“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)
She had the most angelic sweetheart lips. Eyes as blue as the most tranquil oceans. Blonde ringlet curls. Chubby cheeks begging to be kissed 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 pigtailed head and screamed, “Mine! Mine! Mine!”
The fuss was over a small red toy my friend had let her borrow, my friend who was much more organized than I am. She’d 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 restaurant 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 her knock my paper coffee cup from my hand and send it careening across the floor, splattering coffee on all those near us.
I felt my fragile identity as a mom melt into the puddle of spilled coffee. What happened to my angel? My 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 inexperienced mommy self on the drive home.
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.”
I needed to know what Proverbs 22:6 teaches: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
That daughter is 26 years old now. And she’s 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 biblical boundaries, teach our kids the difference between realistic and unrealistic expectations, draw lines between what’s appropriate and inappropriate for language and entertainment, model manners, and show them 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.
All of these hard parenting moments will be worth it.
Even in those seasons where you feel as if your children are doing the opposite of what you’ve taught them. All that parenting is in them, and the fruit of it will emerge one day.
Yes, be the parent. Teach biblical truths. Stand strong in saying no, even when it’s not the popular choice.
That’s what our kids need so desperately.
And be encouraged, friend … you’re doing better than you think you are.
Dear Lord, You know better than all of us that parenting is hard. Help us to see each day as a teaching opportunity to raise up children who love You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.