It was the last morning of the conference. I’d never met the woman sitting next to me at the breakfast table, but by the kindness in her southern-accented voice, I knew she cared about my struggle.
I don’t know why I shared, but I did. “Since he was two, we’ve battled with our son. He’s twelve now and rails against our authority, aggravates his siblings, and makes bad decisions over and over. What will the teen years bring?” As I unloaded on this sweet stranger, the years of raising my much-loved, but incredibly difficult son, mounted on my shoulders, like a burden, a weight…too heavy for me. And pinning me down, helpless, hopeless.
She tilted her head, her short-styled hair bobbing to the side. “I’m a guidance counselor at a high school.” Her eyes showed such compassion, I was almost embarrassed—yet I swam in it, grateful. “In my experience, the ones who are the hardest when they’re little turn out to be awesome teens—if the parents have been consistent with discipline.”
The words flowed easily from her.
My chin quivered. My eyes teared up. “What?”
She nodded and smiled. “That’s what I’ve found.”
Did she mean our scrapes and bruises from years of fierce battles would be worth it? Could the payoff we so longed for be truly on the way? Images of long hours sitting on the un-vacuumed carpet… “Son, you’ve got to trust Jesus and not yourself.” “Even if your sister stole your blanket, you can’t speak such mean words to her.” “The Bible says to think of others first…” “Don’t you see you’ve done wrong?” “I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you.”
And the rationalizing, the scowls, the times he hit me when he was a toddler, the tears, the “stand in the corners,” the prayers together, these moments and more flashed to mind. Our hard work seemed to accomplish nothing. The progress we thought we made always slipped through our fingers with one defiant scowl, one “you don’t care about me!”
Yet, as this kind “mentor mom” type lady said, maybe, by God’s grace, my imperfect and ongoing attempts to discipline consistently, model godliness, keep the lines of communication open, curb my temper, teach manners, good citizenship, and the Bible—well, maybe the Lord honors those. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll see the fruits in the teen years. I hope so. I hope.
So I’m not giving up. Even when I’m bruised and tired, frustrated and sad. What I’m doing is important—so important—and although I’m far from perfect, love covers my mistakes. And the reward will be amazing. One day, my child will be that awesome teen, or wonderful groom, or spiritual leader, or loving mommy—just like me (well, hopefully, better).
One last thought, even if the fruits I long to see never appear, if my boy breaks my heart, I know God is taking care of him—even in the rough times. And, just like He did for me, He won’t let my son go. He’ll bring along the right person to speak hope into his life—just when he needs it most.