Rite of passage parenting: Our new normal
I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along this journey called life, my wife began to talk about our “new normal.” I think it started when the first of our parents passed away.
My mom died unexpectedly after a sudden heart attack. Before that, I called her every Saturday so we could catch each other up on the latest news. I always looked forward to those phone calls.
For some reason, we think our parents are going to be around forever. Then comes that first Saturday after they’re gone. You find yourself staring at the phone, feeling the emptiness. You realize that for the rest of your life, there will be no more Saturday telephone conversations, no more catching up. You go through the painful adjustment process and after a while, a new normal replaces the old.
Life is like the shifting of the sand at the beach. With each wave, your shoreline takes on new roles and shapes.
And as you get older, the new normals seem to come closer and closer together. Changes come faster. More people you know are passing away and more people are having children (and grandchildren).
I remember when I got married and the adjustment it took to build a life with another person. What was normal in my home wasn’t normal in hers. After a few tears and a whole lot of compromising, we developed a new normal for our family.
Then we had our first son, and life was no longer the same. Our carefree lifestyle came to a screeching halt. Everything we did now centered around our newborn. It seemed as though our life together was nothing more than one big, continual change. We moved to another city, took another job, made new friends, had another son . . . and the changes kept coming.
We embraced some of the new normals with great enthusiasm. Others were thrust upon us, unexpected and unwanted, every time our lives changed.
This past week, our life changed again when we had our first grandchild. Have I told you yet that I’m a granddad? I am . . . and I have the pictures to prove it. Yet, even this is one more season of change. The changes are as much internal as external. This crusty old dad is becoming a sweet, kind and patient grandfather.
Two things are needed to raise a well-rounded child: law and grace. And every child needs the right combination of both. Too much grace, and children develop a lack of respect for others. The spirit of entitlement engulfs their lives. They demand that the world give them what they want as soon as they want it, and think they deserve it every time.
Too much law, and children become either rebellious or people-pleasers. Either way, they reject the truth. Only a delicate combination of grace and law produces a capable, responsible, self-reliant and rightly-centered child.
Parents, by nature, are law. As parents, we instruct our children with all the subtlety of a drill sergeant barking orders: ”Wash your hands,” “Pick up your toys,” “Buckle your seatbelt,” Get to bed.” The instruction starts at daybreak and continues until the children close their eyes at night.
If parents are law, what are grandparents? They’re the grace-givers. While the parents are ordering their children around, the grandparents are speaking into their souls: “You’re a person of worth and value.” Our job as grandparents is to whisper the thoughts of God into our grandchildren’s little lives.
A number of people have told me that with this grandson, my life will change. I know they’re right. I would try to explain it, but if you have grandchildren, you already understand.
The Scriptures have plenty to say about us grandparents and our responsibilities. Deut. 4:9 says, ‘“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
I have a responsibility to tell my grandchildren about the things of the Lord. My life should reflect the vibrancy of a living, loving Savior. What you tell your children is one thing, but what you tell your grandchildren should be full of the things of God.
Yes, I have a new normal. The changes I most look forward to are the times I’ll spend alone with Titus. Maybe one day, the two of us will go out to get an ice cream cone. I can’t wait to hear him say, “Poppy, tell me that story again about you and Uncle Jeremy carrying a cross to the top of the mountain.”