Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Word About Our Children's Future Families

Hello friends!

This is an excerpt from my book The Real Life Home School Mom: It's a Life in ReVision -- which I just revised again last month.  This particular section reflects some of those changes.  You can read the whole book on-line or download if for free from the sidebar of my blog  I also have a few print copies available for sale for $20 plus shipping.  You can e-mail me if you are interested in ordering one!

Our kids really do grow up!  One of my daughters is married and has a a sweet baby boy who will be visiting us this afternoon.  Another daughter is planning to get married later this year.  I remember that when our fourth daughter was born, our pediatrician quipped, "Buy a good ladder and hope they elope!"  When the fifth one in a row was born, I told Thad we just ought to start a wedding business.  One could be the coordinator, one the photographer, one the florist, one the caterer, etc.   Now we have seven daughters and three sons!  Yikes!


A Word About Our Children’s Future Families

            In this chapter so far, we’ve been talking about our own families.  I want us to look ahead now to the families our children will have in their adult years.  The preparation starts now!  I shudder when I think about the future of our society, and how family life is sinking further into the pit.  The attack on the traditional nuclear family has been relentless.  Children are expected to express their independence through hideous rebellion.  Only a remnant of teenagers guards their physical purity, and many more compromise their thought lives.  The concept of a faithful lifetime marriage is seen as all but obsolete.  The distinction between the roles of men and women has been blurred and mutilated.  The unborn, handicapped, and elderly are targets for destruction or neglect.  It makes me all the more determined for our family to be a stark example of God's grace and hope, both now and in the future.

            What will the future bring for each of our children?  Will they marry and bear children?  Marriage is not God's plan for every young adult.  Consecrated single men and women can give undivided attention to ministry (see 1 Corinthians 7).  Do our children even know that this is an option?  Are they acquainted with godly single role models?   Are they determined to live their lives for God’s glory rather than moping around waiting for a spouse?  If our children are destined for marriage, how will they find God-fearing spouses? 

            We may be a bit old-fashioned, but like many home school parents, my husband and I are somewhat attracted by the model of courtship, but not necessarily how it is presented by many in the home schooling movement, and not as a hard and fast rule.  To us, this means that romantic relationships are reserved for adults who are logistically and emotionally prepared to make permanent commitments, rather than play around with a series of tender young hearts.  The goal is serious preparation for marriage, so courtship is marked by maturity, purity, and a reasonable amount of guidance from parents.   

            For many years, our family attended a church where most of the families shared these convictions. Most of the young people there hang out in groups, especially after basketball games, or for lunch after church.  That was the example set for our children as they were growing up.  However, that's not how it worked for my oldest daughter, whose husband was several years older and hadn't been exposed to that mindset.  Nonetheless, after a few bumps (mainly as  my husband and I adjusted to this change in plans), they are happily married and have a precious little boy.  I constantly marvel at how my son-in-law cares for his little family.  Our second daughter is more enthusiastic about the courtship model, and so is the young man who is courting her.  They have known each other for several years.  It is different with each couple.  With seven daughters and three sons, I certainly need to bear that in mind!

            In recent years I have become aware of severe abuses of the courtship model within the home schooling movement.  In some families, a young woman has very little say in her own future, being denied opportunities for academic education or job experience with the view that she is only going to ever be a wife and mommy.   In this way, she is virtually trapped into either marrying young or living at home well into her adult years because she doesn't have the resources to choose another way.  Her parents (and often those in her church or social circle) closely monitor her interactions with all young men, and in some instances, choose (or attempt to choose) her future husband for her. In these families, the courtship process is quite rigid and tightly controlled by the girl's father, leaving little room for spontaneity, authenticity, and romance between the young couple.  Even if she is told that she has the final say on whether or not to marry a certain young man, she might have so little confidence in herself that she takes the first guy who comes along, reasoning that she might not get another chance.  Quite often, the results of tightly controlled courtships are tragic, with couples discovering that despite this "guaranteed success formula" for choosing a mate, they really don't like each other at all once they actually have a chance to really get to know one another without constant chaperones.  In one tragic case of a young couple married after a tightly-controlled courtship, the young man shot his pregnant wife to death. Yes, that's an extreme case, but there are also plenty of cases of divorce and infidelity among couples who followed the courting model.  Other young women have been completely alienated from their families because they objected to unreasonable control over the courtship process by their parents.  Many have even been thrown out of their homes because their parents think they are "in rebellion" and don't deserve to be part of the family anymore.  Hello?  Is this what we really want after a lifetime of investing in their lives through home schooling?
            We need to learn to finish well, with love and grace, not an obsessive need to control the lives and destinies of our adult children.   I believe the process of our children finding their mates should be a joyous time of following the leading of the Holy Spirit and getting to know one another in natural ways.  Yes, parents can be involved, but we don't need to depend on legalistic regulations and intrusions.  We pray for our children, walk by faith, and wait to see what God will accomplish.
            May I share a little of my own story?  I first moved to Florida, far away from my parents, when I was 17 and in my second semester of college.  Why?  I was “in love” with a boy I had met on an overseas summer missionary team.  It was a very volatile match, and two years later we canceled our wedding plans.  Over the next year, I went on a few dates and learned the folly of chasing guys who weren’t interested in me.  I also devoured Elisabeth Elliot's book Passion and Purity.  I often wondered when I would meet Mr. Right.  Then, when I was almost 21 and a college senior, I met “him” at church.  Thad, who is four years older than I, had not dated for about three years because he was convicted by the Lord to keep his heart pure.  As we got to know each other, he told me he would not pursue any relationship without the goal of marriage.  What a relief that was for me, since I wanted no further part of the dating scene!  Over the next year, the Lord's direction to marry was confirmed by our families and the pastors who did our pre-marital counseling.  Our wedding was a joyous occasion, and I have reaped the abundant benefits of marriage to a faithful Christian man. 
            I want our children to be blessed with Christ-filled marriages, unless God calls them to sanctified singleness.  I often pray for their future spouses, that God would raise them up in love, wisdom and purity.  And I see that I must prepare my own children to fulfill Biblical roles in marriage.  I want my daughters to know that there is no shame in pouring their lives into being wives and mothers, while at the same time not making this into some sort of legalistic expectation on them.  I want my sons to revel in their responsibility to lead, protect, and provide for their families.  I want them all to know that children are a precious gift and heritage to be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  And I hope that when we are old and decrepit, they will still remember to honor Mom and Dad with tender care!

            How can a mom prepare her daughter to be a wife and mother?  We can set an example, in big and small ways, as we live our daily lives.  They will learn the essence of it as they see us relate to our husbands, nurture and discipline our children (including them!), plan and teach academics, organize, economize, cook, clean, sew, garden, decorate, fix things, tend to sick ones, show mercy to the needy, and so forth.  It will be entirely natural for them to work alongside us and even to take over various tasks as the years go by.  When they leave the apprenticeship of our homes, they will be equipped!

            Likewise, our sons can be prepared for adulthood by watching their fathers cherish and serve Mom, discipline the children, make leadership decisions, provide and steward the family finances, maintain the house/yard/car/equipment, and all the other things that husbands do.  Wise parents also make sure that their sons will be capable, in character and skills, to provide for their families without depending on income from their wives.  We are looking out for our grandchildren!


P.S. You can read about Mary's 2008 messianic Jewish wedding and see some pictures right here: Mary's and Ryan's Beautiful Wedding.  And a grandson in the mix: 

Jacob Eliav TindallMy GrandsonSavta & Bris for Baby Jacob, and Jacob's First Chanukkah.