Parenting Past the Mid-Point: More Thoughts from the Garden

“These bean plants are a mess,” I muttered.  “But, wow . . . lots of beans.”

Our eleven rows of Providers (that’s the variety of green bean we always plant) had lived up to their name, but after four pickings, the plants looked tired, ransacked, plundered.

They looked like us.

I smile when I say that my good husband and I are “middle aged”.  I suppose if we live to be 108, we are middle aged, but the reality is that we are past the mid-point on many levels, and this is most glaringly obvious in our life together as parents.  Parenting feels different in these days of a teenage majority when almost everyone is taller than I am.  It was so much easier when I could put all the “forbidden things”  (cookies, snack food, breakables) on top of the refrigerator.  Now I find myself asking my kids for help with top-shelf-reaches.

So, how does a medium-short mother set boundaries for tall boys who still need them?  Now that we are past the days when someone might eat Drano, does parenting still qualify as my priority?

My vote is “yes,” and my campaign slogan is:  “T.V. is not the default in this house.”  Well, actually, to be honest, it’s more like this:  “T.V. IS NOT THE DEFAULT IN THIS HOUSE!!”   (Can you hear the difference?)

Parenting Past the Mid-Point is a balancing act of “yes” and “no,” of remembering that, sometimes, the “no” has to be for me, and the “yes” for my boys.  Writing a blog post one day, it occurred to me that I did not know what Boy #4 was up to . . . not exactly, anyway.  All his brothers were busy and gone for the day, and he had been left behind.  I kept typing, but the thought was nagging me, chewing ever harder, until a Proverb popped into my head:  “A child left to himself brings shame to his mother,” (Proverbs 22:15)  End of story?  Joel was fine, playing with Tucker the St. Bernard.  It would have made for a more dramatic story if I had caught him smoking, right?  But more and more he is spending time alone, so even though we can’t be “play mates,” and I will never be an adequate stand in for his brothers, that afternoon we sat down together for a read-aloud chapter of The Return of the King, and the blog-post got finished later.

I don’t want to drop the ball on the relationship with this boy, just because there have been three before him, and I’m “ready to do something different now.”  Having come late to marriage and family, most of our friends were raising their last child at the same time that we were still figuring out our first born.  On the phone, feeling the tether of the phone cord (remember those?), I could hear in my friends’ voices the feeling of being tethered.  “I’m trying to figure out what I want to do when _____________ starts school.”  (_____________ was six months old.)  Today, twenty years later, having resolved not to follow in their footsteps — but having taken on the challenge of a summer job —  I still want to be living in the present moment with the fourteen-year-old who is waking up every morning to a new, teen-age day.

Besides just the daily challenge of staying in the game, we are finding that the older our children grow, the more we need godly wisdom.  For us, Parenting Past the Mid-Point has meant parenting through disappointment.  Somehow, throughout childhood,  it seems as if our kids all managed to make the team, ace the test, and nail the audition.  It was inevitable, but, nonetheless, a JOLT, when we entered the days of college applications denied, cars totaled, and job interviews with disappointing results.  Now, I’m happy to say that the sons who experienced each of these calamities have lived to tell about it, are driving intact vehicles today, are enrolled in  college, and are employed.  This may not always be the case in our future, and I know this because I have listened to the sadness of mothers whose sons did not survive the totaled car or persevere in the job search.   On this fallen planet, happy endings are not a given, but I have noticed a tendency to ride through the difficulties in my own life with much more sanity and trust than I do the disappointments faced by my children.    Here’s what I’m learning about making productive use of those times:

  1. Pray for your child, and let him know that you are praying.  In at least one of our disappointments, I was so blind-sided by the “no” that came, I did not know how to pray for that son’s future.  I could see no better road than the one that had been blocked.  It was time to offer that attitude up to God (since it was all I had), and to ask Him for wisdom; not that He would give ME  a vision for my son’s future, but that He would do that for my son.
  2. Share Scripture with your child — not as a period, to end the conversation (“All things work together for good to those who love God.”  We know this will work out, so just stop worrying and put on a happy face and things will be fine  . . .”) —  but as a cup of water to prime the well, to keep the conversation going.  Jeremiah 29:11 reassures me every time that God has my children’s futures well in hand, and Psalm 5:8 gives me words to wrap around my hope for straight paths and righteous living for all my boys.
  3. Do the obvious — love them in the way that you know love to be loved!  That might mean listening to the frustrated rantings of your more vocal offspring; it might mean keeping your mouth shut if it seems as if your questions and suggestions create more anxiety.  It could mean that you sit down and help with resume preparation, provide transportation for a while, or offer encouragement in your child’s love language (write encouraging notes, give him a back rub, or bake his favorite lasagna).

Lest anyone get the impression that Parenting Past the Mid-Point is a desert waste-land, let’s go back to the garden.  Those bedraggled bean plants yielded an entire bushel which resulted in fourteen quarts of canned beans for winter, a batch of dilly bean pickles, and enough beans for dinner besides.

There is fruit.

It is a glorious thing to see the friendships that develop among “grown-up and growing-up” kids.  I love that my boys are friends, and am thankful for the grace of shared jokes from a life time of laughing together; spontaneous visits and phone calls; a daughter-in-law with a sweet, quiet smile; a grandson who melts my heart; the knowledge that values we have passed on and the God we love will hold center stage long after the Mid-Point has past and the End-Point is in sight.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

54 thoughts on “Parenting Past the Mid-Point: More Thoughts from the Garden”

  1. OH, Michele! This was such an edifying, precious post! I needed this one so much today. I love the thoughts God gave you on this and how you shared the wisdom you have gleaned. This just really, really ministered to me. Thank you, sweet friend, and may God bless you richly.

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  2. Dear Michele,

    I wanted to write and ask you if you would prayerfully consider being interviewed via EMAIL for our Inner Views segment of Homespun Devotions? I know you would have much Godly wisdom to impart, and I felt the Lord nudge me to ask you this morning.

    I look forward to hearing back from you. 🙂

    God bless, Cheryl

    On Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 6:00 AM, Living Our Days wrote:

    > Michele Morin posted: ““These bean plants are a mess,” I muttered. “But, > wow . . . lots of beans.” Our eleven rows of Providers (that’s the variety > of green bean we always plant) had lived up to their name, but after four > pickings, the plants looked tired, ransacked, plunde” >

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  3. I loved this, Michele. It is such an encouragement to me, I needed to read this today. Your picture reminds me of what my grandmother’s table looked like in the summer after we helped her brake beans – what a memory! Thanks for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. He’s all of six foot one. He’s running as fast as he can toward fifteen. He’d skip it, if he could, and just leap into sixteen. The magic number. The age of freedom to drive. To bust out. To be unleashed. He thinks it means adulthood, but, of course, he isn’t mature enough to know he isn’t even close.

    But stuck in this aching-to-be stage, he is a painful conundrum. He’s cocky, sometimes disrespectful, arrogant, over confident as well as sheepish, full of self-doubt and fear. He puts up a good front but underneath he is mostly insecure. And in his fight with that he oversteps.

    He lives big and out loud so he often makes bad choices and has too much money to spend on things he shouldn’t buy. He isn’t old enough, nor experienced enough to realize that being able to do certain things is not a license to do them without restraint. His motto is – live and have fun while you can.

    His bravado masks a lifelong struggle to prove himself because he is afflicted with ADD and struggles to keep up with school work. He thinks it makes him look stupid when, in fact, he is quite brilliant in ways others are not. Ask him to fix your computer.

    He seems tough and often gives off the wrong vibe even as he is soft-hearted and always was the compassionate kid who comforted the one who was hurt on the playground.

    He’s a foaming mixture of all the ways humans develop from infants to adults. He represents the person who, depending on the circumstances of his rearing, could become an evangelist or a serial killer.

    He’s a modern teenager with too much stuff, too much freedom, too much exposure to electronic information that he is not mature enough to process.

    He’s my grandson. I keep the communication line open and hold on praying that God will intervene during these teen years that have always been tenuous and difficult but now, in this age, are downright treacherous. Satan is questing.

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    1. “Could become an evangelist or a serial killer”
      I have said words similar to this over my own boys. I love the way you know this guy, the child of your child. Praying that I will be privileged to have a relationship like this with my own grandboy (coming into the terrific two’s!). In the meantime, my two remaining teens provide lots of “entertainment.” Thanks, Meema, for these bracing thoughts.

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      1. Shaking my head in wonder, my friend. I love our fellowship — and I’m so glad that you are free to share your thoughts here. This space would be poorer without them.

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  5. Michele, I love this post. I’ve been there, but now that my kids are all grown with my youngest turning 20 in November, parenting is a bit different. My kids are all good friends with each other and with us, but not all are walking with the Lord. My prayer is that one day they all will be one with us in Christ. Thanks so much for sharing part of your life here. Blessings to you!

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  6. Michele,
    With “children” ages 28 and 23, I find that parenting “adult” children carries with it, it’s own unique set of challenges. We’ve gotten through the teen years. We’ve had one launch successfully and the other one is struggling. I do pray earnestly all the time for this duckling and I do try to share Biblical truth – like I have all through their growing up years. But, it’s hard and it’s painful at times…Like every other phase of child rearing I am putting one foot in front of the other and trying to walk this path…
    Blessings,
    Bev

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    1. Yes – when our kids are tiny, we truly believe that we are going to sink from the weight of sleep deprivation, potty training, etc. The truth is that these are the training years, and the real challenges to our love (and our faith) are still ahead. Thankful to be doing this in fellowship with you and others who are trusting for grace for each day!

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  7. Michele,
    I’m as single as humanely possible and the only child I have is my dog Bailey (she counts, right?) but the thing that stood out to me about this post is that the struggle to stay fully present in the moment seems to be a life-long battle. I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that when I’m “all grown up” I’ll have it all together and things will fall seamlessly into place. I forget that isn’t how life works, and that the things that matter take effort! I am going to recommit to staying in the present moment today and every day!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I always felt like I was good at parenting littles, but parenting teens left me feeling inadequate. I blame it on the fact that once my daddy left us when I was nine, I went from little girl to having to mature very quickly, so I skipped some of the silliness of tween and teen life myself. I just couldn’t relate to my own teen children in many ways. Thank God, my husband was better with teens than little ones, so together, and heavily leaning on God’s grace, we managed to raise them to adulthood!

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    1. Parenting teens does take a different kind of grace — and I’m learning that having adult children is yet a different thing. Delightful, but different. Thanks be to God for His grace and wisdom. We so need it!

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  9. Thank you, Michele, I needed this. I find mothering is getting harder, not easier, as my children grow more independent. Some days I’m wistful and wish I could reverse time if only for a moment, when I dictated everything and could keep my babes safe. Yet I wouldn’t trade this time in the present either! To watch them grow and mature is an honor and blessing. And to watch them make mistakes and bear the consequences of those mistakes is not for the weak hearted! It’s always encouraging to hear words from a Chrisian mother who has walked a few paces ahead of me. Thank you, thank you!!

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    1. I was really blind sided by the teen years, and all the differences it made in our family. We always have traveled as a pack, and when, one by one, boys started spinning off into their own orbits (rightly so), it nearly did me in.
      And I’m following along behind those who are a few paces ahead of me. This is the body of Christ!

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  10. My sons are almost 32, 29, and almost 23, and I can echo many of these thoughts. Sometimes it’s hard to know how much to assist and how much to let them figure things out on their own. Often the direction in their lives in not the one I would have chosen, though we were always careful never to pick out a career or calling for them and steer them that way. It’s hard sometimes to switch from hands-on parenting to more of an advisory capacity. But the rewards of parenting are still so rich, and I love the young men that they have become even while sometimes missing those little guys they were. But grandkids help fill that longing. 🙂

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  11. I love this window into your life, Michele. My oldest is just 10 and it feels a little daunting when I look down the road . . . and don’t even get me started on our bean plants. But you’re right, staying in the game makes a world of difference.

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  12. Oh sister. I’m over here parenting past the midpoint as well and your post is spot on! My girls are both headed to college this year and one is dating and both are still trying to decide their for-sure career path. My prayers are constant and my wonder at whether to open or shut my mouth is the same! And then there’s the one boy left at home. Poor kid has been stuck with me all summer while we move (he’s my pack horse). He’s got to be going a little crazy, as am I, but I keep reminding myself I won’t have him here much longer. Glad those beans are still bearing fruit!

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  13. The “daily challenge of staying in the game” – that’s an apt description, Michele. You keep being a great mama, as I know you will! I continue to pray for my girls even though they’re both “grown” (they’ll always still be my babies). We never outgrow our job of being a mother.

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  14. Oh Michelle, you speak to my heart today! I too am an older parent with an “almost teenager” and so I can relate to the challenges there – namely, not as much energy as I would like to have! What a sweet time it is, as we watch our kids grow into young men and women, and yet that times comes with its own challenges, as you well point out! I too find myself in the balancing act between parenting, work, and ministry, in order to make sure I’ve not relegated my daughter to self-parenting. Thank you for your encouragement and words of wisdom today.

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  15. I hope you know how much I love this post today. I also “get it” since I am a little beyond you but also walking step by step through some of the same things. You shared some wise advice today that any parent can wrap their heads around. One of the things I learned in this stage of parenting is that advice should not be given every time your sons want to talk. I learned from them that I need to ask if they need me to listen or desire more from me. Perfect words to affirm any parent past the midpoint.

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    1. When I read your post about letting go, I had similar thoughts. We are walking the same path with our boys. It’s such a jolt to absorb their growing up and moving on – even though it comes in phases. It overwhelms me that I really only had all four boys here in my home together for ten years. Such a small window of time!

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  16. As a mom of 5 boys – this just went straight to my heart. My oldest is 30 and my youngest almost 15. I remember with one son praying, “You know why he’s doing this Father – acting this way, struggling this way – it’s not a surprise and you know what needs to be done about it” – and God did. Psalm 139 was a great source of encouragement with the challenges they face. When I realized that between God, my child and I – that I was the only one surprised – well, that was a very liberating enlightenment – and strengthened my prayers for my sons. I loved your message and story Mary. Parenting past the mid-point with you!

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    1. Such a great thing to bring our children to our Father for help in parenting and just plain UNDERSTANDING them. I will be remembering that insight: I’m the only one who is surprised. Certainly not God! Thank you so much for your thoughts.

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  17. As a mom of littles, I enjoyed reading this. It’s interesting to read about parenting when kiddos are older. I can still move most things out of reach…

    Thanks for the reminder to always pray for our children!

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  18. My boys are 10 and 9, so reading this is so helpful in preparing for the years ahead when things are different. Great tips full of wisdom! Thanks for sharing.

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  19. Thank you for this post, Michele! So often there is great advice and testimony to parents of littles, but not much support (I started to say commiseration) for those of us parenting past the mid-point. (I love that title, by the way.)

    I loved your gentle admonition, “daily challenge of staying in the game,” because as the children leave the nest it is tempting to ramp up my own efforts of doing what I want with this one beautiful life (mainly studying and writing). I must remember that my daughters still need my involvement and there is a special purpose a Mimi can have in their grandchildren’s lives. May I not miss any of it!

    Thanks for sharing at The Loft.

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  20. I needed to read this. Though I’m far from the midpoint, I’m tired! Thanks for your encouragement to press on and not become weary in doing good! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
    Tina

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I love the idea of sharing Scripture to prime the well and keep the conversation going! Thanks for sharing your wisdom for those of us who are not parenting past the midpoint (although I see it rapidly approaching with my oldest). He has had so many disappointments in life with physical afflictions that I think my transition might look different on that front, but thanks for sharing what to prepare for.

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  22. Oh, this is so good! As a fellow momma-of-older-kiddos (and a couple younger ones!), I’m right there navigating this good-hard season. Loved these insights! (Totally sharing this…)

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