Just the other day, Deb discovered the article “Of Utmost Concern,” written 9 years ago, back when we first started the No Greater Joy publication. When she read it to me, she wept with joy and thanks-giving, and, I must admit, I teared up, too. None of our children were married then.
Our youngest, Shoshanna, was 9 years old, just a skinny little kid, talking our ears off and seeing how much work she would put off on her older sisters. Rebekah, the oldest, was just beginning her training and preparation to be a linguist and translate Scripture. Shalom was 11, still a child learning to cook, keep house, and obey her parents. The boys were 14 and 16. They were working hard in construction, and we were concerned as to whether they had gotten enough homeschooling. Nathan couldn’t spell, and Gabriel couldn’t stop bragging. And both of them were discovering that the world was full of soft, warm, and lovely creatures of the opposite sex. Our house felt like a hormone factory. At one point, they were both sweet on the same girl. I think that was the year Gabriel killed 56 squirrels in the first five days of the season—had to clean every one of them—and never wanted to kill another one. From then on, it was deer and elk he hunted.
Wherever we went, people bragged on our “obedient” and “good-natured” children, and we were proud of them. We trusted and often repeated the promise, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). We were approaching the finish line with the oldest, and in ten years they would all be complete. Most of the training had been done on the three oldest. From there on, it was a matter of keeping them on course, helping them face each new crisis with wisdom and faith in God’s care. I must admit that there were times when our confidence would be shaken.
You think you know a lot about child training until they get to be teenagers, and then you realize that no one knows anything about teenagers. They know everything, and you are just an old fogey who has never been in love and never wanted to run with the wind and discover new worlds. They will readily admit that you don’t understand them, and then the girls will cry and tell you that they don’t understand themselves. The boys get aggressive and try to dominate their mothers, and the girls start shutting the bedroom door and brooding up new incoherencies. At that point, you have to maintain fellowship and be patient, trusting to the grace of God and the training you gave them before they got to the “omniscient” stage.
The hardest part for parents has always been learning the precise, “safest” moment to turn loose. Their teen years are a time of transfer. You trained them to be adults, and now they are in such a hurry to try it out. At twelve, they are little children, and at seventeen or eighteen, they are adults. That is just five or six years—the longest, most extraordinary metamorphosis ever to occur in nature. You can’t fight it, can’t stop it, and had better not get in its way, because it will happen with or without you. It is as though the first twelve years is your God-designed, optimal opportunity to determine what kind of winged creature is going to emerge from the cocoon of their youth. Their wings are delicate, and they are still vulnerable, and if you try to hold them too tightly, you can cripple them emotionally and socially. My son Nathan, with one child and another on the way, said to me the other day, “I have discovered that this child training thing is not as simple and formulated as I thought it was; it is very fluid. You have to constantly make adjustments in accordance with the changes in the child.” I couldn’t agree with him more. If he only knew how he kept his mother and me adjusting our methods and our reactions to his behavior. It is almost like boxing or dancing: Child training demands that you be alert, and it keeps you on your toes.
Well, here we sit ten years later, our children all grown. All are worshipers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They are all a delight to us and many others. I can testify that all our hopes have been fulfilled. The house is now full of grand-kids and pregnant daughters and daughters-in-law. Toys once again litter the floors. There are fresh colored-marker scrawls on the floors and walls. Highchairs, strollers, and little tricycles fill up the nooks and crannies around our home. Our vehicles have child-restraining seats permanently installed. There is a swing-set in the yard, along with a well-used trampoline. I will be back splashing in the creek this year, again teaching little ones to swim. Yes, God is good… all the time! Life is a gift to be enjoyed with thanksgiving. All these children and grandchildren are the fruit of our loveand God’s love! Deb and I have reached the reaping stage of life, and the fruit is sweet beyond belief. All of life was designed to bring us to this time. Our children rise up and call us blessed—if you can wring it out of them—and we still get to have input into the next generation. But, thank God, they take the kids home at night. They carry the load; we just smile a lot, remembering our days of carrying the load, and try hard not to spoil the grandchildren.
Michael Pearl