Sitting at the dentist recently was a bit painful. With my mouth wide open, my dental hygienist told me about a recent accident that took the life of her best friend’s son. He was 26.
Unable to speak and drool rolling down my face, I just listened. I prayed a silent prayer for that family.
She then told me about her three teenagers and college-aged children. Her youngest just started driving. My mind immediately assured me that my four and two-year-old were at home—safe.
Who am I kidding? As she raised the seat and I sat up, I said, “Control is such an illusion. We really have zero control over our kids no matter their age, right?” I asked, inquiring about her experience as a mom of older children.
“Josh,” she proceeded, “my boys ride motocross. I have friends who ask me how I allow my boys to do that. They’re not careless. They wear helmets and use the proper safety measures. Could we make decisions to overprotect our kids? Sure we could. But I told my children ever since the day they accepted Jesus that their names are written in the Book of Life. God knows the day He will call them home. I have no control over that. What I do have control over is stewarding their hearts well as a mother. Besides, they’re His children more than they are mine.”
Did I mention how much I want to be like my dental hygienist when I grow up?
We talked further about the struggles of what this realization means practically, especially for a mother who just lost her own son. But we also acknowledged the freedom in it as well.
Here are three reasons we seek to control our kid’s lives—and how we can begin to let go.
- We have a poor marriage
Parents who feel disconnected from their spouse often seek emotional fulfillment and security in their kids instead.
God’s design is for our kids to leave our family and cleave to their spouse (Genesis 2:24). Do you and your spouse have a bucket list for your empty nest years? If not, start one now. Dream together, without the kids. Start dating again, without the kids. Go on an annual vacation together, without the kids.
For some, this may sound selfish. But our kids desire and deserve our happiness. Let’s show them what a loving marriage should look like.
- We have unfulfilled childhood dreams we can’t let go of
I recently took our four-year-old to wrestling camp. On the way home one evening he said, “Dad, I don’t like wrestling practice.”
I was a bit sad. I didn’t start wrestling until I was 12, finishing with more losses than wins. All I heard in my head driving home that evening were the voices telling me that I need to start him young if he wants to get ahead.
For a moment, I wanted to keep him in it to see if he would come to like it. But it felt selfish. I love sport. I love competition. I love striving for excellence. But if I come to idolize it, I’ll try to control my child to complete the business I couldn’t finish.
The last thing I’ll ever do is sacrifice my relationship with my son for a state championship. I’ll take both, but never the latter at the expense of the former.
Ask yourself if you’re more invested than your kids are in their sports or activities. If you want help, ask your spouse or a close friend to be honest with you. Then, ask your kids what sports or activities they want to invest in.
- We have no vision beyond our kids
Proverbs is clear, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” We love our family, and encourage you to love yours. But parents who have no vision for their lives beyond their kids, will exhaust themselves.
One way to gauge vision is to write down the goals and dreams you have for yourself. Beyond the marital bucket list, what do you want to accomplish? Need to finish your degree? Volunteer at the local shelter? Serve in your church? Start a business or ministry? Complete a triathlon?
When our kids become the source of our joy and happiness alone, we’re bound to be let down. So are they. To raise kids who live for something bigger than themselves, we need to show them what it means to live on purpose.
If our identity as parents is not grounded in Jesus, we’ll find something else to ground it in. For the sake our children, let’s not let it be them.