June 21, 2024

By Melinda North

Melinda North, executive assistant to the bishop for the Diocese of Sioux Falls

When my husband and I found out we were pregnant with our first child, we did what I imagine most first-time parents do—we purchased the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Little did we know advice and help would come pouring in even when we didn’t ask for or particularly want it. We quickly learned to choose what recommendations we wanted to implement and which ones we didn’t.

When a family is given the wonderful gift of caring for a child, the responsibility seems overwhelming. You are tasked with loving and caring for this little human in hopes they will grow up into well rounded, healthy, happy and holy adults. More often than not, you want to keep them safe from getting hurt or making choices you know will cause them pain. That is why we cover the electrical outlets, test the temperature of their food, make sure they get enough sleep, and never leave them unattended.

After child number three, we soon learned that the better we planned and controlled the schedule of our days—mealtime, playtime, movie time, sleep time, snack time—the easier life was. When control of the daily schedule slipped and food or sleep wasn’t given at its usual time, chaos erupted.

This proverbial “control,” as you can imagine, begins to slip away as these little humans grow and become mobile. As much as you try to control the surroundings, it’s hard to limit the scrapes, cuts and bruises they will receive throughout their childhood. No one prepares you for the fear you will experience when the control slowly slips away. When they start sitting on their own, you make sure there are pillows around them so they don’t fall over or hit their heads. They begin walking on their own so you ensure the door to the stairs is closed or the gate is shut. They start climbing on and up everything possible, and you tell yourself to breathe, relax and stay close so they don’t fall.

Eventually the day comes when you drop them off at daycare, school, sleepover, party or whatever, and you hear your own parent’s voice saying, “Be good, remember your manners, make good choices,” and secretly pray they don’t do the stupid things you did when you were their age.

As much as we would like to prevent it, the inevitable happens. They begin to drive and no longer need you to drop them off or pick them up. Our little human is not so little any more.

When our children were 11, 7, 6 and 4, I was sharing my fears with a mentor and good friend of mine. Having raised a happy, healthy, loving daughter of her own while being a successful, full-time executive, she gave me the best advice I have ever received. She said, “Start praying for your children’s friends now and don’t ever stop.”

She went on to say, “You quickly learn that you cannot save them from making mistakes or getting hurt, but there is someone who loves them more and wants the best for them. God! Turn to Him and trust He will take care of the rest.”

I’ve prayed for many things for my kids, but to pray for their current and future friends? Interesting and brilliant idea.

Only God knew how much this simple prayer would impact and change not only my children’s lives, but mine as well. My prayer life has always been a time for me to bring the joys, blessings, fears and challenges of life to the Lord, place them in His hands and ask for His help. In my prayer for my kids and their friends, the response to me was a resounding, “Trust me.”

I quickly learned I was afraid because I could not control the environment around my kids. I no longer controlled what they ate, how they spoke or their activities and actions. The hardest part now was not just to let go of the fear, but to let go of the control and then trust in God. As a self-proclaimed “control freak,” that is not so easy.

Melinda’s son Nick (third from left) with some of the friends she prays for.

So now I still pray that God surrounds our kids with good, happy, healthy and holy friends, but also that I can let go and surrender completely to Him and His desires for my children.

We can want and desire all the best things in life for our children, but only God can provide them. Therefore, we pray for our kids’ friends. We pray that God is working not only in our kids’ lives but in the lives of their friends as well.

As I’m sure you have already guessed, God has blessed our kids with some of the best friends anyone could ask for. Will they make mistakes and bad choices? Probably, but I will continue to pray that they use those mistakes to grow closer as friends and closer to God. I will pray they continue to turn to God in all things and remember what is at the core of it all—unconditional love.