Car Seats, Instruction Manuals, Roots and Wings: Letting Go of Your High School Student Begins at Birth
Angie Nordhorn, GCA Upper School Assistant Principal

Within a few years (ok – many years), I realized The Instruction Manual for raising children is The Holy Bible, authored by the Creator of life Himself (Gen. 1.26-27) Although I still haven’t found car seat instructions in the book of Proverbs, Solomon commands parents to “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (6.22 NASB). From day one, we should start teaching our little ones how to function without us.

The first few weeks (ok – years) of parenting are chaotic. Everything comes with an instruction manual, except a newborn. What do you mean you’re trusting me to keep this tiny human safe? I couldn’t even install the car seat properly, so maybe this wasn’t a great idea after all. I remember asking for an instruction manual when I had my first child, Hannah. Although lamented in jest, I secretly wanted someone to tell me what to do and when to do it. Within a few years (ok – many years), I realized The Instruction Manual for raising children is The Holy Bible, authored by the Creator of life Himself (Gen. 1.26-27) Although I still haven’t found car seat instructions in the book of Proverbs, Solomon commands parents to “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (6.22 NASB). From day one, we should start teaching our little ones how to function without us.

Someone asked how long it takes to become a Christian, and a sage soul replied, “A moment and a lifetime” (referencing salvation and then sanctification). The same is true for raising children. Newborns are taught to soothe themselves to sleep, to respond to smiling faces, and to be patient as food is being prepared.  Although basic, these instructions ameliorate the frenzied first days after birth and are necessary for children to begin the maturation process. Unfortunately, various types of parenting have obstructed this natural progression: helicopter, tiger, and lawnmower parenting have become the new norm and many Gen Z kids (born 1996 and after) know how to jailbreak the latest iPhone but can’t sort laundry. Julie Lythcott-Haims queries, “Why did parenting change from preparing our kids for life to protecting them from life, which means they’re not prepared to live life on their own?” (How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success). What a great question that is rooted in biblical truth. Mary and Joseph accidentally left Jesus in Jerusalem – how could this have happened if they had been paying attention? In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father allows the young man to acquire and squander his inheritance! Again, how could this have happened? They didn’t call a family meeting with their financial advisor so they could weigh the risks and asses the ROI (Return on Investment)? No, the wise father allowed him to fail and then lovingly welcomed him home because the son had learned valuable lessons in the real world. If we don’t provide space for our children to try and possibly fail, we risk cultivating quixotic dreams that aren’t rooted in reality. Life demands hard work, perseverance, and courage – traits not acquired by living on a path fabricated by the parental bulldozer.

So, when should we let go of our high schooler? Gradually start the process from an early age by teaching your child independence – a little at a time. If your teenager doesn’t know how to use a debit card, pump gas, do laundry, fix a basic meal, or make wise personal choices, you aren’t teaching him how to function without you. If you consistently bring items left at home to school so your student doesn’t have to suffer natural consequences, stop it. What children learn from you in the formative years will transfer to their adult life, but they must be given the chance to learn (possibly from their mistakes). Johann Wolfgang von Goethe opined, “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” Our kids should be deeply rooted in biblical truth because these values should be revered and modeled at home, but we must allow our kids the chance to become what God has intended. He often allows us to be molded by hardships, as noted in Romans 5.3-4: “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.” When parents protect children from every hardship and/or consequence, they risk creating emotionally weak adults who won’t know how to handle the darts of the enemy whose aim is to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn. 10.10).

We love and cherish our children because they are gifts on loan from God, but trust that your training is sufficiently preparing them for the next phase of life. If my 6’4” son were still strapped in a car seat, I would be putting his life at risk. Are you protecting your older student with a car seat or a seat belt? If you’ve not made the transition, give it a try. The freedom is glorious.

 

Mrs. Angie Nordhorn, Upper School Assistant Principal, has been a part of the Grace Christian Academy staff for over fifteen years.  Her years of experience as a Senior English teacher, Assistant Principal, and as a parent have served to even further increase her passion for students and their growth.  Mrs. Nordhorn is married with two children and draws from her personal experiences as she leads and guides students at GCA.