“Do you want me to walk you all the way in?”
As soon as I said it, I knew I had just put myself between a rock and a hard-place.
It was the first day of school. Mike had dropped off Sofia and me so we could walk the remaining distance up to the main entrance of…Middle School. How did we get here? Hadn't I just dropped her off at her first day of Kindergarten a few weeks ago?
We had been hastily walking up to the entrance but as we neared it, without saying anything, we both intuitively slowed down. I don’t think either of us was 100% sure what to do next….or maybe we just weren’t 100% ready to take the next step. Either way, our power walk slowly came to a complete halt. Now here we stood at the entrance of the next 3 years of her life, and that’s when the words came tumbling out of my mouth…
“Do you want me to walk you all the way in?”
In the split second before she answered, I knew I had just put myself between a rock and a hard-place. If she said, “yes,” I’d be worried that she really wasn’t ready to take on Middle School, I KNEW she really didn't need me to walk her all the way in. And yet, if she said, "no," I knew I'd feel that twinge of heartache that all moms experience as they watch their babies grow up.
“No,” came the resolved response. And then a quick little laugh, “Sorry, Mommy!”
Tears immediately filled my eyes. I was proud of her. I gave her a big hug, whispered in her ear, “You’re gonna do great! I’ll be counting down the hours until I can pick you up and hear all about your day!” And with that she walked away through those gates that, I’m certain, once she passed through, she grew a little bit taller.
In recent years a new term has popped up that American culture uses to describe young adults: boomerang. Yet, the Bible has a different simile for the children God has blessed us with: arrows.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
The goal for Christian parents is to raise their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) and then shoot them out into the world, like an arrow, to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are shaping arrows, not boomerangs.
Whether you're a first-time school mom dropping off your child at preschool, or a seasoned mom that is watching your "child" enter their last year of high school, it's important for Christian moms to remember that our kids are arrows. With every passing year we pull the bow back a little further until the moment when we will release that arrow out into the world. As much as we feel that twinge of heartache when we see our babies take small steps of independence, we must cheer them on and encourage appropriate amounts of independence (and courage) as they mature into young men and women.
The start of a new school year is the perfect time to put this into practice. Here are some helpful ways to shape your arrows.
Pray for your parenting and stewardship of the kid(s) God has entrusted to you. Pray for them first and foremost to become genuine followers of Christ. Pray that they will be bold leaders that are ready and willing to be different than the rest of the world. Lights in the darkness.
2) GIVE OPPORTUNITIES FOR APPROPRIATE INDEPENDENCE AND RESPONSIBILITY.
This is tricky because it's different for every age and every kid. But remember, you're doing this AFTER you've given much time in prayer over the raising and shaping of your arrows. Determine with your husband how best to approach the expectations and levels of responsibility for your children. Determine with your husband how you can give varying degrees of independence as your kid(s) grow.
3) CHEER THEM ON.
When you see your child mature and take on the responsibility and independence that is appropriate for their age, offer lots of encouragement. When Sofia returned home that day from school I let her know how proud I was of her that she bravely was ready to enter her new school alone. I let her know that it was absolutely appropriate of her to say goodbye to me at the gate and walk onto that campus without me.
Cheer them on. Don't let them see if their independence and maturity stings your own heart. Whether you are saying goodbye to them at their Kindergarten desk or in the doorway of their college dorm, be resolved to put on a brave face and encourage them to grow into the type of young man or woman that our world so desperately needs: straight and sure arrows for the kingdom of heaven.
Christian moms need to remember that we're raising arrows, not boomerangs, and in doing so may the next generation rise up to be even more effective, resolved, and courageous ambassadors for the sake of the gospel.
Devoted - Tim Challies
Raising Men, Not Boys - Mike Fabarez
Although both these books are specifically about raising sons, the principles are helpful for Christian parenting in general.