Raising children is always an adventure. You never know what God will give you. When I was young I never would have imagined that God would give me two only children and the unique challenges and joys that go along with them. However, I probably should have imagined that God would give me very independent children who tend to go off doing what they want and solving their own problems at a very young age. My mom often tells me I raised myself and certainly I can look back and see an independent spirit within myself throughout my life so I do understand my children a little.
I am drowning in stories of how number one would run off on his own, at times right under my nose. Of trying to walk up to the corner store at 2 wearing nothing but jean shorts and mac and cheese chest hair. Or at 4 taking off when I turned my back to write a check at the mall. He made it across the entire second floor of the mall, down the escalator and into the Disney store where he was finally discovered by the staff when he brought his item up to purchase but couldn't exactly tell them where his mom was to pay.
This weekend my sweet mid-life crisis exhibited her own independent streak while I was gone. While she isn't prone to wander off as Jake was she certainly spends alot of time assuring me she doesn't need my help. Getting up before her brother on Friday morning she noticed it was raining and decided she needed to rescue her new baseball glove. So out she went pulling the still locked door behind her. No need to panic. My barefoot, pj clad daughter simply walked down the alley to her favorite friends house and knocked on the door. It is so wonderful to know your neighbors when you have young independent children. After giving a vague explanation of being locked out of the house, mom being on an airplane and brother being asleep, she was fed breakfast, given some dry clothes and was off to play with her friend while our neighbor called the house. Of course big brother was asleep and doesn't answer the phone anyway so she could only leave a message. Luckily the neighbor happened to have my husband's cell number and decided to give him a call. He does answer the phone.
As it did everytime for Jake, it worked out just fine for Isabelle. But I can't help but think of the poor family that recently had to defend their parenting to social services because of an independent wandering child. In the middle of the night their young child got up, walked out the front door and was found by police wandering near a busy road. I hear that story and imagine being the parents waking up in the morning realizing your child is gone. The panic, the running around searching the house and finally realizing this it is real and you need to call the police. That feeling in the pit of your stomach. I imagine the relief when they tell you they have found your child. Yet they were not allowed to take their child home. Social services took their child instead, they were judged for having a wandering, independent child. Yes, it was a horrible and potentially dangerous situation but did they do anything wrong? As parents we are allowed to sleep in the middle of the night. Right?
Was it wrong that I was doing the dishes the day Jake wandered to the corner store? Was it wrong of me to turn my back on my 4 year old to pay for an item at the mall? Was it wrong of Jake to still be asleep Friday morning? Should I have anticipated my 2 year old leaving his beloved PBS program and walking away, should Jake have anticipated Isabelle locking herself out of the house? Should this poor couple have known their child would walk out the door in the middle of the night?
Thankfully everything worked out and the child was returned to his family. And gratefully when I found Jake at a bus stop with strangers moments before the police officer they called showed up, I was allowed to take him home. Isabelle's friendship with the neighbor girl allowed her to get out of the rain.
When we raise children potential dangers lurk around every corner. Everyone of these incidents could have had tragic results, taken by a stranger, hit by a car, lost and cold in the rain. Gone forever. It happens.
The hope, the peace, the only thing that gets me through the many doubts and fears that come with parenting, is knowing we are not raising them alone, there is someone who loves my children even more than I do. The ultimate parent, God. When I am sleeping or doing the dishes, or writing a check or whatever task or distraction takes my eyes off my children, God is still watching. He is taking care of them, guiding them, protecting them. No matter what happens I know my children are never alone.
Monday morning, home from my conference, I taught my daughter a new and important lesson. How the lock on the back door works. Just like I have learned to check the door after locking myself out one morning, she now knows to do the same. Yet another lesson on her journey to adulthood and independence. Yet my prayer is that as she becomes more independent from us through the years she becomes more and more dependent on God.