My family and I live about 30 miles from town. It was a conscious decision to move that far for lots of family and lifestyle reasons, but an unintended consequence was the amount of time spent in the car each week. On the best of days, it is a minimum 30-minute drive (one way) to the grocery store, restaurants, and even church. For years, I resented this time and considered it wasted. But, as my son grows older, I have come to realize that our time in the car is precious. For 30 to 60 minutes every day, I have a captive audience. I turn the radio off, put the phone down, and just wait for him to open up. We don’t always talk—sometimes we just look out the window and take in the stillness. Then, like a ray of sunlight, a crack opens and there is an opportunity to enter his world.
Just a few nights ago, the floodgate opened, and I was learning far more about the world of middle school than any mom should probably know. As he shared stories of who said this and who said that, who was hanging with who, and who you don’t want to be seen with, I could tell he was working up to a point. Finally, he shared that someone he thought was truly a friend shared (and broke) his confidence with the other boys in his pack. His secret was now open discussion for all. This was not the first time this had happened with this friend, and my son was angry. He was also scared that his secret would scar his life “forever.” I pondered this for a minute, not wanting to give a flippant answer. I could see he was close to tears and wondered how I could explain that the turbulence of middle school is just a season in his life.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. ~Ecclesiastes 3:1-5
The perspective of “scarred for life” is certainly different to a middle schooler than to a middle aged mom who has been around the block a couple times. But how can you show your child that what feels overwhelming today will in time be nothing more than a memory?
As we talked, I asked him to get a sheet of paper and draw a timeline. After we finished a very humiliating discussion that 45 is not “old,” we guessed the average person lives to be about 75 years old. Armed with his paper and that information, he drew a timeline from zero to 75. Then I asked him to mark where he currently is on the timeline. From there, we talked about typical major milestones like when he would be old enough to drive, when he would graduate high school and college, when he might get married and have children, and when he would take those children to Disney World. Finally, we talked about when he might see his own kids repeat those very same milestones. As we mapped milestones on the timeline, we talked about how many years away those events might be from the present and how many days make up a year. Our conversation went deeper still as we discussed what one might think and feel at those events, and how life’s moments build on one another. My son, in his youthful wisdom, made note that graduating from college would allow him to get a job so he could afford to take his kids to Disney World. (If you can’t tell, he is full court press on Disney World right now.) The conversation eventually came full circle as I shared with him that, while middle school can hurt really bad today, it is just one moment in God’s many milestone plans on the timeline. While this season will certainly shape him, and might even leave a couple of scars, he will come out the other side a better and stronger person, ready for the next stage of his life.
I would love to say I knew without a doubt how deeply this conversation soaked in, but time will tell. Then again, I know he listened, heard, and received the words we spoke about, because he recently gave the advice I had given him right back to me. Yes, adults have hard moments, too, and while I was going on about how unhappy I was with a current situation, my son looked right at me and said, “Mom, remember this is just a tough season, but soon it will be a new one filled with laughter.” Out of the mouth of babes—or, in my case, big kids. These are parenting moments I will remember as major milestones forever.
Christine Clark is the Ministry Coordinator for the Family and Children’s Ministry at Stonebriar Community Church. She has a passion for supporting parents and helping them gain confidence and tools to be spiritual leaders in their homes. She is blessed to be the mom of a middle school son and the wife of her college sweetheart for more than 20 years. She is also an avid sports fan who loves all things football, especially in the fall in Texas.
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