Monday, April 17, 2006

Decisions, decisions...

Duncan and I have been on our own for this week. Kami is visiting her last living grandparent, a dear lady who lives in Boise, Idaho. She was concerned about us: would we eat right? Would the house be okay? I told her, "We'll be fine and happy. You'll come back to see us both sitting on the couch in our underwear watching TV while everything in sight is covered with a fine layer of Cheeto dust." For some reason, that did not comfort her.

Since this was also Duncan's Easter break I thought I'd rearrange my schedule so we could do guy stuff -- golf, shooting, topping up our cholesterol levels -- but that isn't the way it turned out. He got one of his birthday presents early -- a custom made radio for his 74 Ford Gran Torino complete with MP3 player and extra speakers. It fit in the old slot so it was supposed to be a simple switch out... but it wasn't. After several false starts we drove it over to Best Buy. It took them 5 hours but now Dunk has tunes!

Other plans had to be changed on the fly. It all reminds me that we are not in charge of much. Duncan is a man -- six foot four and 190 pounds of pure muscle. Kids love him and run up to him at church. They know he'll be gentle with them. Girls know they are safe around him. Guys know he'll treat them with respect. I'm proud of that, but it also means he has lots of friends and sometimes that interferes with the plans I make. We haven't golfed yet, or gone shooting yet. We went to see Ice Age 2 (very good) and we've done a few things like that, but he is a busy young man. And I'm giving him freedom to be who God wants him to be and to make the network of friends he will need in the next few months or years.

Tomorrow evening we go have dinner with the Marines. He will talk to them about the Delayed Entry Program and the Platoon Leader Option. We've known he was a warrior for a long time now. When people see what he is planning many of them come to us and ask how we can let him join the Marines (not that we could stop him). Won't we be worried? Won't we be terrified?

Sure. But we will also be proud. Decisions have costs. If he decides to be a Marine he will not be... well, a lot of other things. If you go to Lipscomb that means you can't enjoy Harding's campus life or football weekends at the University of Michigan. Decisions are not neutral.

And letting him grow, letting him go, is our decision. It hurts sometimes. I sometimes miss the little boy who followed me everywhere, but Duncan is not my puppy. He is God's son. God gave him his talents, personality, body, and mind. Duncan has decided to use it in the best way he can.

When parents make the decision to give their children leave to find and fulfill their mission, the parents usually suffer. But that's all right. Decisions are not neutral and sacrifice is the name of the game when it comes to parenting. It's not about us. It's not even about them. It's about standing in the place God gave you when He planned you and wove you together in that secret place before delivering you to two people -- parents -- who are commissioned to teach you, hone you, and then deliver you up.

We are all Abraham and our children are all Isaacs. We have to take them to the mountain of God and give them back to Him. Thanks, God, for letting me have Kara and Duncan for a time. Even though the gift wasn't permanent, it was wonderful.


At 4/17/2006 12:47:00 PM , Blogger That Girl said...

My daddy once told me that if he had his way, I would live in that little pink room forever. I have a feeling that he would've gotten tired of that long before forever was over but... I know that I live in a little pink room in his heart... I like it there.

At 4/17/2006 04:46:00 PM , Blogger Niki said...

You spoke almost these very words to me and several other parents a few years ago in a small church auditorium. I have never, nor will I ever forget them. It's hard, but I truly feel the same way. You have very blessed children.

My kids are small, but the day will come when I will be facing similar circumstances and decisions. I'll pull out my Bible and read for discernment and comfort, then I'll pull out my tapes of your lessons for words of wisdom from someone who has gone before. Thanks for clearing the path for me a bit!

And for Duncan...the world could use more warriors like him!

At 4/17/2006 07:57:00 PM , Blogger Kara Graves said...

you'll always be the best daddy in the world and I will always be your princess:)

At 4/18/2006 09:03:00 AM , Blogger mike the eyeguy said...


I really appeciate these thoughts. My sons are 17, 15 and 13 and I'm reluctantly lengthening the leash and realize that the day is coming soon when I will have to turn it loose completely. Thanks for the encouragment.

You may know about these already, but in preparation for your life as a Marine parent, you may want to check out these two books by Frank Schaeffer. He is the son of evangelical intellectual Francis Schaeffer and he writes of the upheaval and change in his family's life resulting from his son John's decision to join the Marines after high school. They are both outstanding reads which will touch your heart.

At 4/18/2006 09:54:00 AM , Blogger David U said...

Great post, Patrick! Our Father in Heaven showed us how to do this, huh? Not easy, but sacrifice never is.

Keep em coming!

At 4/18/2006 12:17:00 PM , Blogger TCS said...

another great one Patrick. For those of us whose fathers didn't your a great example.

At 4/18/2006 01:06:00 PM , Blogger Lee Hodges said...

So right on Patrict. Thanks!

At 4/19/2006 10:11:00 PM , Blogger Annette said...

Hi Patrick,
I really enjoy your blog. It is especially providential for me that you are writing about parenting. The times I have met you and heard you speak (here at Pitman) about your children it was easy for me to tell that they are remarkable people and that you and your wife adore them. I have also been very inspired by the trust that you have in God when you send you children out into the world, on mission trips, and now the Marines. You helped me to realize that when they are about the Lord's work, that God is with them and whatever happens to them is within God's will, even if it is not my will.

But now that I have a 17 year old son, I too have to allow him to make decisions about his life that may not have been the ones I would have made for him. And some of those decisions he is making may not be the best ones. I know that my children are not really going to follow the neat little plan I had in mind for them. It is like the bicycle analogy. You teach them to ride by holding on to the bicycle. At some point you have to let go...even though you know chances are they will fall and maybe get hurt. (That's why I made my husband do the bicycle lessons!) I'm not liking this letting go part. The anticipation of the possible fall is really painful to me. I trust that no matter what, God will get me through whatever is to come. But that doesn't mean I am going to like what is to come.

Someone recently said to me that she thought ages 16 and 17 were like the "terrible twos" all over again...this person's oldest child is only 14. My response was "I'll trade this for the terrible twos any day. Atleast when they are two you can pick them up and put them where you want them to be!"

Thanks for your example. I appreciate you.

At 4/25/2006 04:50:00 PM , Blogger Kirsten said...

Nathan and I don't plan to have kids, so unless God has other plans I don't see this being useful to my parenting skills. However, it does help me to be less bitter about the nature of parenting and of the dynamic between children and their parents. I am reminded by reading this - not all are like my parents, my father in particular.

Thank you, as always.

Your children are very blessed.

At 5/05/2006 04:07:00 PM , Anonymous Gem said...

How interesting that a young man named Duncan (brown warrior) decides to become a Marine! I sure hope this isn't an omen for my 2 1/2 year old Duncan. If it is, I will have to look back on this post and give him the same grace.


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