“The sea laments, the livelong day, fringing its waste of sand; Cries back the wind from the whispering shore — No words I understand: Yet echoes in my heart a voice, as far, as near, as these — The wind that weeps, the solemn surge of strange and lonely seas.” ~ ECHOES, Walter De La Mare
These days of in-between seasons, almost too warm for spring, yet not quite hot enough for summer, can be taxing on the spirit. May gray. June gloom. In so many ways this, nature’s transition, mirrors and mimics the shift and realignment of relationships between parents and their children: toddler to child, child to teen, teen to young adult, young adult to mid-adulthood. And while there is great joy in the coming of the new season, there is also some unease. Navigating the in-between. Standing mid-ship; looking back at where you’ve been, looking forward to uncharted territory. Maps and compasses and sextants can offer approximates of where you are, but they can’t prevent elements and circumstances that may jostle you off course, batter your bow, cause you to drift along an unseen current for days.
As new parents, we start this journey with simple prayers and hopes to provide adequately for our children with the tools we’ve been given and the baggage we bring along. (Baggage we want desperately to leave behind, but can’t.quite.drop.on.the.pier before going on deck.) We hear so much about the storms of teenhood, the uncertainty of the after high school years, but not-so-much of the undertow — always present, rarely acknowledged — when our children are no longer children and we are no longer new, or young, parents.
Members on our ship, once together and learning the ropes as a solid unit working in the same direction, soon at the helm of their own vessels, directing their own crews. Disappointments and successes measured by strides and standards not often reflective of our own.
They are the captains now. And while we want them to weather some storms (to hone their skills), we don’t want them to get stuck in a vortex, unable to steer their way out of it. And while we want them to set their sails high, we don’t want them to set them so high that they no longer notice the smaller ships alongside them, being affected by their wake.
These days I find myself praying, it seems, in deeper, more sustaining ways for my children. As an older parent, I pray for faith and grace to guide me in this particular season of in-between. Believing that, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1), I pray that with every success our adult children remain true to their faith and humble themselves in acknowledgement of the gifts God has given them. And with each disappointment that they continue to be grateful for God’s tempering, knowing that through Him all things are made good.
For me — I pray that as a parent of adult children, I do not get caught in a parental undercurrent, laboring in vain under burdens that were never intended for me to bear. From the day they were born, I’ve always known that my children, and the grandchildren to come, were my inheritance, “a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). As cliché as it may be, I know all too well that earthy inheritance can come and go. And while an earthly inheritance may have made my own life and, subsequently, my children’s lives, easier, it may not have necessarily made it better.
Not all shores are made up of smooth sand and pretty shells. Often the real beauty of the sea can only be appreciated when it butts up against a rocky shoreline, where light and shadow dance to its rhythmic sounds. I have to believe that I’ve danced well among the rocks. I have to believe that while money and property and ivy-league educations are inherited by others and their offspring, an inheritance of character built on resilience, empathy, and faith is no less stellar. I have to believe that in the din and clamor of success, or the wailing and upset of disappointment, my children will remember that, “After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire,” but that “after the fire” God’s voice came as a gentle whisper. That regardless of the noise of the world to “do better,” “do more,” or “have better,” “have more,” they will still be able to hear His Word and be moved in sweet, silent ways to steer clear of obstacles that might damage their relationships with not only good friends, but with each other. “So encourage each other and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
And I know that I, too, must continue to listen intently to His gentle Word and be mindful of guiding those I’ve been called to mentor on my watch.
May we all be humble stewards aboard our ships and within our fleets as we sail the seas of life, during the season(s) of in-between.
Blessings, dear reader