I'm going to really date and embarrass myself here, but it's worth it for the sake of your encouragement. The approach of our son's landmark birthday brought me back to remembering the TV series, "James at 15/16." A favorite of mine in the late 1970's when I was in junior high, this drama shared the awkward and conflicted coming of age of a teen boy emblematic of the era. James always seem to have a good heart, but often did the wrong things in any given situation.
Charles at 16 is anything BUT "James at 16." Although his life has followed a drama all its own, there has been great encouragement and growth born out of that drama. Much better decisions have been made by Charlie, largely because of the God who has had a hand on his life from day one.
Reflecting back on 16 years of raising a son with a severe bleeding disorder and subsequent anxiety, I can smile realizing that the Lord has lifted us out of so many pits along the way. There were times when things seemed so dark, we doubted that things would ever get better. Machinations of the future frightened and overwhelmed us.
Will it always be like this?
Will he ever be able to live on his own?
Will the trauma ever dwindle?
Will there ever be some semblance of "normal" here?
On our son's 16th birthday, we can answer all of those questions with hopeful perspective. That unshakable peace in our core has been nurtured and developed over these years. Here's how God has done it:
- Being faithful to His word in our home -- Speaking Scripture into our son's life, praying with and for him, has been a solid floor under us when we feel like we are in free fall. God tells us that His word is "living and active," and "accomplishes the purposes for which it is sent forth." That is solid Truth that we can stake our lives on.
- Helping us push through the hard things -- In a pain-avoidant culture, it has been essential that we train both ourselves and our son in the skill of feeling the emotional pain and doing things anyway. This means that sometimes we need to watch our son suffer when we would rather not. In the era of the "helicopter parent," it has become counter-cultural to allow him to suffer natural consequences of bad decisions or be denied things he thinks he is entitled to. It hasn't been easy, but there is no substitute for the kind of growth this creates. Without the Holy Spirit fortifying us, we wouldn't have had the strength to do this.
- Fostering transparency with relevant issues and self-care -- While it can feel more palatable to shelter our kids from these difficulties, it has again offered powerful growth to allow our son to honestly know all the facts and get involved in his own health care decisions. Now we find ourselves astonished that a guy of only 16 years old can tell his doctor that he doesn't want to use certain products because of bioethical concerns he has.
- Holding him to certain standards -- We are not the typical parents for the overachiever community in which we live. Our only requirement for all of our children academically has always been just to do their very best. When he has been a slacker or tried to use his hemophilia as an excuse, we have called him on it. Additionally, our expectation has been that he will behave as a gentleman in both the ways he interacts generally and the way he treats those of the opposite gender specifically. This has meant calling him out when he swears like a sailor and training him in the dying art of etiquette like holding doors for ladies. It may be old fashioned, but it has set him apart from his peers in really positive ways.