Speaking From and In the Gap

I agreed to lead a seminar on parent-child relationships because for a moment I thought I knew enough about being a parent or a child to have 90-minutes of material. As the parent of a teenager and two tweens and as the child of two living parents I find myself more in the middle than ever before trying to speak to one “audience” and then another. I spend hours talking to students about how Jesus transforms our lives while I long to see that transformation happen faster and clearer in my own life as well as in the lives of my own children. And I’m certain my parents have moments when they are still waiting for some sign of change on my part, too. Forever the stubborn, strong-willed child even when I am now also parent.

Just last week I was teaching out of the book of Esther at the Asian American InterVarsity chapter at Northwestern University (hold your snickering, folks), and a student was asking me about my days as a Wildcat since we were in the building that was home to my area of study. He ended the conversation with a great line: “I was born the year you graduated.”

Thanks, kid.

So I’ve been sitting on this parent-child relationships seminar for about two weeks now and the one thing that keeps coming to my mind and heart is to give words of blessing and love because what keeps coming to me during my prep and prayer time is this overwhelming sense of displacement and missed messages. It’s hard enough as a parent who speaks literally the same language as a child. The biggest gap I often have to bridge with my daughter is a generational one. I don’t particularly like low-rise skinny jeans but I don’t have to wear them to understand them. In my day it was sweatshirts hanging off of one shoulder or really BIG HAIR. For my parents and for the parents of the students I often encounter, the gaps are language, generation, culture and values. I know God’s love always wins, but human love often misses with the best of intentions.

I’m not really sure where, if anywhere, I am going with all of this, but it’s been ringing in my heart for days now. In a culture that nurtures a sense of entitlement in a generation wrestling with delayed adulthood, these young adults aren’t as adult as another generation might have been and unable to find the help in the areas where they really are still young.

What do you wish you knew about your parents that would help inform you about where they are coming from? What do you wish your parents knew about you that you think would help them understand you? I spend a lot of emotional energy trying to figure out ways to connect with each of my kids, to tell them they are loved by me and their dad and by God in ways they can hear and understand it. But as the parent I am deeply moved when my kids figure out ways to connect with me and speak those same words of love into my life.

Children, you are deeply loved by flawed parents and by a perfect God. That’s what I hear when I’m quietly sitting in the middle of the gap.




  1. zandaltwist March 17, 2011

    Actually the hardest reality that children face is living with the dichotomy of images about our parents. When we’re young, they have an overinflated place in our lives, and as well they should. Their expectations at some point start to conflict with us growing up. We start choosing things they wouldn’t choose for us, and the differences echo inside of us and rattle us. Many children don’t know how to grow up with their parents. They usually grow up “despite” them in today’s society.

    All too often, students on college campuses come home and they revert back to the people they used to be. It makes them feel defeated, and often it makes them angry. Even if they have the most loving and caring and God-centered parents on earth, they still struggle. One of the biggest issues that children need to eventually see in their parents is the concept that their parents are flawed, ordinary human beings. Good points, weak points, great judgment, lapses in judgment… and the like. Human beings that are redeemed by grace and mercy.

    A child has to both see their parents as parents and as people. For younger children the second part is hard to comprehend. For older children, they have to reach that conclusion or else they never quite get out of the “always a child” to their parents phase. But, in this age of entitlement as you have said, children are spending less time honouring their parents and more time indulging themselves and their pursuits. Parents still need to maintain the parental role that God has given to them.

    I dunno, does this make any sense? =)

    • Kathy Khang March 22, 2011

      Yes! It makes sense, especially the part about understanding our parents are flawed, ordinary human beings. Just this morning there was a “flawed human being as parent” moment. When cooler, grace-filled hearts and minds prevail, I will take the time to apologize and ask for my child’s forgiveness in hopes that it will help them understand that being a parent doesn’t mean being perfect.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *