I was visiting with a friend last night whose oldest child is in middle school. There are six children in her home, the youngest in kindergarten. My friend mentioned she was creating a spreadsheet for summer weeks - so she can keep track of everyone's busy schedules.
I remember those days well. I used to make summer spreadsheets.
And I realized as we talked that it hadn't even occurred to me to make a spreadsheet for this summer. I'm only keeping one child's calendar these days, our youngest son. A middle school student. Everyone else is either living independently away from home, or plans to hold down a summer job. Parenting shifts.
I remember hearing that parenting is physically difficult when the children are young - emotionally and mentally difficult when they are older. I know now.
In route to our mid-week small group for church, my husband and I did inventory. "Did you hear back from Salesman*?" I asked, following up on our efforts last night to schedule family photos in a few weeks.
"No, have you confirmed this Friday's youth function with Smily* and Analytic*? Are they going? Do you know whose driving?" he responded.
On through the list we went, making sure we updated one another on the latest developments in each of our seven children's lives. He hadn't heard our daughter's husband was working out of state. I needed the latest on our fourth born's summer travel plans.
There was a day, not long ago, when they would have been all in the car with us.
The shift is not necessarily a bad thing. Less day to day physical responsibility for my children has allowed me to return to college. That wouldn't have been possible even five years ago. Those were crazy days - when I needed that summer spread sheet. We had one beyond college, one in college, one high school student, two middle school students, and two in elementary. And five years before that, life was even more physically demanding.
The shift in parenting is a shift in control. As parents, we control less and less as our children grow. They begin to navigate their lives, sometimes through rocky places. The job becomes more emotional for us. When we don't have control, we have to yield.
At the close of small group, we were asked to give an individual account for each child, where they were headed in the next few months, and suggest a prayer request for each. How good it is to be in community with brothers and sisters in faith, knowing they are praying for our children and their spouses. How good to yield as parents - offering each child to the Lord.
Parenting shifts. To the same degree that our control lessens, our trust in the Lord's care, protection, provision, and love of our children must grow.
*I have decided to use nicknames for my children to offer them a bit of privacy.