My firstborn graduated from high school earlier this year. Having a child graduate began a new journey for me. It started back in August with the first day of school. From that moment it was a year of “lasts.” You know—the “last first day,” the “last homecoming,” the “last prom,” etc. I went through all the emotions of watching my child—the one I have invested in, prayed for, laughed with and cried over—prepare to leave the safety and control of our home. I have been sad, proud, joyful, and scared. Mostly I have been extremely happy for her. It has been an exciting time, full of the new and unexpected. But is she ready to launch?
I overheard some other moms of graduating seniors talking recently. They were wondering out loud if they had taught their kids everything they needed to know before leaving. It was your typical list of laundry do’s and don’ts, do they know how to change a tire, cook for themselves, put sheets on a bed, and so on. That got me thinking about what would be on my list. The list I overheard the moms discuss were things their children could call home about. You could tell them over the phone how to microwave a potato.
What are the things we can’t phone in?
- Did we introduce them to Jesus? Without this one, nothing else matters. If our children don’t know Jesus and have the guidance of the Holy Spirit, college is scary for us and them.
- Did we teach them to forgive? Our kids will be faced with having to ask for and offer forgiveness. They can’t give something they have never received.
- Did we teach them to have compassion for another human being? This world is harsh and cold. Our children need to see others as valuable creations of God and seek to help and heal when possible.
- Did we teach them that God’s Word is always true? Scripture is the one unshakeable truth that our children can count on. It won’t change. What is good and right according to Scripture will always be good and right. They need to know that the Bible is reliable and dependable.
- Did we teach them to laugh? This cannot be overstated. Our kids need to have fun, to bring joy to another and to belly laugh often. It’s good for their souls and their mental health.
- Did we make it safe to cry? Our kids need to know there is a time to cry. Scripture says so, you know. They need to know it is not weak to weep over loss, disappointment and pain. It is good for them to feel deeply and to know that when you love deeply, hurt is deep, but grieving that loss is okay and tears are healing.
- Did we make memories with them? As I Iook back over my own time at home, I remember the small things like my mom staying up all night with me to finish a paper, or taking care of me when I had my wisdom teeth out. I also remember the big stuff. She made a big deal out of birthdays and our trip to Disney World. My parents created “stones of remembrance” for me to cling to. Did we do the big and the small things for them to look back and know they were a part of something—a family? A family that valued them and gave them a place to lay their head and be included.
- Did we teach them to appreciate the small things? Our lives cannot always be about the big, flashy moments. Those are infrequent, but if we can teach them to treasure the small things, they will be grateful and appreciative of everything. Can they appreciate that moment when they open the peanut butter jar and it’s perfectly perfect? Can they learn that they should definitely smell a baby’s head at some point? Can they appreciate sleeping in and how good fresh, clean sheets are?
- Did we teach them to think things through? We live in a sound-bite, fast, spontaneous world that wants things now. Critical thinking skills are becoming extinct and our children must be able to break a problem down and come to its conclusion. We are to love the Lord with all of heart, soul, mind, and strength. They must be able to see the consequences or rewards of an action before they occur.
- Did we teach them to ask for help? I learned this lesson after I had my twins. I was overwhelmed. I had to learn to reach out and say, “I can’t do this alone,” or “I don’t know how to do this.” Our children need to be able to know their limits. God created us for community. He wants us to help each other and if we think we can do it all, we are missing out on a critical component of living within a body of believers.
This certainly isn’t a complete list. I can think of a million more, but these are the ones I know we have to teach our kids in the short eighteen years we have them. We can’t do this their senior year, and we certainly can’t teach these over text or in an email. They will live outside of our home much longer than they will live in it. May we use that time wisely and instill in our children a love of the Lord first and people next.