I am sitting in McDonalds, enjoying their free Wi-fi and thinking about how my son is entering 6th grade in just 4 days. How could that be happening?
He is leaving the cocoon known as elementary school and venturing into the thrilling and terrifying world of middle school.
Might as well call it Middle Earth for everything that happens there.
When you’re in middle school you’re not an elementary student, but you aren’t quite high school material either.
Physically you are something between a kid and a red-blooded teen. Hormones and parents battle it out over this soon-to-think-he-is-an-adult.
But what a magical time. Suddenly my son is going to be thrust into a world where he can learn to think and manipulate information for himself.
He is going to grow in fantastic ways.
His spiritual compass and emotional maturity are going to be tempered and tested until he becomes a sharp tool, able to lead himself.
He is going to learn more about this universe we live in – for better or for worse.
But I have to let him go there.
I am going to need to let him enter that den of lions and trust that God will protect and guide him every step of the way.
I don’t remember my junior high (that’s what they called it then) days with tons of affection. There were some great moments, and then there were the taunting classmates and emotionally confusing times.
But I loved my dad (and still do). During 7th and 8th grade dad was the principal at my school. I would arrive early with him on cold winter mornings to start the heaters in the frigid gym and set up the chairs in the cafeteria for chapel.
I would hang in the gym after school for two hours, shooting hoops and helping the varsity coach with volleyball practice. Being in 8th grade and hanging out around the high school girls was pretty cool, I must say.
Mostly, though, right now I am thinking about how my dad encouraged me, gave me room to grow, and modeled integrity. Years later I am aware of the challenges he faced and how he handled them with grace.
Dad patiently walked through those confusing times with me and offered whatever support and guiding words he could.
I want to be there for my boys like my dad was there for me.
I want my boys to look back when they are my age and be grateful for the guidance I offered them. But I am not with my boys like my dad was with me. I am divorced and my boys live almost 2 hours away. I see them for small blocks of time. How can I?
Here is where I am reminded of the value of close friends.
This time my girlfriend was that close friend providing me with some compassionate and objective encouragement and feedback. As a result I am seeing new ways to look at my situation. I owe a lot to her for some of these ideas.
- I can still pray. Prayer invites God to do what I cannot, and to make what I do greater than I could make it myself. Without prayer my other efforts will fall short.
- I can talk purposefully. Every dinner time the boys and I (and whomever is with us) go around the table and share our “Best and Worst:” the best and worst moments of our day. My youngest son usually makes certain we do not forget to do this. I could also brainstorm a group of topics I want to address with the boys and have them pick one out of a jar occasionally.
- I can write. I love to write, so why not write them letters? In those letters I could remind them that I am praying for them and that I believe in who they are and who they are becoming. I could write them funny stories and poems, and other things they could enjoy when I am not around. I could also share character traits with them that I feel are important.
- I can plan special outings. I am not a rich man, but there are plenty of things to do and see for free or on a budget in Sarasota and nearby.
- I can visit their schools. Each of them is starting a new school next week, and perhaps I could come and sit in on one of their classes occasionally or join them for lunch.
I am certain there are more ways, but these are tangible and doable now. If you have other ideas that have worked for you, I would love to hear them.
How about you? Where in your life do you need to look at things differently?