Today I welcome guest blogger, Sandra Auer. She ‘s the mom of a former prodigal. I believe you will gain invaluable wisdom and insights from her that will help you navigate on your difficult journey with your son or daughter.
As he began his senior year, our oldest son was in a particularly rebellious phase. We had just returned from home leave. School authorities advised us to remove him from school and return to the States. We responded that this son was one member of our family of six. We would support them in whatever they had to do regarding his schooling but it was important for him to experience relevant consequences.
That summer, we had met with a Christian counselor who advised:
Don’t bail him out, monetarily or otherwise.
Don’t do anything for him that he can do for himself.
He must feel the pain/benefits of his choices directly.
Love him, no matter what.
The dreaded call from school officials came on a Monday morning. Our son had accumulated enough “demerits” over minor infractions to be expelled. We drove to school, helped him pack his belongings into our old VW van and made the long, bumpy ride home.
I recall his dad loosely quoting Winston Churchill: “This isn’t the end. It isn’t the beginning of the end. But, it is the end of the beginning. You have closed a chapter of the book of your life. This begins a new chapter and a blank page. You can write on it whatever you want.” Then he told him we would be giving him a one-way ticket to the U.S. to be with CA relatives (a Christian psychologist). We believed this would provide his best chance at a new beginning.
That Saturday, we celebrated Thanksgiving at our home with close friends. It was also a time for them to say good-bye to our son. Near midnight, we drove to the airport, hugged and kissed him, told him we loved him and believed he would make good choices, then waved (and wept) him onto the plane. It was one of the hardest things we have ever had to do with as parents. My husband reminded me of the prodigal son’s father who loved him enough to release him.
We loved our son then. We love him now. Creative, competent and smart, he’s a dad himself these days. But at 17, he was angry and unwilling to live under rules made by others.
As we set the plan in motion and did our part as loving parents to help him leave well, I turned to Proverbs 31 which describes the godly woman as “clothed with strength and dignity, she smiles at the future.” I also prayed and turned to a close friend, to pour out my heart, then returned to parenting with increased strength.
Together, my husband and I helped our son launch. Though it felt too early, God has redeemed those difficult days.
We often visit for a week or more in this son’s home where we enjoy being with his family, including two teen sons. Yes, we’re full circle. Some years were very hard but our relationship was never severed. We accepted his choices as his to make and we did all we could to encourage him even when he was choosing a path we didn’t approve.
Unconditional love toward a self-sustaining offspring involves accepting the person, giving and receiving good will. It doesn’t mean approving of their choices, especially when the child has become independent. Carrying hope and faith that they will come round, they will “get it right” is part of launching a child who’s essentially chosen to self-launch early.
Lord, I pray you will give suffering parents your wisdom and capacity to love their growing kids. May we all honor you as we pray for and offer loving support to our offspring for we are all prodigals to some extent, unable to do anything well apart from your power. Amen.
Born and raised in rural Indiana, she married her high school sweetheart and together they raised four sons in California and Kenya (Youngest died, suddenly at 26). She’s the mother-in-law to 4 fabulous daughters-in-law; grandmother to 8, ages 15-6. Has a BS in Psychology-’91, MS in Counseling Psychology-’93. Working with Cru since 1972-present providing staff care. She loves her job! She feels called to go where there’s pain.