The journey of parenting a troubled teen or adult is much like running a race, but it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. I was once in great need of some “marathon parenting” tips. Do you need some today?
Over the last 19 years there have been times I felt like I hit a “wall” in my parenting marathon. I wanted to quit, stop running, and do nothing but rest. Can you relate? We don’t want any more pain or struggle or heartbreak or worry. We want the troubles to go away.
My husband was a runner for years, but he couldn’t run a marathon due to a problem he couldn’t solve with severe muscle cramps in his calves. Many of our friends have competed in marathons, even the famous one in Boston. They’ve explained to us that they needed to prepare for hitting the runner’s “wall”. This phenomenon tends to happen around the twentieth mile. I’m not a runner. I can’t imagine running that far. My wall would be at mile one. But for these long distance runners, the twenty mile mark is when their body tells their brain they’re done. A mental vs physical battle begins.
“I can’t go any further. . . . not another step!”
“I’ve got nothing left.”
“This is it. I can’t make it to the finish line.”
“All my reserves are depleted. I don’t have any more gas left in my tank.”
Have you had these same thoughts? Our running friends say that when they hit this point in the race their chest burns and their muscles sear with pain. Cramping becomes an issue and sometimes they hallucinate from dehydration or getting over-heated. Their body feels like it will shut down. Maybe you feel like you’re ready to shut down too.
Have you heard of Heartbreak Hill? In the Boston Marathon, this is where most runners hit their quitting mark. Those last 6 miles out of the 26.1 are a series of hills steadily climbing higher and higher. How grueling. To go on and finish the race looks impossible. Runners are trained not to look too far ahead. It’s too hard psychologically. If they don’t apply what they learned in their training, their chances of getting to the end greatly decrease.
How do marathon runners train to conquer Heartbreak Hill? They don’t look too far ahead. They fix their eyes on the next step, then next, and the next. One. At. A. Time. And this is what we need to do too when we think we can’t keep going.
Using this strategy, completing the race becomes possible. Most runners of marathons know they won’t win or even be in the top 10. Their goal is to persevere and endure to the end. To finish and feel good about how they ran their race.
I don’t know about you, but I want to run not only to finish, but to win a prize, a spiritual one: pleasing my heavenly Father with how I ran the race of life that he marked out for me.
My goal is to not give up or quit when I encounter hard times, but to keep my faith until the end of my days, in spite of my daughter’s troubles or any other trials I may face.
In the parenting marathon many of you are in, crossing the finish line with your faith intact is your goal. For you, finishing is a win–a big one. Of course you want your child to be whole again: restored and reconciled with God and with you. But you have no control over the outcome of their race. They get to make those choices. You get to choose how you respond.
Shift your attention from your child to yourself.
Let them run their race and you run yours.
What about you? Have you hit your “wall”? Have you reached your Heartbreak Hill?
3 Marathon Parenting Tips
Dear exhausted parent, when the journey is long and you hit your wall, please don’t grow weary or lose heart. If your child’s future looks bleak and you’re convinced you can’t take one more step, remember these 3 marathon parenting tips:
- Your hope is in God. He can refresh your soul.
- Don’t look too far ahead. Take One Day at a Time, One Moment at a Time.
- Keep your eyes firmly fixed on the One who conquered death on the cross–the greatest Heartbreak Hill of all time. With God’s help you can conquer yours.
Encouragement from the Bible
Listen to what the Bible has to say to encourage us in our parenting marathon:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame;
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3) NIV.