Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Maturity Takes Time

Today my oldest son and I were talking about planting trees. He seemed interested in the idea of planting an apple tree in our yard, and I told him perhaps we could. Of course, I added, it will take several years before we can get any apples from it.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because it takes a long time for a tree to grow mature enough to produce fruit."

The words were not even fully out of my mouth before my heart felt the deeper implications of what I had just said.

Because for me, the significance of that truth goes much deeper than just talking about trees.

Let me explain...

My boys are 1.5, 4.5, and (almost) 11. I would say they are all going through challenging stages, but if 11 years of parenting have taught me anything, it's that every stage is challenging in its own way. So really, they are simply kids at various stages of development-- and shockingly, not one of them is at the adult stage. ;) That means that despite my best efforts, wishes, and occasional despair-- they act like kids who are 1.5, 4.5, and 11.

Curious hands and bodies eager to figure out the world around them sometimes make messes and get into things they shouldn't. Developing vocabularies and cognitive abilities lead to constant chatter and questions, and a developing-but-not-yet-mature ability to express one's feelings without screaming. Increased logical reasoning and awareness of one's own opinions lead to debate.

Sometimes I feel frazzled, pulled in so many directions at once... preventing messes, teaching how to clean up messes, enforcing boundaries... answering questions, teaching an angry child to take deep breaths and use words, enforcing boundaries... explaining why things are the way they are, explaining others' perspectives, enforcing more boundaries.

And I get frustrated. I do my very best to teach, guide, and model... and yet, they are still acting like kids.

Well, of course they are. 

Because children, like apple trees, take a long time to grow mature enough to produce fruit. 

So I renew my commitment to "water" them and provide a rich environment for optimal growth-- patience, understanding, boundaries, love, grace. I cannot force them to mature any faster than they are developmentally capable of at any given time. All I can do is keep teaching, guiding, and modeling, all the while believing that in the end, fruit will be produced. And it will, but it takes time. Already, if I look, I can see areas where they each are beginning to produce fruit in their own ways. I look forward to the days when they are fully mature; I think my sons will grow up to be amazing men.

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." -Galatians 6:9

This photo was taken when my now 4.5 year old was only about 17 months old and we were planting a garden. He wanted to be planted, too. 

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