Parenting the second time around looks different than the first.
When our second of three boys graduated from high school, we assumed we were nearing the end of our parenting journey. Well, at least the part that involves children living at home. As our oldest two prepped for college, our youngest prepared to drive. More and more often, school, jobs and friends took them outside our walls.
The inner rooms became quiet, and my house looked clean for the first time in almost two decades. My husband and I could watch a television show together, uninterrupted. And our conversational relationship started to blossom. Finally, after a season defined by parenting, we began to rediscover life with each other.
But then, only two months after graduation, a series of events brought three young children to our home—ages 4, 4, and 5. On the cusp of empty nest, we started parenting all over again.
The past year has been an adjustment, for everyone. But what surprises me most during this second season of parenting is a strange and unfamiliar sliver of confidence as a mother. Not always, mind you. But more than I experienced back when my boys were young. Although I’m still failing and learning—even with all these years of experience—I’m discovering I’ve learned a thing or two in the past twenty years.
We’ve discovered structure and schedules are not a bad thing, missing a few days of school for a family vacation won’t destroy their education, and children will eat just about anything you make for dinner if they’re hungry enough. But above all these lesser lessons stands one realization that’s changed the tone of our entire family:
Although a healthy family involves children, it can’t revolve around them.
Our first attempt at parenting came with trial and error. A lot of trials and errors, actually. One of our biggest mistakes was allowing our children, their needs and always-fluctuating moods, to dictate the temperature of our family. Although they were and still are a valuable and treasured part of what makes up our family, during the early years we allowed them to be the axis around which everything else spun. The result? Our marriage suffered neglect. It didn’t take long for us to discover a family won’t survive if anchored by her children.
Not any more. Now, with three more littles and a second shot at parenting, we’re more intentional about making our children part of our family, but not in charge of it. We make parenting decisions based on wisdom and conviction, rather than being motivated by guilt or a need to keep the peace. We draw more closely to each other and our faith as the foundation our children need. And regardless of how crazy our children-filled lives become, we work hard to keep it from eclipsing the gift of our marriage.
Because whether they realize it or not, our children need that gift as much as we do.
“Above all, love each other deeply …” (1 Peter 4:8)