About 3 weeks ago I crossed a parenting milestone that I’ve spent the better part of 2 decades anticipating and preparing for:
my first born son, TJ -who launched me into fatherhood at 25- turned 18 and is now an “official adult”. (insert cliche but true statement about how time flies and how you should not blink because your kids will be 18 before you know it.)
Anyway… I say an “official adult” in quotes, not because I don’t think he is one (quite the opposite really), but rather because the government now says he is, regardless of anyone’s opinion. That said, with a front row seat to youth ministry for the past 22 years, my wife and I have never really believed that age 18 is what makes an adult. In fact, we know lots of 25 year-olds that still are not and a few 15 year-olds who we think are. So to that end, we did our best to try and pass the baton of character, faith, leadership and responsibility back to TJ incrementally as he moved from boy to tween to young adult.
But now that this parenting milestone is in the past, it begs more than a few questions…
- Is my adult son the answer to the question, “Am I a good Dad?”
- Is my parenting producing a young man who reflects the character of God more than he reflects me?
- If I could go back 18 years and start over, what would I tell my 25 year-old self at the entry gate to parenting?
- We still have 4 “kids” in our home… so how does this change TJ’s role with them and how will his moving out to go to college affect the story of everyone in our home?
- How does my role change in TJ’s life and what does it mean to parent an adult?
- … and on and on…
While all that has been kicking around in my head, a song has been playing on the radio that caught me off guard with how deeply it resonated within my soul. Not necessarily because I agree with it’s lyrics or even the larger opinions of the artist, but because it’s the most authentic reflection of parenting I’ve heard in a really long time. Ben Haggerty (who you might now as the rapper/musician/songwriter/artist named “Macklemore”) wrote it for his young baby son, Sloane, and it’s called “Growing Up”. You can watch a short but fascinatingly authentic interview about the song here. It made the top 40 songs in the nation this week, and while it doesn’t yet have an “official music video”… if you’re a parent, I think it’s worth the listen. There’s a lyric video you can watch and listen to here or click play on the video below. It’s definitely worth 5 minutes and 33 seconds of your story.
As I’ve listened to this song and searched is resonance in me, I think I’ve concluded a few things.
PARENTING MATTERS: The role we as parents play is incredibly shaping. Just yesterday I listened and prayed with a 30 year-old man who wrestled and weeped over the absence of a real parent in his childhood story. Regardless of whether your parenting playbook looks like mine or Macklemore’s, the fact is the same: We are all shaping our kids and our character and choices are profoundly impacting the children God has given us. Deep down, all parents share a passion to be good mom’s and dad’s. I say, “Lean into that desire”. Good job Macklemore! I agree, there is massive “weight” to our decisions and props for trying to be intentional about yours in light of it’s impact on the kids you’ve been entrusted with.
PARENTING IS SCARY: Oh my is it scary and we are all “filled with fear”… both good and bad. It keeps me on my knees before God and on my toes before the world.
PARENTING IS ABOUT BEING PRESENT: “I don’t wanna be a Dad that’s living in Facetime” is such a profound and powerful 2015 lyric. We live in a culture where you can be physically present and emotionally absent through social media, cell phones, texting, and technology. You can also be physically absent and pseudo present through things like Skype and Face Time. But it’s a myth. You can’t cry with your kid, watch your kid’s games, vacation with your kid, mentor your kid, or be there for your kid while you’re actually somewhere else. Parenting requires that we be present. period.
BALANCING HOME AND WORK IS A CONSTANT TENSION: Especially if you’re the primary income source for your home, you’ll find this tension is so strong that as a parent and a provider, those two never stop pulling at each other. Macklemore gets that. He has a kid to raise and a concert tour contract to fulfill. We get that. When your son wants you to play soccer with him, you too will inevitably have e-mails to answer, bids to secure, and customers to satisfy. It never stops and it never will. Parenting is unapologetically about navigating this tension. Those who fail to do so eventually lose their influence in their home, their workplace, or maybe even both.
PARENTING ADVICE IS ONLY AS SOLID AS IT’S SOURCE: I think the scariest thing about this song is the advice piece. Not because I think his is all bad or that I don’t have a similar list of things I’d love to write down to give to my own kids. It’s just who’s to say that my advice is any better and how do we know? Personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that my advice is only as solid as it’s source. For me, that means that if my parenting reflects the image of God we find in Jesus, then it’s advice worth heeding. But on those days when I just default to my own experience and skip the dependency on God’s wisdom, well… those are not great parenting moments.
PARENTING IS DONE WHILE GROWING UP: That’s such a profound lyric in this chorus and such a resonating truth with all who parent. It’s inexplicably humbling when we admit that “I’m trying to raise a grown up while still in the process of growing up myself”. Praise God for his grace because we’re literally growing up together. My kid didn’t get a trial run at being a teen and I didn’t get a trial run at being forty something either. Parenting is like building a boat while at sea. No wonder it’s so hard to get right. We should all cut everyone a whole grip of slack. We’re all still growing up.