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The Day My Fragile Identity as a Mom Melted

May 5, 2020

“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.

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  1. Jan Pride

    And know that “one day” may be a day you never see in your lifetime. That is what I am holding on to for my 33 year old son who was taught, prayed over, had Christian models in us – parents, his grandparents, neighbors, pastors, teachers, youth workers; whose sisters have chosen to raise their children in the same way and both love Christ dearly…but he has chosen a very different and heartbreaking lifestyle and is now raising his children in that lifestyle. He knows but he has made other choices. We’ve talked long and hard, sometimes argued, always loved regardless, prayed, cried and come to the conclusion that we have to give him up to God still daily even as a grown man. I am holding on to all the parenting and praying that was done and is done and that one day it will emerge. At my age now I realize it may not be in my lifetime. I struggled with that verse, “start them off in the way…and they will not depart”. We did that faithfully and with every ounce of parenting that we knew to do and he has departed…but one day…one day I am holding on to the promise that he will return.

  2. Karen L

    I definitely needed that today. Thank you for your timely email and perspective that the hard days, weeks, seasons are all worth it. Thank you for your encouragement to persevere in Biblical parenting. Blessings on you and your family as the next generation begins their parenting journey as well.

  3. Diane Jordan

    I love what you said about being the parent not their friend or buddy. That is so true. Sometimes it’s hard to not want to be their friend. But being a parent of a 31 year old I have done both. And now I have learned to be the parent. The Mom. That is my role in our relationship. I gave birth to him and stayed home and took care of him. He lived with me and my husband until he was 27 years old. Now he has been married for 3 years. And one day he will be a parent and look back at all I did for him being a stay at home mom and will appreciate it. God bless

  4. Anna Briggs

    Honestly, I could rewrite the statement, “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.”….to…. “Growing ME up wasn’t always easy. There were many times when I put MY sin nature on display, and each time I had to choose to be the parent.” Calm, self-awareness were not intuitive to me as I grew up in a spiritually abusive home where the shaming message was, “it wasn’t what I did that was wrong, it is who I was that was wrong.” I am so grateful for my children’s grace and mercy to grow me up. To help me understand that in order to give love and acceptance I had to understand how to give it to myself. I pray I am the adult parent my children deserve.

    Mother of a bunch of brilliant adult children.

  5. Bianca

    I needed to read this and of course, by His grace, this email came through. I have been feeling a defeated in my parenting. I feel as I all I do is talk and get angry and repeat myself, get frustrated, and feel guilty. I hate myself sometimes. I am trying so hard for our children to be raised into godly, patient, caring, and responsible people. Parenting is so hard but God knew it all when He chose us to be the parents of these children.

  6. Patti Kinney

    I agree with Jan so much. It’s hard to see your kids wander after pouring your heart into showing them and teaching them who Jesus is. Church, prayers, Awana, etc. I may never see the fruit but I still pray daily. It’s been quite a journey releasing especially my daughter to Jesus. She has some emotional and mental issues and attached herself to the lgbt community. Lysa, please please please start addressing this issue for those of us who are effected by this. The church at large (pastors, youth leaders) has no idea how to support Christian parents and we are left feeling alone and sometimes scared to even bring up the subject in christian circles for fear of being judged or shunned.

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