Parents in blended families can benefit greatly from being in community with those who are in similar situations. No one understands your family like another stepmom. Or imagine the empathy when two bio dads can talk about the alienation they experience. The other day a stepmom told me that she and her husband view one of the stepkids as a Prodigal Son.
It’s heart-breaking for a blended family to have a Prodigal Son. And at the same time, there is so much I appreciate about this comparison. Whether you have a Prodigal Son or not, there’s so much good stuff in this parable that we can learn from. (Read the parable that Jesus told in Luke 15:11-21 (NIV).)
In stepfamilies we can struggle with setting boundaries and consequences for our kids. Sometimes we let our stepkids get away with misbehavior because we are worried that if we set a consequence they will run to the other parent’s house and we may lose contact with them. This is a reality-based fear for many bio parents & stepparents. This fear can handicap us as parents. As parents we want to do the right thing for our kids, but we don’t want to lose them. It’s also hard to enforce consequences (e.g. you ground your kiddo but as soon as he gets to the other parent’s house he is un-grounded; guess who’s the favorite parent then?). In this parable, the father did not say “oh here’s all of the money you are demanding, and by the way you can stay in my house and live a “wild life”, be disrespectful, and disobedient.” No, the prodigal child took the money and left to pursue bad behaviors and a “wild life” elsewhere. This story doesn’t give us detail about the consequences the father set, but we know that it does not say “The father gave the child all of the money and the go-ahead to behave however he wanted in his house.”
In this parable the parent didn’t shun the child. No, to the contrary. If the father started running to his returning child when he was “still a long way off”, then that father had hope that his child would return, he didn’t lose faith, and was watching and waiting with hopefulness. He saw the child coming back from a long way away because he was watching for him.
My husband and I talk often about which battles we should choose, which behaviors we can let slide, what will happen if we set a consequence, and if we’re prepared for the intended and unintended consequences of the consequence. We want to be the kind of parents who set consequences when needed for the child’s own good. And we also want to wait like this father did for the child to return to obedience. We want to be filled with this hope while trusting in God. And then we want to throw a huge celebration for the “lost” child who was “found.”
Today I am thankful for this parable and the lessons I can learn from it, and of course thankful to the stepmom who shared this perspective with me.
What are you thankful for today?