Lessons From The Book Of Esther
PARENTING YOUR COLLEGE-AGE CHILD
BY MIMI GREENWOOD KNIGHT
As I raised my second, third, and fourth child, I always thought I’d know how to handle each developmental stage since I’d already been there, done it. But each time, I was surprised to realize how little I knew, remembered, and understood. Of course, my four children were remarkably different. Haley O’Hara, our first and therefore (we tease her) “experimental child,” was easy and compliant, eager to do the right thing and make her mom and dad happy. Then, came Molly who lived to test the boundaries and rewrite the rules. She was a bundle of spunk and sparkle and cheek, which made me question daily everything I thought I knew about parenting.
Next, was Hewson who was all large-motor skills and independence. He required — and accepted — little assistance from us, but, fortunately, as long as he could run, jump, kick, climb, and explore, he had no interest in breaking the rules or causing a fuss. God is full of delightful surprises, and in our middle age, He led us to adopt Jonah (pictured). Partially because we’re older, more mellow parents and partially because that’s just how God made him, Jonah is an old soul with a bent toward loving the unlovely, gathering in stray people, and just generally making the world a kinder place. His childhood was a breath of fresh air, and I did whatever I could to slow it down.
Lo and behold, though, last fall, it was time for our Jonesy Boy to head off to college. We were thrilled when he chose to attend a small, Baptist, liberal arts college. But his new school would have him four hours from home, and I learned, once again, that just because I’d already sent three kids off to college, it didn’t mean I knew squat about letting my sweet boy go. I turned to God for guidance, and He offered it from an unlikely source, opening my eyes to Mordecai in the Book of Esther. Here was a father who allowed his own adopted daughter to leave and live in the palace yet remained a guiding force in her life, even parenting her from outside the palace walls.
Consider this. Esther 2:11 tells us, “And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.” Mordecai kept tabs on his daughter without a cell phone or social media and remained near and available should she need him. I had mixed feelings as Jonah’s freshman year advanced, and we heard from him less and less. On the one hand, it meant he was feeling more confident and finding his way. On the other, it reminded me I was almost out of a job. Back in the Book of Esther, Mordecai continued to challenge, instruct, and inspire his daughter, even after she moved to the palace and became the queen and even when she didn’t necessarily want to hear his admonition. As Esther left for the palace, Mordecai instructed her to keep her Jewish identity to herself (Esther 2:10), and she obeyed him “just as when she was brought up by him.” (Esther 2:20) Once she was queen, he got word to her when the king was in danger. “And this came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai.” (Esther 2:22) And he did not hesitate to challenge her when he learned of Haman’s plot to annihilate the Jews, speaking hard truth with authority. “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace, you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)
ALTHOUGH YOUR CHILD MAY HAVE MOVED BEYOND YOUR PROTECTION, THEY’RE NOT OUTSIDE OF YOUR INFLUENCE. THE TRUTHS YOU’VE PLANTED IN THEM REMAIN.”
The book even has a word for empty nesters wondering what’s next for them. “For Mordecai, the Jew was second in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers.” (Esther 10:2-3) Mordecai’s life didn’t end when his child left home, and neither will yours. Although your child may have moved beyond your protection, they’re not outside of your influence. The truths you’ve planted in them remain. Although you’re not parenting in the flesh daily, you’re still likely the person who prays most fervently for them. Ask God to give you — as He gave Mordecai — peace as you watch from afar, discernment to know when to speak and even reprimand, and wisdom as you transition into this new chapter of parenting. And above all else, never stop praying, praying, praying for this child the Lord has given you.