He started his run long after I started mine and we finished at the same time. Probably because mine was more jogging than running. And also closer to walking than jogging. There is a lot I can learn from my biggest, tallest, oldest son, like how to suck enough oxygen into my lungs and how to stretch my stocky legs, but my time for teaching him has abruptly ground to a halt. Or so my husband tells me as I stubbornly cram information, tips, reminders and warnings into our conversations, aware that we only have a few weeks before college move-in day.
On this run-jog-walk day, my son tells me stories from his day on the job and of the grandma he delivered groceries to and then stayed for an hour to help her move furniture. I just couldn’t help myself and one more life lesson came tumbling out onto him.
As I look ahead to what my new graduate will pack up and take with him when he leaves our house, a few life lessons rise to the surface and I pray he is prepared for his big, wide life ahead.
My oldest may soon be out of earshot, but his siblings will be with me for years to come and I need the reminder of what the most important things are.
Here are seven things I want all my kids to know before graduating high school:
I am Responsible for My Own Relationship with God
As lovely as community and the local church are, they are not responsible for my kids’ relationship with Jesus. When they were Littles, I spoon-fed them Jesus and slowly they learn to feed themselves as they head into adulthood. Although church community is helpful, every adult answers for themselves. And as we have seen during COVID, sometimes our interaction with our local church is limited and we can’t lean as heavily on others for our connection to God.
I Need My People
Paradoxically, my adult kids also need community and get to chose their own. Although I deeply hope my kids find healthy church communities, I hope even deeper that they chose to surround themselves with people who are good for them spiritually and emotionally, whether in a traditional church setting or elsewhere. Friends, mentors, influencers, yes please! As powerful people themselves, it is up to them to be intentional about who they surround themselves with and allow to speak into their lives.
I am a Learner
If my kids leave our home without knowing this than I am throwing my hands in the air and take no blame for their thick-headed tom-foolery. To be teachable means we don’t know everything but we are willing to learn. I hope for my kids to walk through their adult lives with humility and curiosity, desiring to learn from teachers and peers, the other gender, difference races and cultures. Basically everyone.
I am a Leader
This is not dependent on personality or gifting; my kids are leaders because they lead themselves. As followers of Jesus, they will make unpopular decisions and hold themselves to a different standard than perhaps typical. As they lead themselves well, others may take notice and follow. But either way, they consistently lead the person in the mirror.
Black Lives Matter to Me
When other image bearers tell us they do not feel heard and valued, we stop what we are doing and we give them our ear. Right now we are especially mindful of Black voices but the concept shapes how we respond to Indigenous people, immigrants and refugees, the fatherless/motherless and those who find themselves in the margins. Black lives matter to us because Black lives matter to God.
Everything I Have Belongs to God
Our family follows the Old Testament tradition of tithing. Giving God 10% of their earning before spending or saving reminds them that actually 100% of what they have belongs to God. I want my kids to look at the 90% in their hands and ask “What would God prefer I spend my money on?” This principle suggests that God has access to all of their time, their emotions, their energy, their decisions, everything.
I am a World Changer
It’s not about them. A world changer is one who uses their power and their possessions for the benefit of the world. All of my kids have piles of stuff, ridiculous opportunities and rich relationships that can be used for their own entertainment, pleasure and purposes. Or for the good of their communities. If they choose to use their power and possessions as moms and dads, voters, and neighbors, garbage collectors, medical missionaries and hair dressers to benefit others, they will change their worlds.
Those are my seven. They might seem important to you, but most likely, you have your own top seven. My hope is that those of us with kiddos still at home would be stirred up to grab the grocery list or pull up a note on our phones and jot down those top seven, or maybe just top two, and parent every kid in every season with them as our north star.