Cornerstone

Part 4: A New Year

“We’re not trying to rush him to grow up. We’re just trying to do the best we can (as fallen and finite parents) to prepare him for the journey toward adulthood...”

As Harper’s homeschool year came to a close, we drew a line in the timeline of his life, and determined that, going forward, he would be treated like an adult in our home, and increasingly in our relationship.  This was the culmination of the “rite of passage” he had completed.  In part, this was for him, so that he would see himself as more of an adult.  But in an even larger part, this was for Lara and I.  You see, I know my own tendencies, and I know that if left to my own habits I would treat my kids as young children long past when it would be helpful for them.  I have a young man in my home now.  To continue to treat him like a little boy would only frustrate him, stunt his maturity, and build tension in our relationship.  He needs to be treated like the young man that he has physically already become.  A part of how we signaled this change was to give him a number of new privileges and a number of corresponding new responsibilities.

New Privileges

Going forward, Harper now sets his own bedtime and wakeup time. 

Going forward, Harper now sets his own screen-time limits.  That being said, I still get a report of every webpage he visits every day because we have all agreed together that this is a level of accountability that every member of our family (including adults) is wise to have.

Going forward, Harper now sets his own Bible reading plan.  He’s been reading according to a plan I gave to him for the past three years.  Now he gets to choose where he wants to read, what he wants to focus on, and what pace he wants to read at.

Going forward Harper now participates in the “family council.”  The “family council” consists of all adults in the house that meet together to plan and discuss important decisions that will impact the whole family.

Going forward, Harper now has permission to purchase his own phone.  This is a big one.  Interestingly, he has currently chosen to put off this purchase, especially since he will have to pay for both the phone and the monthly bill himself, which leads to the final privilege:

Going forward, Harper now receives a large allowance (increased significantly from the $10/month he previously received).  Although, this privilege comes with a number of corresponding responsibilities.  Going forward, Harper will also be responsible for paying for his own:

New Responsibilities

Paying for certain expenses is not the only new responsibility Harper has been given, however.  If he is going to receive such a significant allowance, he will need to earn that allowance through a number of increased responsibilities.

Going forward, Harper is now expected to cook dinner 1-2 nights a week

Going forward, Harper is now expected to prepare lunches for all four kids during the schoolyear. 

Going forward, Harper is now expected to do his and his brother’s laundry. 

In addition, Harper is still expected to continue the chores that he has been responsible for previously (along with his brother) including: keeping his room clean, taking out the trash, loading the dishwasher, etc.

New Relationship

The real change that has taken place over the last year isn’t about the amount of money Harper’s responsible for, the time he goes to bed, or the food he prepares.  The real transition has been in the dynamics of our relationship.  I parent most naturally as an authority figure, not a peer, in my children’s lives (as I think we all should).  However, as our kids become young adults, we need to begin (if we haven’t already) shifting the dynamics of our relationship from one that relies on authority to one that relies on our influence.  (This is a concept I first read about in Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart.  If you haven’t read it, it’s the number one parenting book I hand out.)

To fail to make the transition from authority to influence gradually over time, is to have our kids leave the house at eighteen and immediately lose all the authority they have been dependent on without having nurtured the influence that they will need going forward.  The transition of this past year has signaled a big step in our home where we significantly decreased our authority, while simultaneously significantly increasing our influence because of the deepened relationship this past year has produced.

After spending so much time together this past year, my relationship with my son is permanently changed.  We’ve had the kinds of arguments and fights that that much time together can produce, but we’ve also had the kinds of intimate moments and deep discussions that I will cherish for the rest of my life, as I hope he will.  Our relationship is changed.  Lara and my authority has been diminished and we are now more dependent than we have ever been on our influence, as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Lord willing, we believe this will set us up to travel the teenage journey ahead.

Same Kid

At the same time, with all this change, I don’t want to paint a picture of a kid who went into this past year as one person and came out of it a completely different person.  Harper is still just a 13-year-old.  He still loves to play Legos, play pretend with his siblings, and goof around with his friends.  There are a lot of ways in which he is still much more of a boy than he is a man.  And that’s ok.

The goal of this year wasn’t to remove all of the childishness from him.  God matures all of us at different rates and there is a kindness, playfulness, and easygoingness to Harper, in particular, that I hope will always be a part of his personality.  In many ways, even with all of the change and transformation that has taken place, he’s still the same kid.  We’re not trying to rush him to grow up.  We’re just trying to do the best we can (as fallen and finite parents) to prepare him for the journey toward adulthood that, like it or not, he is most definitely on.

Same Unknown Future

And as we look forward into the next phases of that journey, even after all this effort and all these sacrifices, the future is still just as unknown as it was when we started.  A child could be given all the benefits of parental investment described here (and much more!) and still choose to turn away from Christ and live life for themselves.  A child could be given none of these benefits and grow up neglected and abused and still come to saving faith in Christ, giving their entire life over to him.

Investing deeply in the lives of our kids doesn’t guarantee a certain spiritual outcome, and we’ve missed the point if the reason we’re doing so is to try and do just that.  The reason we ought to consider how we might sacrificially invest deeply in the lives of our kids, particularly as they transition to young adulthood, isn’t because it can control their future…the truth is, it can’t.  But it’s because that’s the kind of love God has shown us.  God has chased after us, he has poured into us, and he has sacrificed more for us than we could ever imagine or repay.  That is the love of a Father.

As fathers and mothers who have been created in God’s image, part of the call to parent is a call to reflect the beauty, sacrifice, and intentionality of his love.  However that looks in your unique relationship with your son or daughter, my prayer is that the imperfect effort we have made over this past season could serve to spur you on to love your kids even more like Christ has loved you.

Now that this year is over we’re faced with a whole host of different challenges and opportunities.  Our daily and weekly investment in Harper has to look different now as he adjusts back into the public school setting.  But we’re excited for the unknown, bumpy road ahead, because we know that God is guiding the way, using our best efforts, and redeeming our worst.  All for his glory, because, in the end, that’s all that any of it is about

Scott Mehl

Scott serves the church by overseeing leadership, development, global ministries, and counseling/discipleship.

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