Raising kids is as simple, or as hard, as cooking perfect eggs.
When Sean was five he said he’d take a raincheck on my scrambled eggs until I could make them like Grandma Doris. Hers were soft. Moist. Fluffy. Mine, far less magical.
I tried again and again to improve, only to meet with two round blue eyes of disappointment. He’d wag his head and flash that dimple. “They’re okay, Mom, but not like Grandma’s.” So in my late thirties, I humbled myself and asked Mom for another egg-cooking lesson.
Turned out, her approach to scrambled eggs had a lot to teach me about parenting. Sigh. My youngest child graduates high school in three weeks, and I’m looking back today, wishing I’d followed that recipe more consistently.
So here are 3 Tips for Softer Eggs and Unscrambled Children, or How to Not Overcook Your Kids. I’ve said a prayer for each of you today. May you fare better than me in this.
1. Keep the temperature low.
In my haste to fling breakfast on the table and get everyone out the door, I spent years cheating the stove-top temp higher. But good scrambled eggs take time and require coddling. Same with kids.
Too often, I’ve parented with my default setting on anxiety and impatience. I’ve served my kids dry eggs–and dry spirits.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
When my little girl–now a poised woman–turns her tassel in T-minus twenty-five days, will I sit in my folding chair on the gym floor wishing we’d made it to school on time more often? Or to soccer practice, or to church? Will I dwell on the times she rolled her eyes at, argued with, or opposed me?
Or, more likely, will my heart go ka-thunk, ka-thunk, a warm shiver slide through my veins, and tears press? Will I be wistful, wondering at how the Mommy-and-Daddy years melted away like winter’s snow?
At street level, my parenting years have felt like 10, 220 daily sprints within a 28-year marathon. But in truth I’ve been engaged in a series of battles. A million small battles in a war with eternal consequences. A war in which love has been my armor and my only winning strategy. And, as Bob Goff is famous for saying, love wins.
Heaven knows how often I might have singed my kids’ spirits, if I’d never begged the Spirit of Christ to govern mine.
Really, it’s our kids’ job to press our boundaries. Put us to the test. Question things. Fall apart. Ours is to model self-control. To remember our soft words are like dew. To show them that, with God’s help, it is possible to maintain in our homes a steady temperature of patience, forgiveness, and understanding.
2. Lift and fold the cooked parts.
Next I needed to focus on the edges, where the eggs cooked first. Check for signs of doneness, pay close attention, then lift and turn those edges back toward the middle of the pan. Isn’t this so like how we hope to engage with our kids as they develop? We like to think we’re keeping our eyes peeled, anticipating and acknowledging every tiny growth-step.
But as for me, I’m a highly distractable rut-dweller. Anything requiring such delicate focus can trip me up. And did. Plus I’m prone to doing the same thing tomorrow the same way I did it today.
Often by the time I’d gotten on board with one of my kids’ new stages, they’d already moved on to the next. Every time I treated an eight-year-old like a seven-and-a-half-year-old, I exasperated her. Each time I failed to notice a child’s progress and lagged in tweaking my parenting style to fit, I missed an opportunity to impart confidence. And celebrate them.
We do well when we stay a step ahead, expecting great things from our children, yet having grace for the bumpy process: Two jumps forward; one slide back. Cheers of victory; tears of frustration. For us as well as for them 😉
How do they do it anyway–develop so slowly we need the patience of an Egyptian pyramid contractor, yet so fast they catch us off guard?!
3. Turn off the heat before they’re done.
Mama says eggs are still cooking even after you remove them from the stove. So take them off before they look done, by golly. Or you’ll have dry eggs every time. In the same way, over-parenting in the final stretch can torch the bridge to future friendship with our neo-adults.
In this, I’m three for three. I am the queen of stiff-arming my smarter self when she whispers “Let go, Mom. Your work here is done.” I don’t even invite her input when convinced this is my last chance to impart lifesaving wisdom!
I’ve done it all. Given unsolicited advice. Robbed my kids the satisfaction of solving their problem, their way. Intervened on their behalf–this, as recently as last week.
Here’s where I take a deep breath and confess my latest infraction. Ready? I emailed all of my eighteen-year-old high school senior’s teachers, without her knowledge or blessing, asking them to encourage and support her through the final weeks of class. I know, I know. I know. In my defense, this is the daughter who battled an auto-immune disorder for two and a half years and only recently returned to campus. It killed me to see her so anxious and overwhelmed.
But parenting isn’t about me.
I was still feeling pretty good about the email until said child learned of my misdeed and confronted me. Simultaneously, I both participated in our conversation and observed it as if from afar, amazed. Watched her handle it admirably, like a grown-up. Because now, we’re just two adults who love each other, working through an issue. And these were her words, words that pierced me:
Don’t you think I’m capable of communicating with my teachers when I need help?
Ouch. The answer was yes. Yes, I knew she was capable. So capable. But that’s not what my action communicated. To flourish, even young kids need to know we believe in them. But for older teens–oh man. This may be the only thing they still truly look to us for.
So this is how we who have reached this empty-nest milestone (notice I don’t call it a finish line) must parent from here forward: No more stove. No more spatulas (training tools). Available on request but not interloping. With a ready ear and pom-poms in hand. Prayerful. Praise-full. Admiring our good eggs. God’s amazing eggs.
Sean’s twenty-five now, and Grandma’s gone, enjoying her well-deserved heavenly reward. Yet still somehow, in my son’s eyes, I’ve failed to replicate her scrambled eggs. In fairness, he also believed Grandma’s generic-brand cookies tasted the best, as did her store-bought dried apricots. So there’s another lesson here not to be missed:
Grandmas have just plain got the magic. And now it’s my turn to dish it out.
Okay, your turn to share. Have any of these three aspects of parenting had you in the weeds lately?