Remember that old song, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do?” For some wild reason it popped into my head today but with a twist. I heard myself singing “growing up” instead of “breaking up.” I thought that was funny but then I heard the truth in it.
You can cite all kinds of problems in society, but what hit home for me was not society “out there” with temptations and dangers, but right here, in the home. We have vulnerabilities that we don’t often think about. In particular I am thinking about the breakdown of marriages that leave children without the support they need to develop solidly into the self they were designed to be with support from both a mother and a father. A child needs to be both fathered and mothered; it’s also possible to get too much fathering (translates as strictness) or too much mothering (sometimes called smothering).
I have heard the rationalization that “children are resiliant; they will be all right” when a marriage fails. That is a half truth. Children are resiliant, but make no mistake, every child needs to be fathered as well as mothered. I have thoroughly enjoyed the posts of Arthur Burke and the feedback threads on the subject. It is Arthur’s belief that moms can also father! The essence of fathering is to apply enough pressure so the kid will reach inside him/herself and unpack the treasures that are in there. Moms cannot unpack their children, but they can give support with firmness which is a fathering behavior!
As kids are in the process of becoming teens we moms need to dial down the urge to meet all their needs, which is the essenece of mothering. They need to increasingly take on responsibilities and sometimes need to reap the consequences for their choices. Sometimes we need to let them learn the hard way.
Recently a mom told me how her son had gotten himself in a mess with his grades. He hadn’t made the connection between doing homework AND handing in his assignments with receiving good grades. All the social lights in his brain were firing–he was hanging out and having fun. Homework was not even on the radar! That is until Mom saw the grades. She connected with teachers; she required the books come home. She gave up time with husband and sat with son to ensure the work was done–she ignored the treadmill!
Son was working at the kitchen table, so with back to him she asked how all this business with the grades happened. He thought for a while, then said, “I think basically it was lack of work on my part and just not getting assignments in on time.” Dad left what he was doing, came into the kitchen and gave him a big bear hug and told him how proud he was that son could not only see the connection, but verbalize it! He owned it! Dad was mothering with the hug and the affirmation. Mom’s keeping the pressure on because it is a new learning. She is not being mean; she is being supportive, like a cast to a broken bone. That’s fathering! Sometimes it’s painful–growing up is hard to do. Appropriate pain produces good fruit.
I am so glad for God’s wisdom in sending/allowing the right mix of blessing and pain to stretch and grow us all into the likeness of Jesus! That silly old tune put all that together in my head! Amazing how our minds work.