Launching Kids when they are Half-Baked
We’ve officially launched the twins to university. The last year at home with graduating seniors ain’t no picnic: The ‘I’m ready to run my own life’ edginess. The university application deadlines and decision processes. The preparing, packing, and moving to college. The angst of roommate assignment and first week anxieties. The painful goodbyes. And in our case, all this times TWO.
I feel like I’ve given birth again. Except with a lot more anxiety about their readiness for the real world.
One of the best things I heard this summer from a veteran mom was, “You know we launch them half-baked, right? You think they are supposed to be all cooked when they leave home, but they are still jiggly in a lot of places.”
What?! Clearly I missed the parent memo!
This last year has been full of the painful awareness of all the gaps my kids still have in their formation: They don’t know the Bible like I did in my Baptist upbringing. They haven’t learned how to manage money. They haven’t learned how to compromise very well. Their emotions have been given a lot of permission to speak and rule (the downside of having parents in the mental health field). They don’t know the sarcasm honed in their British schooling might not be appreciated in the evangelical bubble. And on and on…
My kids aren’t fully baked. And their time in the Galloway oven is up.
So what truths can we hold on to as we release our half-baked children into the world?
“Half-baked” looks different from family to family. Every family system has their own strengths and weaknesses; we will have equipped kids well in some areas, and not as well in others. Can we just stop comparing our kids and our parenting to others? Children raised in the home of two visionaries are going to look very different from kids raised by two accountants, lawyers, or artists. While one kid needs to learn responsibility, another kid needs to learn to give themselves grace. Everyone leaves home jiggly somewhere.
As humbling as it is to to see the limits of our parenting, we also have to trust that some decent foundations were laid along the way. When I told my teammate that I had regrets that my kids didn’t know the Bible very well, he said, “Amy, your kids have seen the Gospel lived out in their own home. Wouldn’t you rather they experienced God’s grace more than just learn the Bible verses about grace?” Sometimes I have to remind myself, they ARE baked around the edges. We’ve mixed in the right ingredients, even if they have more maturing to do.
Our children will need a new oven for the baking to finish. The heat of our family oven isn’t quite cutting it anymore. In many ways, we have settled into patterns that have become difficult to change because of the parent/teen dynamic. Our kids need new authority figures giving them consequences and speaking the hard truths. They need the heat of difficulty, challenge, and struggle in this next season. That’s how things ‘firm’ up internally.
We have been a generation of parents who have minimized the ‘heat’ in our children’s lives — probably more so than any generation before us. As parents, we now enter a season where we will need to quiet the parental and cultural instinct to protect our kids and rescue them from painful experiences. Should we have done it sooner? Probably. But somehow God’s grace will cover our mistakes. And the societal pendulum to over-parent will eventually swing back the other direction and the next generation will have a different neurosis; no generation escapes broken patterns.
Formation is passed on to other venues and people. As the formation of my children moves into another context, the weight of what still remains to be developed falls into the hands of other adults: mentors, college professors and administrators, pastors, and supervisors. These are the people who take up the mantel of both nurturing and calling our children into maturity.
And this is no small task.
They are calling this the “anxious” generation. Nearly everyone I know has a child that is wrestling with fear and anxiety. A college professor told my oldest daughter that he noticed the generational shift around five years ago. While the Millennials (born 1980-1995) had come to his office arguing for a better grade, the Gen Z students (born 1995-2010), if they came to his office at all, began to arrive fearful. Gone was the entitlement, replaced instead by the anxiety that they had messed up, and didn’t know how to recover.
In his Scientific American article titled, “Extended Adolescence: 25 is the New 18“, Bret Stetka tells us that kids are delaying many different adult behaviors: getting their driver’s licenses, going to college, holding down jobs, buying homes, even sexual experimentation. Adult behaviors are being pushed back further and further into the 20s. Consequently, this generation is behind in some basic life skills, emotional strength, and self-confidence.
We can only speculate on the reasons for this delay: We hovered too much over our kids. Our kids have loads of information, but little real life experience. Technology has literally changed the wiring of our kids’ brains. Society has overemphasized feelings, and a host of other reasons.
But before we rip too hard on our young adults, let’s acknowledge the incredible ways they are further “baked” than previous generations in so many other areas. This generation is incredibly self-aware– they know their strengths, their Myers Briggs types, and their enneagrams. They know way more than we ever did at their age about boundaries, wholistic spirituality, work/life balance, and social activism, or at least there are innumerable resources and trainings to aid them. They get to walk into what we took years to discover.
The verse I have been praying over my oldest daughter’s class of 2020 is Isaiah 60:1, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you…” This generation is poised to reflect His glory in ways like never before. They just need more reassurance and patience as they develop at a different pace. Like the lifeless bones in the Valley of the Dry Bones, the components are there– ready for the breath of God’s Spirit to empower and release.
Our invitation is to PRAY into the finishing process. This is the season where our role as parents begins to shift. We will be praying more and intervening less.
We have attended the parent’s chapel during orientation weekend at Wheaton College twice now. They have a powerful time where parents are invited to the microphone to read a Scripture they will be praying over their student during their college years. Some verses are shared in tears, others in a form of a battle cry. Behind every verse was a story.
- Fear not, for I am with you… Isaiah 41:10
- Be strong and courageous… Joshua 1:9
- You will hear the voice behind you, “this is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21
- I pray that you will be rooted and established in love… Ephesians 3:17
- What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
- Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… Romans 12:1
We spoke aloud the verses that address some of our children’s personalities and vulnerabilities. These Scriptures captured our longings for seeing them more fully ‘baked’ in their emotional, relational, and spiritual lives. More importantly, we invoked the One who made the promises and guarantees their completion.
Kneeling by a hospital bedside eighteen years ago, we made a prayer of consecration over our girls as newborns, and this year we prayed a prayer of release instead. We released them to the Author and Finisher of their unfolding stories. Thankfully, I will not be the one to finish the baking, nor will these college professors and mentors. We are entrusting our children to the God who is infinitely more invested in and able to finish the good work He has begun (Phil 1:6).
But we have the incredible privilege as a parents to continue claiming the promises over them as their lives unfold. May God give us the wisdom, discernment, and strength to pray without ceasing for our children as they grow into adulthood.
What verses are you praying over your child today (no matter what age!)?