It’s only fitting as we round out our month of parenting strategies for launching teens that graduation announcements are arriving daily. I love them, but they sort of terrify me as reminders that my first baby will be a senior next year. To my friends letting us share in your joy, thank you! Your babies have grown up beautifully, and I’m in awe of how you’ve gotten them to this milestone. I also have it on good authority that the next stage brings new joys and challenges and that they will still need you in their corner, even if it’s not in the same way. You’ve got this!
The milestones are worth pausing to celebrate, though, because those celebrations are part of a third “launch-minded strategy” for releasing kids into adulthood: empowerment. Along with apprenticeship (the on-the-job-training portion of raising teens) and mentoring (the way we impart wisdom), empowerment plays a role in releasing our kids to become the adults they were meant to be.
Empowerment means fostering and celebrating chances to hand our teens the responsibility for their own lives. It’s how we communicate, “Bravo! I see maturity! Here’s the privilege that goes with that responsibility.” In fact, being a launch-minded parent, one who’s committed to training and teaching “apprentice adults,” means we’re looking for and creating opportunities for growth that will dictate that release into more freedom.
And when we DO see maturity? We’re meant to whoop it up with joy while we diligently hand them more rights to rule their own lives and chart their own courses. I call it “handing them their crowns” because of an Old Testament example from a king who nearly fumbled the launch process (and oh, can’t we relate to that feeling!) but in the end, got to celebrate his son with a big ol’ hallelujah.
King David is a complex guy to study. We might cheer him at his best (defending his nation from a giant) or boo him at his worst (sleeping with another man’s wife and covering up the affair through a murderous plot) and perhaps find it hard to relate to such epic, Netflix-drama-worthy moments. But I also came across one not so epic description of David that will ring true for all of us at some point:
“Now King David was old.”
YIKES. If you weren’t already crying over the thoughts of graduation, now there’s that. Sorry.
But it may not have been simply age that became an issue for David. It was ill-health. According to 1 Kings 1, no matter how many blankets they piled on him, he couldn’t keep warm—low thyroid, anyone? Or maybe that second part isn’t so relevant to a lot of us perimenopausal mamas kicking off the covers and fiddling with the AC. However, it’s a great reminder that no matter how epic (or not so epic) our lives have been, complications come up in families and individuals that get in the way of how we imagined parenting would be.
David made a lot of parenting blunders, some on a far greater scale than most of us could imagine, but his interactions with his son Solomon show us God was still working despite human imperfection, and they illustrate biblical principles we can adopt with confidence.
David began well with his launch lessons for Solomon, apprenticing and mentoring the young man for the huge task of leadership including building the temple in Jerusalem (see 1 Chronicles 28:10-13). However, when poor health eclipsed him, David nearly dropped the ball in actually releasing Solomon to his destiny. Solomon, whom God had made clear was to be the next king, almost didn’t make it to the throne when one of his brothers took advantage of David’s infirmity to stage a coup.
Thank the Lord for honest friends to clue you in when you’re off course! David’s close advisors intervened, showing the king what was happening, and David did something remarkable. In the only time I’ve been able to find clearly stated among Old Testament kings, David joyfully handed over the throne to his son Solomon, triumphantly crowning him as king and giving him his blessing.
1 Kings 1:48 quotes David as saying, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has allowed my eyes to see a successor on my throne today!”
David overflowed with joy because he’d passed the baton to his son. This was a God-ordained moment of empowerment, and David didn’t miss it! He gave his son the blessing of handing him a crown, celebrating his arrival into adult maturity and leadership while trusting God’s plan for his life.
In his joy, David is all of us when our young adults walk across the stage at graduation, take their first real jobs, or walk down the aisle to say, “I do.” But he’s also us in a million other moments of welcoming them into adulthood, from taking them to get their learner’s permits to applauding when they take a stand for what’s right even when it’s hard and costly.
Like David, we are meant to say, “Praise the Lord! I got to see with my own eyes a glimpse of adulthood in this child!”
Even if those glimpses seem few and far between, we will empower them with our joy when we take note of the growth. We’ll be taking a page from David’s book, or better yet, from an even mightier king whose joy is chronicled in the New Testament as his son steps into his adult calling:
Luke 3:21-22 says this: When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Our teens and young adults need to hear our blessing over their lives. In the midst of the training, correcting, and sometimes just holding on for dear life, they need to hear us say two things:
“You are my beloved child.” No strings attached. Love conveyed loudly and clearly in words and actions. They need to hear that their valuableness to us isn’t tied to what they do or don’t accomplish. Then, they do need to hear that second part as well:
“I see you stepping into adulthood, and I am so pleased.” They need to hear us tell them we see such good things ahead for them as adults and we really are cheering for them to become the woman or man God intends them to be.
That kind of love and plus showing them that we have faith in God to bring them through the growth process will empower them when things are hard. It will also remind us that what we’re really doing as we launch them into adulthood is releasing them right into the hands of God to work his good plans in their lives. That, my friends, takes everything we may have done right or wrong and rolls it onto the shoulders of the Ultimate Parent, whom we can trust above all else.