Wednesday, October 12, 2011

pondering parenting: so far, so good

My daughter is in the fourth grade, and she is what we like to call "passionate".  A professional once described her as Maria from The Sound of Music.  I liked that - he'd pegged her well.

One night last week I was away for the evening.  When I got home she (and the others) were already sound asleep.  But I found a note on my pillow - just a little love note from her to me.

I cherish that note because she's at that age everyone has been telling me to "watch out" for.  I reject all those "just wait and see!" warnings from parents who aren't especially enjoying parenting anymore.  My kids are more fun now than they've ever been, and I refuse to succumb to the idea that it necessarily has to be any other way.

Yesterday she'd done something she knew she shouldn't, and I knew it.  I knew right away, but I didn't say anything.  I wanted her to tell me.  It wasn't a big thing, but it was going to affect her for the rest of the day.  Sure enough, at bedtime she pulled me close and confessed all.  I was so glad I hadn't said anything.  I'm convinced that moments like that one are forging a bond between us that will stand whatever tests lie ahead.

Sometimes we have to give each other space. Those are the times I'm tempted to pout and stew (while she does the same).  Then I recall the obvious:  I'm the grown up and she's the 4th grader.  So I bring her hot chocolate and a snack, pat her on the arm, and walk out the room - silently.  It's not manipulation, it's love.  And it softens her heart.

For some reason I don't find it hard to imagine that the boys will hold my hand forever.  They're in middle school, each weigh 100 lbs, and still like to sit in my lap telling me anything and everything.  But this girl?  I started worrying about our relationship when she was old enough to start fighting about what clothes she'd wear (before she turned 2, in case you're wondering).  Look up "precocious" in the dictionary, remove whatever words you find there and just insert her picture.  I couldn't imagine how we'd make it to her adulthood without one of us killing the other!

Somewhere along the way I made a conscious decision to focus on one thing above all:  making sure she knew that nothing was more important than our connection to one another.  Nothing.  I credit some of this to the book Loving Your Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk - not a perfect book, but a great read.  Challenging. 

But for her to know that, it had to first of all be true - really, REALLY true.  Was it?  That's the heart check, honestly.  Not only do I have to elevate her above other concerns (others' opinions, my expectations, etc) but connection is a two way street.  I'd have to be willing to share my authentic self with her as well.   And on top of all that, I had to not just love her ... but like her.  I desperately wanted to, but sometimes it took effort. Parenting her with this focus in mind was a conscious decision at first, a literal act of confession/ repentance, and for a long time it required a focused moment-by-moment reliance on the Holy Spirit.  Now it comes more naturally most of the time, but I still have those deep-breath-Jesus-help-me moments.

She's still "passionate".  She's more Maria than ever.  And she loves her Mommy.  I'm so glad.  I'd hate to be missing out on all this.  She's going to grow up one way or the other, but I sure want to be part of it.  And so far?  So good.  SO very good.

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