Real, yes, but partnering?

It’s funny that I am writing about partnering today because after the last hour in my home, my behavior has been anything but partnering.  Real, yes, but partnering?  Not even close.  I will get back to that later.

Last year, my seventeen year old step-son, Dylan, moved in with us.  Our small, three bedroom house began to bust at the seams, with two adults, four children, two dogs and a cat.  When Dylan came, we were used to parenting elementary age children.  We quickly found ourselves in need of counsel and wisdom from experienced parents of teens.  Faithfully, God provided friends who came alongside us and offered their wisdom, a priceless gift.

Typically in our home when one of the younger children needed discipline, Daniel and I agreed that since I was with the kids most of the day while he worked, then I should take the role of disciplinarian in his absence.  He supported and encouraged me in that role. We rolled right along with this partnership for ten years and it worked well for us. Daniel had his role at work and my role was to lead the children in the home while we was working; this meant that I often established and enforced the boundaries for the kids at home. When Dylan came to live with us, however, we all quickly realized that the boundaries I placed on the younger kids did not work for a teen. We also realized we had a teen that was not use to any boundaries at all.

Suddenly, I found myself constantly angry and frustrated trying to parent Dylan. My laundry loads doubled and the house was a mess. Video games that I did not approve were now in our midst, and I was growing angry and resentful. My approach to mothering Dylan was becoming tyrannical as I was losing my grasp on the parameters I had set in the house. The reason it was not working was because my role as a step parent needed to look different than my role as a mother to three young children. Roles are seasonal and multi-faceted. My call to nurture, love and partner with my family is unchanging, but the means by which I fleshed out these divine Ezer callings needed some serious reflection. Before Dylan came, I was an ezer to Daniel by freeing him to work while I handled the daily discipline and put out the fires at home.  Now, Daniel and I reached the conclusion that the best way to partner with Dylan in my new role was to allow Daniel alone to discipline Dylan. He set the parameters, the rules, and the expectations. My role was simply to respect Dylan and partner alongside of him.

All of this sounds wonderful in theory, but it’s been challenging to put into practice. The best of intentions can go wrong. For example, Dylan had been given a fairly simple task that involved scheduling. Typically this is my area so I was already struggling with the delegation of this task to Dylan because it was something I could do in minutes. A month went by and the scheduling task had still not been completed. At this point I was hitting my boiling point because my plans were going to be affected by the completion of his task.  Finally this afternoon, Dylan partially dealt with the task and boy, was I there like a lion ready to attack and criticize. Instead of just allowing things to happen, and letting Dylan face the consequences on his own, I intervened and roared on and on about how the task should have been handled and how irresponsible he was. I shamefully admit that I even used an expletive in front of him and my daughter. Can you say failure to launch? All I did was demonstrate my desire to control, reinforce his “need” for me and disrespect him in the process. In my autonomy, I sent the original lesson Daniel was trying to teach Dylan dramatically off course.  Now I must apologize to both of them.  As Daniel and I moved Dylan in with us, it was critical that we communicated our roles in context of our godly, core callings. God’s way works better every time. Period.

In closing I will share a positive story of partnering and how it can honor God. Dylan arrived at our home one year ago in May, an unbeliever.  He has now been saved by the grace of God!  Is it because Daniel and I perfectly partnered with Dylan and saved him? No, it’s because Dylan has been placed by God in a community of authentic believers who have partnered with our family and with Dylan to offer him hope and truth.  Many people in our community, from pastors to adults and kids to high schoolers, have pursued, provided for, protected, invited, nurtured and partnered with Dylan.  Daniel and I have not been left to raise Dylan all alone. God loves and works well in the context of community and redeems his children despite their parents’ failures.

Much love and hope,

~ Tresh Crosby