They Way They Should Go

They Way They Should Go?

I’m having a few big struggles right now. I’m sure I’ll get to all of them eventually, but the one weighing on my heart today is parenting. That is, parenting my adult/soon-to-be adult children in light of the cross. At the end of the day, the Bible doesn’t have a whole lot to say about parenting, but there is always this gem:

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old, he will not depart from it.

-Proverbs 22:6

I know the way we should go: toward Christ. But how do you train a child to do that? How forceful should we be? And what do we do with regards to children who have not been well “trained in the way they should go” and are now at or past the jumping off point and seem like they might be/definitely are departing from it?

I guess what has put this on my mind right now, oddly enough, is that my brother in law has been living with us and he is soon moving out. I am so happy for him. We helped him in exactly the way we were supposed to, I think. He has paid some bills and figured out some things and now found a home for himself and his children which should be good for them for a while. He has gotten to a point where he wants to take care of his own life for once. This is exactly what it seemed like they needed. But, of course, my overachieving, obsessive brain (thanks, autism!) imagined more. I was hoping that we could become family, that they would become part of “us.” I wanted to take them to church, bring them closer to Jesus. I didn’t really get to see that happen.

I only hope they saw Jesus in us.

But we helped them. I believe that God moved them here in his perfect time and he is moving them out in his perfect time. And if the results are not what I wanted or hoped for, I believe His hopes and wants are better than mine. I feel like I was hoping for more that I didn’t get, but maybe the “more” was for me. Maybe they got “more” that I can’t see.

Blended Families
Blended Families

And now I wonder about what I should be hoping to give my children. What I should be hoping they get from me. Our oldest daughter lives at her bio-mom’s. She says she is still Christian and I believe her. She says she loves Jesus, but I wonder. I mean, does she love Jesus with everything? Is she walking toward him on a daily basis, loving him, wanting him, pursuing God as he has pursued her? She doesn’t go to church, as far as I know. If she has any other Biblical activities or pursuits, I haven’t heard about them. And I want to get in there and find out. I want to ask the hard questions and force the issue. I want to call her bluff, if that’s what it is. I want to make sure that she is not just a “Christian in Name Only”, like I know her dad was at her age.

But, I don’t know if that’s the right thing. I don’t even know if it’s any of my business. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t want me in her business. Should that even matter? I don’t want to mind my own business, I want to love her in the way that I understand it. Should that matter? Most of all, I want to do what God wants because I know if I do that, then it will work and it will come out just the way it is supposed to. But I don’t even know what that is.

I guess the good news is that I have come to the point where I don’t view it as some sort of weird contest between me and her mother. I don’t have to fight that woman for anything. Any questions I had in that area, I know the answers. Or I don’t need them anymore.

I know she loves her mother. I’m glad for that. I hope she loves me, but that’s kind of beside the point. I love her. That means I want her for God. I want her in heaven. I don’t care if she picks her mother over me. I’m afraid she’ll pick her mother over Jesus.

And I don’t know what my place is in all that. Do I need to try to see if it’s happening and help her see it if it is? Do I need to just pray and trust and be Jesus to her? I mean, I know I do the latter anyway, but is that sufficient? I don’t know.

I am just glad that I can rest in the knowledge that whatever I do, it will not be enough. My work can’t save her any more than it saved me. Whatever I do, whatever happens, it’s all God’s work. And, if she is saved and she walks with Jesus, God will be glorified. And if she doesn’t, God will still be glorified. And, at the end of the day – at the end of THAT day – that is all that matters.

Love Them Like Jesus

My oldest biological kid recently came out as transgender, at least to us. I get the impression she has been out to others for awhile. I mean, she told us awhile ago, but we thought it was a teen thing. Or a hormone thing. Or an anxiety thing. I don’t know. It was a very stressful time in a number of ways and the discussions were muddled and emotional. Anyway, I am coming to terms with the fact that my daughter, Mae, is now going to be my son, Henri.

I will be honest. I didn’t really want to believe it. Not because I hate transgender people or because I think it’s a sin or anything like that. The thing that made me want to believe it’s not so is that I know the statistics. I know how often transgender people are attacked and victimized. Not just by violence but also bigotry and discrimination. And life is already hard, this seems like it would just make it so much harder. But he is investigating medical procedures and seeing doctors and as soon as we get the money, we are going to get his name legally changed, so I guess this is what it is.

Continuing with the honesty, I’m not really looking forward to telling people. Not because I’m embarrassed, just because I know it will be awkward. How do you say to people, “Remember Mae? She’s Henri, now. Also, she’s a he. Try to remember and not be awkward, m’kay?” I know that lots of people will be confused, I know I am. But I also know that some people will be sad for us and want to console us. Because they will think that we are heartbroken. We are pretty conservative, fundamentalist Christians and we are supposed to be heartbroken by news like this, this kind of parenting outcome.

But, and this may surprise you, I’m not. Honestly. Like I said, I’m a bit confused and every time I talk about it, I kind of feel like a backwards pig or some slack-jawed yokel. You know, like I’m always saying the wrong thing and every sentence out of my mouth just gets worse and worse. Ignorant. Suburban. Positively primeval. But, I am not heartbroken about this. If he is happy, I am happy. And we will get through this period of transition. This time next year, we will be through and good on the other side of it, I’m sure.

When Mae first started talking about not wanting to be a girl anymore, I tried to talk her out of it, I guess. But, at the time, I felt that was the right way to go, because at the time, she was confessing Christ. We believed she was saved. When dealing with believers, we are obligated to try to convict them and help them get out of sin. But, then she told us, later, that she is not saved. Well, that changed everything. I’m reading 1 Corinthians because my pastor is teaching through it. And this morning, I read this:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy or the swindlers, or idolaters. In that case, you would have to leave the world.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?
-1 Corinthians 5:9-10, 12

So we love him like Jesus would and does. We accept him as he is and show him the gospel every chance we get. We let him know that we love him because he is our kid, nothing he does can change that.

My heart is broken; though, it doesn’t have anything to do with her saying she wants to be a man. The day she said she knows the Bible is true, she knows God is real and she just doesn’t believe it, well, that’s the day my heart broke. If he believed, we could discuss the Bible and interpretation and pray and I would have a hard time understanding how someone could read the Bible and still want to live this way. But if he loved Jesus above all else and was doing his best to obey and walk with Him, I would have no reason not to believe that he wouldn’t be with Jesus in heaven. And nothing else would matter.

But he’s not saved and that’s the heartbreaking part. It wouldn’t matter if he came to me and said he changed his mind, he loves the name Mae and she’s found a lovely man and they are going to get married and settle down and have a dozen babies. If she doesn’t love Jesus, my heart is broken. And nothing else matters.

And I think that’s what it means to love them like Jesus.

Mothering is not a reciprocal relationship

The autism community is on fire again over another tragic death of an autistic child at the hands of his mother. London McCabe was a 6 year old autistic boy whose mother threw him off the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Oregon last week. Among other things, NBC News reported this:

Dee Shepherd-Look, a psychology professor at California State University, Northridge, who runs an education group for mothers of autistic children, said “quite frankly, I am surprised this doesn’t happen more often.”

“These children are really unable to be in a reciprocal relationship and the moms don’t really experience the love that comes back from a child — the bonding is mitigated,” she told NBC News. “That is one of the most difficult things for mothers.”

I didn’t want to be one more autistic, autism mom ranting about how outrageous it is that they dehumanize autistic children and make it seem like they may have driven their mothers to kill them. But this just really hits home. First, because London was a little boy who loved his iPad and my son loves his iPad. Second, because my son, though verbal, does not express love in the usual ways. He doesn’t say I love you. He doesn’t hug. He doesn’t ask questions about what you’re doing or how you’re doing or anything, actually. Questions are not a thing he does very well. So I guess London tugs at my heart because he reminds me of my boy. So I am writing about this thing that I had decided not to write about. But I am going to focus on this statement by Dee Shepherd-Look. I truly hope that this was taken out of context and that this person does not really believe what this statement seems to say she does. But what I’m writing is less about the fact that she said it and more about the fact that NBC, a major news outlet, reported it in this way. The fact that they as a station would make this statement.

The first disturbing thing about this statement is the suggestion that autistic people are, in general, incapable of having a reciprocal relationship. That’s not even true. Autism has nothing to do with the ability to feel love. Many of us are capable of showing it in a ways that are totally understandable to neurotypical people. That being the case, many more of us must be able to feel and just show it in less conventional ways.

That’s not the most disturbing thing, though, because it’s not even relevant, even if it were true. I could write about all the ways that Joseph shows caring and concern for others. He does. But I’m not going to do that because it doesn’t matter. If I’m honest I don’t know if he really loves people the way I or other people understand it. He doesn’t talk about it so I don’t really know. He is very, very concrete in his thinking and understanding of the world. I don’t know if he even understands the concept of love. The suggestion that that somehow makes it excusable, even expected, for me to take his life because I don’t feel “reciprocated” in my love for him is the most disturbing thing about the above statement. He has a right to live by virtue of the fact that he is alive as God made him to be. And nothing about my response to him or my mental state outweighs that right. He is still a person, God’s image bearer, no matter how he shows love, or if he never does at all. And that is why it would be wrong to kill him, a monstrous act. And there’s no mitigating circumstance that makes it understandable to throw a little boy off a bridge.

The most ridiculous thing about that statement, is the idea that the parent-child relationship is a “reciprocal relationship.” A child can never give their parents back what their parents put into that relationship. They’re not supposed to. It’s not possible. Parents give their children life and take care of all their needs for years when a child doesn’t even understand what love is. Parents sacrifice in ways that children can not understand until they become parents or, at least, adults. And even when you do understand it, you can never give your parents back what they give you. They gave you life. It’s not reciprocal and it can never be. As a mother, you shouldn’t expect your children to reciprocate. If you do you will be disappointed. Deeply. The pay off of parenting isn’t when they pay you back, it’s when they pay it forward by caring for their own children. Or their neighbors. Or anyone. The pay off is realizing that your children understand the idea of sacrificial love, because the first place they saw it was in you.