When my three-year-old is especially pleased with me, due to some exciting homeschool project, favorite meal, or a really fun time, he pats me fondly and says, “Mom, you’re a good woman.”
The other day he tacked on an additional phrase that made me pause and think; “Mom, you’re a good woman, and I’m your brother.”
My first and most natural response was to correct him with the words, “no, you are my son.” But as I opened my mouth to speak, a million years raced by my mind’s eye, and I saw us, Joe and I, in another age, ancient in years, living and moving in the presence of God as immortal beings. A million years from now when he is a man with vast experience and knowledge of things past and present, when I am a woman, a scarce 27 years older... will I be his “mother” then?
It was then I realized I am raising a brother–an equal in the body of Christ, another member of God’s family, and in a very real sense, my own brother! In these present, limited finite years, when he is the child, and I am the teacher, we seem unequal. He is grateful for my teaching, and I love his child-like dependence upon me.
However, to seek to keep him in such a state of undevelopment would be to deny the eternity ahead of us. To fail to equip my son to be my brother in God’s economy would be a grave injustice, and a case of extreme short-sightedness. He must become all that he was created to be. He must learn to be autonomous from me. Very shortly, I must let go of my son and embrace my brother.
Going home to Cane Creek is a funny experience these days. I sit and talk with my mom and dad about articles we’re all writing, our ministry, gardening, parenting, etc... and I sense that we are shortening the span of years between us. As they grow older, they grow closer to me in thought and inspiration. I no longer need them, and they are proud of that, but I enjoy their company even more than I did when I was three years old. They are my parents, but they are also my friends, and I love them for equipping me to be a friend to them as well.
If you are raising a child, this aspiration must be your own: Work yourself out of the job of parenting. Aspire to be so good at parenting that your children will not need Mommy and Daddy by the time they are young adults. A brother, a sister, or a friend will suffice them then. If you are withholding maturity, responsibility, or knowledge through some selfish desire to maintain their dependence upon you, then you are failing as a parent.
You should desire the ones you love to come to complete wholeness and maturity in themselves. Wouldn’t you want them to be free and safe to live alone, should you pass on prematurely? Do you really enjoy the thought of their flailing distress and failure as a human being apart from you? This sounds so twisted and evil, and yet I see it everywhere. Small-minded, selfish people, hanging on to other small-minded selfish people, afraid to be alone, and unwilling to learn how to grow. The overriding question is: Who is it that you love?
Joe Courage challenges me sometimes with waving hands and a frantic, “let me do it, I can do it, let me do it!” Part of me instinctively knows that he can’t possibly fasten the zipper of his coat all by himself, and I’m going to have to do it for him anyway. But I also know that someday very soon, he will be able to fasten his own coat zipper, make his own meals, handle his own bad dreams, and so many more little details of his life that I’m an incredibly important part of now. I don’t regret his growing competence; I glory in it. I look for projects I know he can master. I press him into new experiences, new confidence, and new knowledge. When he pulls me up from the couch, makes his own bed, or cleans the toilet himself, I glow from the inside out. He is my little boy right now, but he won’t be forever. Every day he is becoming more my friend and my peer.
And for now I am reveling in the knowledge that he thinks I’m “a good woman, and he is my brother.”
Beka Joy (Pearl) Anast