I like a good timeline. Planning for major life events works best when we take the time to get ready, start setting goals, and establish a timeline for completion. Then we can be effective in making positive changes, right? At least that’s how it is supposed to work. The fact is, things don’t always go as planned.
We recently had a surprise “diaper day” for a colleague expecting her first baby. Each participant chose a different time of day to deliver a bag of diapers to our friend. As I was purchasing my contribution, I had a flashback to my daughter’s toddler days, when it was my turn to have one in diapers. I remember thinking I could plan for the “no diaper” day and found out that my daughter was on an entirely different timeline than I was. Despite sticker charts and motivators (aka bribery), she wasn’t making progress when I was sure she should. I explained my frustration to our pediatrician at her next checkup. Dr. Judy very deliberately turned to my daughter and said, “When you are ready for no diapers, will you tell Mommy?” The doc received a resounding YES in reply. Then my daughter pretty much potty trained herself—faster than I expected. Remembering the wrestling match, I took a black marker and wrote on my diaper donation: “The next best thing to diaper day is NO DIAPER day! Meanwhile, here’s some help in your transition to Mommyhood.”
The fact of the matter is that I like to be in control. When I have determined a parenting plan and a timeline, I can be pretty sure I’ll get results. But our kids aren’t necessarily ready when we are. The reverse is also true. We aren’t always ready for change when they are. Sometimes they are out ahead of us. This is the time of year that parents of college students seem to come in two basic varieties: Those that are ready for their kids to be college bound, and those that aren’t. Granted, for a traditional student who chooses to live on campus, the transition for those left behind is a bigger leap, but even for a PSEO student, the change from high school to college forces us to think differently about our parenting roles. Even if we’re ultra-ready for the move-out or the move-on, The Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA) means parents find themselves taking a back seat as their student becomes the sole owner of their educational records. We go from asking them, “Please share your toys,” so their pals can be included to asking them, “Please share your grades,” so we can be included.
Do you remember playing hide and seek? When you were the one hiding, you frantically rushed to find a place you could squeeze into while the designated seeker race-counted to the magic number 10. If you weren’t ready and a foot or an arm was still in view, when “Ready or not, here I come,” was called, you were caught off guard. But if you were the quick-on-the-draw counter, you could win the game by catching your hiders unprepared. Ideally, in the fairest of games, the hiders have just enough time to take cover in places that give the finder just enough mystery to build the sense of adventure.
Ideally, in the smoothest life transitions, the students aren’t too ready to escape home and the parents aren’t too eager to hold things up. Unfortunately, we aren’t always ready to play the game. We lose our sense of adventure in the midst of the overwhelm. It can feel more like “Ready or not, here they go!” Babies are born when they are ready, the game starts on the count of 10, and our students need to start college when classes begin.
I think the reason our kids are often more ready than we are is that this change is more their choice than ours. Even if we’re helping with the bills, we sense that the balance of control has shifted. We naturally get excited when changes are our choice. We look forward to getting married, accepting a new job, traveling to a bucket list destination, or choosing a new place to live. However, when change chooses us, like milestone birthdays, incurable illness, unexpected loss, financial setbacks, or one less at home when college begins, we can feel caught off guard. Regardless, we know that change is inevitable. We will face it, ready or not.
Fortunately, God is the one thing that never changes. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I am the Lord. I change not.” If we examine what we know about God, we know He promises to be our Provider (Phil 4:19). That won’t change. He promises to be our Protector (Psalm 121). That doesn’t change. He promises to love us (Deut 7:12) and never leave us (Deut 31:8). That doesn’t change, either. He is faithful and trustworthy (Psalm 100:5, 145:13) for all our days. That is a certainty. Those truths about God give us the fortitude to face all kinds of change.
When I am infused with God’s courage, I can remember that change is also an opportunity. I am reminded that I was eager for my daughter to be out of diapers, to learn to walk, to ride a bike, to learn to read, and eventually…to grow into an independent, smart, competent, mature young woman. If she never changed, I wouldn’t be able to see those goals realized. Ultimately, I know that my omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God has a plan for my good—and my kids—when circumstances change.
Life changes. God doesn’t. He’s always ready. Even when the count to 10 comes more quickly than I expected, I can learn to set my eyes on the One that wants to bless us in the midst of all of it. If I can center myself in these truths, I can be ready when they are.