I’m writing this while sitting on a flight with my thirteen-year-old son on our way home from Uganda. Yep . . . Uganda! It’s actually an interesting story how it all happened. I had an opportunity to join a mission trip to Uganda to pilot if for our ministry. The trip was one designed for fathers and their children, and they asked if my son would join us. Right away I knew the answer for sure. Let me ask his mom.
Her initial answer was predictable. It was simply . . . “I hate you.”
Now, before you judge the quality of my marriage . . . well, just stop. I love my wife’s answer. In a way, it sums up what most of us parents feel when we are faced with an option like that for our children.
Loosely translated, “I hate you” means, “I want this for my child, but I’m scared.”
I gave her a couple of weeks to think about it, and then I brought it up again.
Her response was one of the most profound parenting insights I’ve ever heard. (Did I mention how much I love my brilliant wife?)
She said, “I don’t want my thirteen-year-old to go to Uganda. But, I want a seventeen-year-old who went to Uganda when he was thirteen.”
Drop the parenting mic!
As I think about our trip I am amazed what he experienced as a thirteen-year-old. Someday he will be a seventeen-year-old who has already . . .
worked with and learned from great Ugandan men who are working hard to combat the lack of male role models in that culture.
made friends with another Mac from across the world and had to say goodbye. . . probably for this lifetime.
bartered with some tough Ugandan ladies at the city market.
played with Muhammed, #2 Muhammed (a name he gave himself), and Osama and enjoyed it.
sat with a widowed mother of twelve in her shed and told her she was “Brave.” (She really liked that.)
walked into an orphanage and brought joy to some amazing children who needed a little more joy.
felt deeply, the privilege and the blessing of being born in the United States of America.
Here’s my point:
As parents raising Christian children we must, at some point (probably middle school), decide that we are going to begin to move from protecting our children to preparing them for this world. The older they get, the more you have to let go, giving them experiences where they can lead, serve, and learn how to do things on their own.
The reality is you don’t even need to take a missions trip, though I would highly recommend it. There are plenty of ways to change gears and plug them into new experiences. What is something you can do this summer to push your kids out of the nest just a little, to help them experience something new or become more responsible, even if it makes you feel a little uncomfortable at first? What do you want your kid to have already experienced when they are seventeen?