When they were days old, we prepared to leave the hospital. We packed their bags. With blankets and hats, plenty of diapers, extra onezies, a spare bottle of formula, diaper wipes, hand sanitizer, burp cloths. We wanted them to be clean, well fed, and comfortable.
When they were two, we packed their bags. With sippee cups and goldfish, well-loved board books, favorite stuffed animals, and a change of clothes – just in case. We wanted them to be happy and content.
When they were seven, we packed their bags. With soccer cleats and ballet shoes, snacks for the road, favorite stories on CD for the car, markers for creating and books for reading. We wanted them to explore the world, to receive a taste of the wonder, challenge, and richness that it had to offer.
When they were thirteen, we packed their bags. We offered words of caution, wisdom, preparation, and encouragement. While we watched them packed their bags. With textbooks and notebooks, Gatorade, musical instrument and sports equipment. The weight of the backpack was nothing compared to the weight of learning to parent teenagers. We wanted them to make wise choices.
When they left for college, we helped them pack their bags. With coordinating sheets and comforters, new towels, three seasons worth of clothing, and cleaning supplies and an iron that may or may not be utilized. We drove away from campus feeling acutely aware of all that we wished we’d said and done. Hoping that we’d left them with “enough”, and praying that as they needed wisdom, strength,or encouragement, they would reach into the bags we’d been packing for years.
This January, Chapman, our oldest son, studied in England for several weeks. When he returned, he pulled from his bag several thoughtful gifts for our family. Gifts that were so very “Chapman”, including sticky balls filled with a strange gooey substance for the kids, and a beautiful painting for me. Yet the most significant gift that emerged from the dirty laundry and crumpled remnants of sightseeing receipts was his gift for my husband.
From his bag, Chapman presented a Blazon of Arms for our family. The certificate that accompanied it stated the following:
“Coats of arms originated in the 13th century as designs carried by knights of old on their shields in order that they could be identified on the battlefield. These ‘armorials’ were formally recorded by heralds, with crests and mottoes later supplementing the arms. The language of heraldry is of great antiquity and each ‘charge’ or device is symbolic.” Its design was to reflect the character of the family. It was a public display of private, deeply-held values. It marked a soldier on the battlefield.
“Silander” is a Finnish name, for which there is no existing Blazon of Arms. As a result, Chapman was given the freedom to choose from a long list of attributes to create his own. A fitting job for an eldest son.
For the arms, he chose a lion atop a chief azure with three amulets, signifying strength and faith. For the crest, he chose an arm embossed in armor brandishing a sword entwined with a serpent proper, signifying wisdom.
When they were young, I thought that the goal of parenting was to smuggle all the advice, caution, wisdom, and encouragement into their bags, in hopes that they would make room and keep it all. But as they became young adults, the bag became weighty. Some of what we had packed was no longer needed. Some of it just didn’t fit.
As Chapman walks across the stage today, he’ll be crossing the bridge into the land of full-fledged adulthood. As he meets the experiences and challenges that the world has to offer, I’m grateful that the Good Gift Giver will continue to provide him with all that he’ll need. Far more than we ever could. I also take comfort in knowing that it’s time for Chapman to choose what to take (and not to take) along on the journey. He’ll sift through his bag bulging with two decades worth of advice, education, suggestion, heartache, experience, disappointment, hopes and dreams in order to emerge wearing a crest that’s distinctly his own. One that is a public display of private, deeply held values. A crest that embodies the guiding principles for his life. One that will mark him on the battlefield.
The Silander Family motto – Fides Vires Sapientia
Faith, Strength and Wisdom
I’d say he’s off to a promising start.
Through all the years of late night feedings, doctors appointments, carpooling, dance class, soccer games, piano recitals, math tests, church picnics, beach vacations, instructions in manners, challenges in disciplining, debate over appropriate movies (music, clothing and friendships), and dreams for the future, there was always that still small voice whispering, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.”
As we help our children pack up for the next adventure in their lives, the goal is not perfect parenting, nor is it perfect children. The goal is for our children to lean on the Perfect Parent. For that same still small voice is whispering to them,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power
is made perfect in your weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9