Broadman & Holman
Before I had children, I was one of those women who absolutely had to have a girl. If I had to have a dozen kids to get that girl, so be it. When I found out I was expecting my first child, I had visions of pink smocked dresses, dainty hair bows, play kitchens, dress-up clothes, ballet lessons, and all the other standard female accoutrements. It's not that I didn't want a boy; I just couldn't picture myself with a boy. And so for nine months I waited for the verdict.
This was long before you could get an ultrasound on a routine doctor's visit. Mothers today have more video footage of their babies before they ever take a breath than I have of my entire childhood. I have young mother friends who start scrapbooking before the baby has a heartbeat.
I had no such luxury, so I had no choice but to wait and wait and wait. No worries, though, because according to the old wives' tales, I was having a girl. I carried the baby high, the heartbeat was fast, and I craved sweets. Who needs an ultrasound with that kind of foolproof evidence? And so I continued to think pink. All the way up until the final push, my mind was filled with thoughts of the daughter I had always dreamed of. OK, so I lied. Actually, at that moment my mind was filled with thoughts like: This is the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my entire life. Forget my dream of three or four children. This kid is going to be an only child!
I did, however, have one tiny clue just moments before the baby's birth that prepared me for the fact that I just might not have a girl. As my baby was entering the world, a nurse in the delivery room said, “Wow! Look at the shoulders on that football player!”
Football player? I thought. Great, if it is a girl, she's going to look like Helga the Amazon queen. And with that sobering thought, I was almost relieved to hear the “It's a boy!” announcement.
Within minutes my baby boy was cleaned up, wrapped in a blanket, and handed over to me for inspection. Funny thing, not once in those first moments of holding my new son did I wish he had been a girl..
In those early years I experienced firsthand the indescribable bond God creates between a mother and her son. Sure, many of us are blessed with husbands who do a pretty good job in the unconditional love department, but a son, especially in those early years, will melt your heart with his shameless adoration. What mother cannot remember in detail the priceless things her boys say to her in those years? “Mom, when I grow up, I'm going to marry you.” “Mom, you are bootiful.” “Mom, I love you infinite times infinite times a thousand.” Or, as my second son, Hayden, said to me at the age of six when he crawled up in my lap to snuggle, “Mom, you are my kind of woman.” Perhaps that is what makes the mother-son bond so different from the mother-daughter bond. Mom is truly the number one woman in her son's life in the early years. She is the reigning queen of his heart.
Our sons' unconditional love and adoration help quell any leftover residue of pain we may have suffered at the hands of countless other boys in those awkward growing-up years. Remember when we obsessed over whether the boys thought we were pretty? Well, guess what? Our sons think we are-sans the makeup and with an extra twenty pounds! Remember sweating it out wondering if we would get asked to the homecoming dance? This boy will dance to our heart's content and turn the average kitchen into an elegant ballroom. Remember waiting by the phone, hoping that special boy would call? This boy will call you nonstop on his pretend phone! Our sons will place us on a pedestal that ascends into the starry heights of heaven. One look into their adoring eyes and we are forever hooked. Yet, in the back of our minds, we know it cannot last forever. Eventually another woman will become the object of their affections. As mothers it is our job to nurture and prepare our sons for that day.
We will always hold a special and unique place in our sons' hearts even though their outward displays of love will lessen as the years go on. Don't you love when the camera cuts to the fans during a televised football game? You can almost always count on seeing a grown son with a “Hi, Mom!” sign in the crowd.
My older son is months shy of flying the nest as I write this book, and I can honestly say I have had a blast with him. I am not a perfect parent; I have made many mistakes along the way. Fortunately love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8). If given the opportunity to do it over, I can think of many things I would do differently, but I honestly can't imagine the outcome being any better. I am so proud of the young man he has become-in spite of my parenting mistakes along the way.
I treasure the relationship I have with my boys. Even though the “coolness factor” has set in and I have reached official dork status, there are still moments when they will surprise me and melt my heart all over again. My older son was never much of a snuggler in the early years, but today this six-foot-tall strapping young man will put his arm around me and tell me out of the blue, “Mom, I love you.” And get this-he will do this in public! In his middle school years, he wouldn't have dared to risk such a move. He had to prove that he wasn't a mama's boy as he journeyed into manhood.
I am a mother in the trenches just like you, and I've had my share of blood, sweat, and tears along the way to prove it. I've done plenty of things wrong, and I've done plenty of things right. But, if I could give you one word of advice as a mother who has a son about to head off to college, it would be to enjoy every stage of your son's journey to manhood. When older mothers, such as myself, come along and remind you of how fast time with your son passes, take heed. It's so very true. We only have our sons for a little while, so let's make the best of the time God has given us. Raising a godly son in an ungodly world is not an easy task, but it is an eternally rewarding one..
Before we dive in and tackle the subject of raising a godly son in an ungodly world, let's brush up on some basic truths that, if not understood, can hinder our noble efforts. Where do you stand in regard to the following truths?
Admit it. At some point you have crossed paths with supermom and have felt less than adequate. You know her-she started the phonics tapes when her child was in utero, documents every momentous occasion, including first breath, first tear, first tooth, first haircut, first tantrum, first time-out, and first everything-that-follows, with volumes of scrapbooks. Her kids' socks are whiter than other kids' socks, and their lunches include something from each of the four food groups. Every item of clothing they own is initialed or monogrammed and has a clean fresh smell. Her kids are well groomed, polite, and say “nice to meet you” on cue while your kids duke it out on the front lawn and scream “shut up” and “stupid” loud enough for everyone within a two-mile radius to hear. Her children never have snotty noses, belch in public, or war their shoes on the wrong feet. You can't remember the last time your kids even wore shoes.
Supermom's house is sparkling clean and always sports a piney fresh scent. She is PTA president, drives on every field trip, and still has time for the gym. She has enough energy at the end of the day to make one wonder if she is doing espresso shots every couple of hours. She is the mom we love to hate (unless you are her!). Her sheer presence serves as a reminder that no matter how hard we try, we will never be her.
The truth is, even supermom is not without her flaws. In reality, there are probably some things about you that she longs to have. Besides, supermom may not be the best-suited mom for your kids. I learned this lesson many years ago when one of my children spent the night with a friend whose mom had made it on my list of supermoms. Days later my child made a comment about not wanting to go back to this friend's house because supermom “was mean and screamed all the time.” So, you see, supermoms are not perfect.
There is only one standard by which we should measure ourselves, and that is up against the parent God has called us to be. He knows we will make mistakes along the way, but he is full of patience, mercy, and grace. I am reminded of Philippians 1:6, which says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Tuck that Scripture away in your heart as you read through this book. It would be easy to get overwhelmed with the challenge at hand to raise our boys to be godly in an ungodly world. There is always room for improvement, but the truth is, you are a supermom, or you wouldn't have picked up this book.
I don't care if you have read every Christian parenting book on the market and taken every parenting workshop imaginable-it is not a matter of if your kids will disappoint you and break your heart but when. Take it from someone who has read multitudes of Christian parenting books, taken and taught Christian parenting workshops, and even written books on parenting-no one is exempt.
I learned this not long ago when I awoke in the middle of the night and went downstairs to get a drink. In doing so, I noticed the door to my office was closed. As I approached the door, I heard my older son talking softly on the phone. I stood outside the door and listened as he confessed to this friend to trying alcohol over the summer and get this-with several other “good, Christian friends” whom he implicated by name over the phone. I felt as if the wind had been knocked out of me. This is a child that I have called “my little Daniel” for years due to his ability to take a stand for his faith. He is active in youth group, goes on mission trips, is an officer in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, attends a weekly Bible study, and is discipled regularly by his father. Kids like that have no reason to experiment with alcohol; they are exempt from such standard worldly temptations, right? Wrong!
Once I confronted him with my newfound knowledge, he came clean and expressed a sincere repentance. Of course, I beat myself up in the days that followed, convinced that I had apparently not read enough parenting books or taken enough courses to head off such teenage rebellion. About a week later I asked him why he had done it. He basically said it boiled down to nothing more than sheer curiosity. He went on to say, “Mom, I have been good all my life, and I just wondered what it was like.”
At that very moment, it hit me-I had somehow imagined that my children would never stray from the path of God. Older, wiser parents had warned me along the way that no amount of books read or hours logged in parenting classes would exempt me from the painful reality that all children have a mind of their own and will not always make choices that reflect the training they have received from their parents. And so, as I stared into the eyes of my teenage boy that day, I saw him in a different light. He is still my “little Daniel,” but he is also a sinner. A sinner, mind you, just like me. Imagine that. Perhaps, on the upside, he now recognizes his desperate need for a Savior.
Maybe your son is young, and it's hard for you to imagine a day when he will stray from God's path. How can this same little boy, who boldly tells strangers that Jesus is his “very bestest friend” and makes crosses out of popsicle sticks in Sunday school, grow up and make the choice to sin? I certainly don't want to rain on your parade, but let me ask you: “Have you ever strayed from God's path? At the time, did you sincerely love Jesus?” I thought so. We will always battle our sinful natures, and our sons are no different. Try as we may, we cannot make our sons love God and abide by his will in every instance. They possess the same free will that we do, and they will have to come to a place where they choose to use that free will to obey God.
If you are like me, you would do anything to protect your son from harm twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If only it were possible! I can still recall the first time I left my oldest son, Ryan, with a sitter. I was one of those neurotic mothers who imagined the worst-case scenario in every situation. He was around nine months old, and I must have called home every fifteen minutes to make sure things were running smoothly. Of course, I calmed down by the time I had my third child. By that point the sitter was calling me to see if I was ever coming home.
A mother never really loses that innate sense to hover over her chicks and try to protect them from the dangers and uncertainties of life. The same out-of-control feeling I felt the first time I left Ryan with a sitter returned in full force the first time he walked out the front door with car keys in hand. I have never felt so utterly out of control. Or how about a few weeks later when he started driving to school with his fourteen-year-old sister in tow? And to think that I worried when he zipped around the driveway at the age of two cutting sharp corners until his plastic little coupe car was tipping on the outside two wheels! Now he maneuvers two tons of metal on the open roads with my daughter by his side!
If our sons' physical well-being is not enough to worry about, there are other issues that leave the average mother feeling out of control: online dangers; breakups and broken hearts; failure to make the A team; friends who turn wild; parties that are not adequately chaperoned; a sex-obsessed culture that bombards them relentlessly with a “just-do-it” message day in and day out; invitations to cheat, drink alcohol, and do drugs; and the list goes on and on. Nothing could prepare me for the tug-of-war my heart felt when my son got his license and, thus, gained more freedom. Could I really let go? I had no choice; I had to. Oh sure, he has a curfew, but it's the time in between where I am left wondering if he is safe, if he is where he says he will be, and if he is making wise choices. Fortunately, in the midst of it all, God is there. While I cannot hover over him and watch him every minute of every day, God can and does.
I am reminded of the account of Hannah and her son, Samuel, in 1 Samuel 1:11-28. Barren for many years, Hannah cried out to God for a son and vowed to give him over to God, should God meet her request. God did bless her with a son, and true to her word, Hannah cared for Samuel until he was weaned and then brought him to Eli, the priest, to live out the remainder of his childhood years with Eli at the temple.
After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. When they had slaughtered the bull, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there. (1 Sam. 1:24-28)
What mother could take a child she had nursed at her breast, swayed to sleep in her arms, and watched take his first wobbly steps, and put him in the care of a stranger for the remainder of his childhood years? Only a woman desperately dependent on God. After turning Samuel over to Eli, Hannah made a statement that gives us great insight into her walk with God:
Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the LORD.” (1 Sam. 2:1)
Personally, if I were in her situation, I think I'd be curled up in the fetal position sobbing my eyes out. Hannah, however, was rejoicing in God! Dear mothers, let us pay close heed to Hannah's example. Our sons belong first and foremost to the Lord. He has entrusted each of them into our care for a short time.
Even though Samuel was given over to the Lord, he was not exempt from ungodly influences while in the care of Eli. Scripture tells us that Eli's sons were guilty of treating the Lord's offerings brought by the Israelites with contempt and sleeping with the women who served at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Ironically, Samuel would eventually deliver the Lord's spoken judgment against the house of Eli.
As my sons have gotten older and become more exposed to ungodly influences outside of my care and control, I have had to mentally turn them over to the Lord as an act of my will. Hannah was able to follow through with her vow to commit her son to the care of the Lord because she had come to desperately depend on God prior to Samuel's birth. When Hannah was barren, we are told that she “poured out” her soul to the Lord (1 Sam. 1:15). The original Hebrew word used for “poured out” is shaphak, which means to “spill forth” or “sprawl out.” Hannah was in the habit of depending on God long before she had children. Because of her dependence, Hannah knew better than to think Samuel belonged to her.
And so, as mothers, we rest in the settled peace that our sons are always under the watchful eye of the one per-fect parent, God. In the meantime, we have a responsibility to help equip them with the tools needed to be godly in the ungodly world in which they live. What they choose to do with those tools will, of course, be their decision.