An After-Dinner Chat With Some Smart Kids

Yesterday a longtime friend made a facebook comment about a book Benny and I wrote years ago called, “Walking With the Wise.” Frankly, it was written so long ago that I rarely think about it. It was a book for parents about the importance of developing the kind of relationship with our kids that makes we parents the people to whom they want to come for friendship and counsel in the teen years.

It was based on Proverbs 13:20:  “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Having been in youth ministry for years before having kids, Benny and I watched many teens turn their affections and desire for approval away from their parents to peers. We wanted to do our best to avoid this happening to our kids.

Years after writing that book we went through some rough waters with several of our kids when our relationships with them were tested and it seemed we were the smallest voice in their lives. And some of the hardest times were after they were no longer teens. The early 20’s brought challenges we didn’t anticipate, so with an 18-year-old still at home we are still spending time on our knees. With her oldest siblings we breathed a sigh of relief once they were out of those high school years. We know better now. We need God’s grace now just as much as when she was younger and are wanting to finish these remaining parenting years well by God’s grace.

Something cool has happened over the past few years to our grown kids (ages 22 through 34 and their spouses). They’ve gotten smart! The kids to whom we used to give advice (or try to!) are now advising us.

Take the other night. We went out to a birthday dinner for our daughter, Janelle. Not all of the kids could come but 4 of them and a couple of spouses were there. After dinner, Benny asked if he could get their thoughts on some decisions we’re facing, including having his elderly mom come to live with us and needing to move closer to where our new church was planted.

As we sat on the restaurant patio Benny shared his heart and our questions. I loved hearing him openly share some of our temptations and struggles, as well as our questions. One by one they started asking questions and sharing their perspectives. They helped me to see an oversensitive conscience about admitting it would be easier if my mom was needing to move in with us rather than Benny’s. In fact, one son-in-law interrupted his wife (our daughter) when she half-joked about the day we might have to move in with them by interjecting, “Now, wait a minute; we need to talk about this!” They also helped Benny and me to see the importance of talking through our housing preferences more before we actually house-hunt. And, most importantly, they agreed that we need to take a good look at heart motives behind some of our questions and struggles.

Now we are walking with the wise!

Benny and I cherish our peer relationships. We could never put a price on the help, counsel, correction and encouragement we’ve received from our friends over the years. Yet there’s something really special about sitting across from our kids-turned-adults and gleaning from their perspective. Last night as we talked I stopped to savor the moment. Josh started out bald and is now voluntarily bald again. Jaime’s ponytail looked just like it did in her high school basketball games. Janelle’s laugh is still there — the one I could always hear from across the room. They’re my children; the ones I carried and made birthday cakes for and disciplined and taught to read and sinned against and fed pbnj’s.

Yet there they sat: helping, advising and caring.

At one point I realized that someday they’ll all be sitting having a conversation about what to do with their Dad and me.  To add some comic relief to quiet the tears brimming in my eyes I told them I wanted to apologize in advance for all the trouble we would cause them someday.

“Someday?” Josh asked. “You already cause us trouble!”

Ahhh. It was perfect. The tears stopped and we all had a good laugh.

I hope the Lord gives us lots of healthy years to get more good counsel from our kids.

I guess this is “Walking With the Wise: Part Two.”