I wrote Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With after our oldest daughter launched. Katie was in her early twenties and both of us had been in process to grow our relationship and make better choices. Lots of life has happened since the book was released. All the girls are married and we have three new sons that we adore and are pretty confident they feel the same about us. We have a grandson who is our delight and grandson number 2 will arrive this fall. Life is good. But our kids have not stopped making decisions we don’t agree with. The more our lives change and the larger our family grows the opportunity for differing opinions grows too. And guess what? Sometimes Gene and I make decisions our kids don’t agree with!
Gene and my goal is to respect the kids’ decisions and not to give advice unless asked. Now don’t spit coffee out as you read that—especially those of you who know us. I said that is our goal. Do we always do it? No. Do we try and succeed much of the time? Yes.
I would like to make this topic of growing in relationship with our adult kids when we all are making decisions we don’t agree with an ongoing discussion on my blog. However, since the girls are now adults and married, I want to protect their privacy. So at times my stories and illustrations will need to be general. I know this goes against all the good writing wisdom that says, “show don’t tell.” I promise to do my best to “show and tell” in a way that benefits you, protects our kids’ privacy, and makes my writing worth reading.
Today I want to talk about the importance of showing your child by your example the importance of being there for them.
Throughout the kids’ school years, it was my goal to be ready to listen to them when they came home. The snacks on the bar gave them a place to park and unwind and tell me about their days. When they went to college I tried to be available when they called and wanted to talk for an hour (or two!). Now that they are living their adult lives in cities and states far from us I still make time to talk when they call. This is especially important when they became adults as this is my major contribution to their lives. I can’t be physically present with them. They don’t need me to do anything for them. But they did need love, support, and encouragement from their mom. It is my delight to see their name come up on my phone and know I will be hearing their voice in a split second. Listening to them is not only a gift for me, but for them. Who doesn’t want and need someone to listen and encourage them? I know I do.
I am still there for them and now they are there for their husbands. They are the primary listener/supporter for someone they love. They listen as their guys talk about their days, their frustrations, their successes, and their dreams for someday. They affirm them, tell them they believe in them, and give their opinions. They are there for their guys.
Where did they learn to do this? From their mom. And dad.
How do I know?
Last week one of my girls called and shared with me how she is learning every day to be there for her guy. She said, “I don’t think I would have know how to do it [being a listening supporter] if I wouldn’t have experienced it with you.”
In our culture it is easy to buy into the messages of “live your dream,” “excel,” and “be all you can be.” And those are not bad messages. But the truly rich part of life is when we are there for someone and they are there for us. It requires putting aside what we want to be there for the other person. I think of the many stories of Olympians whose parents supported them, took them to predawn practices, sacrificed financially, and always believed in their children. The parents gave up their wants and dreams to be there for their kids. And while most of our kids are not nor will be Olympians, they all need parents who take time to sacrificially love and support them.
Moms and Dads, all you pour into your kids is never wasted. They are absorbing it even if there is no evidence of them doing so. Hang in there. Persist. Not only will you will have no regrets wishing you had done more. But you will be teaching them how to invest in their own families. You will be teaching them a most important life skill—loving their families well.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.