A Garland of Grace
Attend, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not reject the teaching of your mother; for they are a garland of grace on your head and a chain of honour round your neck.
Proverbs 1:8–9 NEB
Julie tells me that her mom is her best friend, the one person she shares everything with in her life . Her mom is the first person Julie calls when she is having a bad day or wants to share good news. They talk often by phone and also enjoy weekly lunch or movie dates. Matt asked his father to be the best man at his wedding, because he considers his dad to be his closest friend. These relationships sound rare but occur more often than we imagine.
What parent would not want to be considered one of their children’s closest friends? Yet many adult children dislike or hate their parents. I have several friends who grew up in abusive or negligent homes who would not verbalize that they hate their parents, but they have no contact with them. These friends do not want their children to associate with their grandparents, because they do not respect or trust their parents. No parent sets out to be hated by their children yet it occurs too often.
Friendship between parents and children is not guaranteed. We may not be surprised when adults raised in abusive homes harbor hatred and resentment toward their parents. What puzzles us is when young adults who grew up in loving, healthy, Christian homes have no desire to nurture friendships with their parents. We are equally baffled when we observe wonderful teachers, coaches, pastors, and mentors struggle to get along with their own children.
What foundation did Julie’s and Matt’s parents build that made their solid friendships possible? When mulling over the topic for this book, I had to ask the most important question . Being close friends with our children sounds ideal, but is it a biblical goal? Does God intend for us to become friends with our adult children? I found the answer to be yes . It is the only way that our children will spiritually mature, placing their trust in God instead of in us.
This is not a book about parenting. If you have adult children, that job is completed. Continuing to micromanage and parent our adult children, communicating the message, “I’m not finished with you yet,” has derailed many parent-child relationships. This approach also cripples adult children . The challenges of raising Generation X and Millennials are well-known today, as baby boomer helicopter parents wonder why their adult children often become stalled and enter a period of limbo. The “leave and cleave” Old Testament model—“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife” (Genesis 2:24 KJV)—seems antiquated.
This book is about shifting from your parental training role to a new, expanded relationship, based on friendship, influence, and mutual respect. You will always enjoy the unique parent-child relationship but the role changes. No one takes care of us or cooks for us when we are sick like our moms do, while our dads can fix any problem, no matter how big or small. That irreplaceable relationship remains intact. Yet the role shift is critical to our children’s personal and spiritual maturity, as they understand as adults that their heavenly Father is their unchanging, perfect parent. We human parents only pointed the way to Him.
Debbie and Steve tell their children, “We will always be your safety net.” This is the reassuring gift they received from their parents, and now they pass it on to their children. My mom says it a different way, “No matter what happens or what crises come, I will always invite you for dinner.” Being a safety net is different from rescuing our children from poor choices or letting them take advantage of us, which only cripples them. That does not nurture adult friendship. They must learn firsthand that God’s arms are the ultimate safety net.
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