She had the most angelic sweetheart lips. And eyes blue as the most inviting of oceans. Blonde ringlet curls. Chubby cheeks begging to be kissed over and over and over.
Little hands that instinctively curled around my finger while simultaneously melting my heart.
Pure sweetness wrapped in a pink blanket.
And then came the day this little creature pursed those lips, gripped the toy in her hand, tilted her blonde ringlet pigtailed head and screamed, “Mine! Mine! Mine!”
It was a small red toy my friend let her borrow. My friend who was much more organized than me. She had brought along toys and baggies of cheerios to keep the kids entertained during our coffee date. The plan to use this toy as temporary entertainment had worked beautifully. Until it was time to go.
I could feel a burning flush of embarrassment rush from my chest to my face.
Of course my friend’s child was shining her halo with one hand while happily handing over her yellow toy with the other.
“Mine! Mine!” My daughter screamed as every eye in the small java joint stared at me.
I pried the toy from her hand, thanked my friend, and hoisted my kicking and screaming daughter out of the wooden highchair. And then in slow motion I watched in horror as she knocked my paper coffee cup from my hand and sent it careening across the floor.
I felt my fragile identity as a mom melt into the puddle of spilled coffee. What happened to my angel? My beautiful, beautiful daughter was…. not so angelic.
It’s been many years since that day in the coffee shop.
But oh how I wish I could go back and sit with my little inexperienced mommy self on the drive home that day.
I would say, “Your daughter is a child in need of a parent. She needs to be taught. And some of your best teaching opportunities will come when she puts her sin nature on display. Don’t fear or fret or feel like this is some sort of failure on your part. Her outside demonstrations are an internal indication of her need for guidance. So guide her. Love her. And always remember to be the parent. Not her friend. Not her buddy. The parent.”
That daughter is 19 years old now. And is an absolute delight.
But growing her up wasn’t always easy. There were many more times when she put her sin nature on display. And each time I had to choose to be the parent.
It’s not easy to be the parent. It seems less and less popular to tell kids no.
As parents, we need to set boundaries. Teach our kids the difference between realistic and unrealistic expectations. Not cater to their every whim. Draw lines between what’s appropriate and inappropriate for language, entertainment, and the length of our hem line. Model manners. And what it looks like to seek a life of godliness, not just religious activity.
Glory knows I’ve been so imperfect with all this.
But holding the line on being the parent, even when done imperfectly, is good.
And will be worth it.
Even in those seasons where you feel as if they’re doing everything the opposite of what you’ve taught them. All that parenting is in them. And the fruit of that will emerge one day.
Be the parent.
That’s what our kids need so desperately.
And be encouraged my sweet friend… you’re doing better than you think you are.