cover my head and just pretend things aren’t happening. Ya know… those things… the things teens start facing, and thinking, and contemplating. The nitty-gritty things that have come out of the woodwork since Kyle passed that I’ve been forced to deal with alone. For many months, I could easily slip into my bedroom, distract myself with TV and pretend my girls were fine with whatever they were distracting themselves with. Stick my head in the sand….avoid what I could.
My daughters are now thirteen and fourteen. They are in the stage of life where I know they will start thinking for themselves. They will start forming their own opinions, influenced by a host of external forces besides me. Their beliefs will start developing, whether it be the truths I follow or something else.
And I had to ask…. What am I doing to spiritually mature them?
As I slowly am coming into the light again and God is opening up the bloom of my heart that has been closed, I’ve been burdened for my daughters. Sure, I take them to church. Sure, I take them to youth group. But is that the definition of spiritual parenting? Is that the summation of investing into their spiritual lives? Nowhere in the Bible does it say that it is the church’s job to train my children in the ways of the Lord. It is my job.
I have avoided it. My husband should be here, darn it. I don’t feel ready. I don’t feel capable. My own soul feels like jello. Unfortunately, the task falls solely on my shoulders. I fight that fact and chafe at it, but in the end, it is still there, gaping at me. As I’ve slowly come out of my fog of grief, as I’ve slowly come out of the shadows of apathy, I watch them and see their need crying out in the silence.
I can make excuses. For me, it’s because of the emotional energy required, which grief and depression suck dry. For other people, there is a myriad of excuses, take your pick. But the job is staring me in the face, nonetheless.
Me spending quality time with them isn’t the same as discipling them. Me teaching them to bake, or change a tire, or handle money, or work hard… isn’t the same as discipling them. Me taking them to their piano practice or sports practices or attending their plays… isn’t the same as discipling them. Those things are great for emotional and mental health and development. Great for strengthening the parent/child relationship. But none of them can replace me living and communicating the truths of my faith so they can grasp it for themselves.
So my conviction finally turned to action. I made a plan. I began setting aside Sunday evenings as “date night” where I alternate taking each of them for a one-on-one activity. Then we read together through a bible-based book geared toward teens. (The other daughter is at home making dinner. Another good learning experience.) The purpose is to open up dialogue and discussion… not to throw scripture at them or preach at them. I want to communicate. I want to foster free thought and questions. I want them to have the freedom to explore the truth I believe. Because if I don’t give the freedom to explore at a gut-honest level, the faith I want them to claim will merely be what I strap to their lap. It won’t take root. If I believe my faith is the truth, then it should be powerful enough to speak for itself if I give it the tools.
We began talking about what I believe and why. Why it makes sense to me. Why I feel it is logical. What sets it apart from other belief systems. How it has changed my life. What truths make up my faith. I began asking them questions to spur on their own thoughts, challenging the status quo in their minds. But doing all of this challenges me. It challenges me to shake off my own apathy and remember the passion that once held me. It challenges me to be the example I have let grief wane. It challenges me to reevaluate what my own life is built upon and be willing for the building to be put to inspection by their young and curious minds.
Will it be successful? Only time will tell. But at least I won’t look back in ten or twenty years and feel I didn’t give the proper investment into the most important aspect of parenting there is: Eternity.