If you have children, and if you live long enough, there comes a time when they draw more strength and get more enjoyment from their friends than they get from you, no matter how good a mother or father you have been. We went through this with our two sons, and now we're in the middle of it with our daughter, Rachel.
Rachel has been ill for more than the past two weeks. She's actually been a bit under the weather for several months, but we and the doctors have been attributing it to allergies, and we searched for the right allergy medication for her. But recently it has become worse. She coughs a lot, has a sore throat, and doesn't want to eat because it hurts and it doesn't taste like food to her. She has missed most of the past two weeks of school, and she has been totally uncommunicative, tired, and run down. We have had her tested for mono, had sinus, throat, chest, and esophagus x-rays, and we've had her at doctors several times. No change. (Please pray for her, if you would.)
Yesterday, though, she wanted very badly to go to church, and we let her go. She didn’t seem to have anything contagious, and she desperately wanted to get out of the house and go someplace other than to a doctor's office. I saw her after church, talking with her friends.
That's right—talking. She hasn't said more than twenty words a day to us for the past two weeks. But she was talking. A few minutes later, one of her friends asked if she could go home with their family for dinner, and we could pick her up later after a missions meeting. I agreed, because she seemed far happier than she had in quite a while.
When I picked her up, not only was she talking, but she was smiling. And—glory of glories—she actually talked to me in the car on the way home, and she laughed and smiled more during the evening.
It hit me then that she was getting from her friends what Shan and I couldn't give her.
That's something of a blow to a father (or mother). This is the child we have brought into the world. We have fed her, clothed her, loved her, taught her, and cared for her like no other person could have. I would literally give my life for her, and I know Shan would, too. Yet now she is more energized, and more uplifted by several hours with her friends, some of whom she hasn't known for more than a couple of years.
And yet . . .
Isn't this what we've been working toward? Isn't the goal of parenting to raise up a child who can leave our home, become an adult, develop strong relationships, make his or her own way in the world? In other words, isn't this a victory?
We've all seen kids who don't grow up, or who seem to be taking far too long to do so. It's a sad thing, something we don't wish on anyone. They are stunted people, spiritually or mentally immature. They don't live up to their potential.
But when our children do grow away from us, it is a bittersweet thing. Sometimes, especially when we're just getting used to it, the bitter far outweighs the sweet.
Rachel is an outstanding young woman. She has chosen the best of friends. They are all great kids. What's more, their parents are a great influence on Rachel. I could not choose better folks to be in her life. Yet it's sad for us to fade into the background. We have been the biggest part of her life for a long time, and now our part is dwindling. Maybe it is because of the job we've done raising her. I have to remind myself of that.
And . . .
One day another change occurs. The young man or young woman who was your child comes back to you . . . as your friend. They never cease to be your children. But they grow into something more than that.
I look forward to that day.