My daughter and I were very close. We had a healthy balance of closeness while maintaining parental reverence. We didn’t need a book of rules while she was growing up. There was constant communication and consistent boundaries. I didn’t realize how important that was until she started dating a couple years ago. Granted, raising boys and girls is quite different. It was evident in our experience, boys need consistency more than girls. They tend to talk less openly with their parents and adopt a “ask permission now or forgiveness later” rationale. If I were a guy, I think I’d take the more adventurous route myself. If you never know if your parents will flip out or find folly in your actions, why not take some risks. The danger is that you open yourself up to bargaining and manipulation as a parent. From my experience coparenting through their relationship, it was hard to tell which came first, the chicken or the egg. Who started the bargaining process?
We are at the natural turning point when our daughter is looking to spread her wings as often as I’m nudging her from my nest. I’m enjoying this season between seasons. But I am also grateful to have had wise women in our lives to help raise her as well. It is true that it takes a village to raise a child. I’d be mistaken to take the credit for the person she has become. Honestly, if I were a stay at home mom, there may have been a more ugly side to her. Our daughters personality comes from each daycare worker, teacher, leader, aunt, grandma, and friends mom that she interacted with during her life. I can imagine there are mothers who are possessive of their relationships with their kids. Not me.
Recently my daughter was suffering from a broken heart. I watched as she melted into the arms of another mother figure and sobbed. They prayed together and spent some time together without me. It was good for her to seek wise counsel from someone she trusted. At this age, I’m encouraged to see her glean wisdom from other Godly women. It will be good for her to always have strong mentors throughout her life. We should all have someone to lead us in life as well as always have someone to lead. It keeps us humble and accountable to one another.
I’ve written about trials in our family life. None of us are parenting perfectly although some have a more stellar track record than others. I was and still am concerned that our imperfect marriage will manifest itself in our daughters life. When she was dating, I encouraged them to watch what was positive and unhealthy in both families to make their relationship their own. I was hopeful she would become a part of a family that would offer a broader and more diverse familial experience than her own. It could have been but elements of pride and competition played a part in the communication breakdown. Even worse, the survival skill of manipulation pitted one family against the other. The interpersonal and intercultural struggles were always present and efforts toward biblical reconciliation failed. They say if you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you’ve always gotten. This is true of relationships with your children as well as relationships with your children’s friends and prospective in-laws. I can try to communicate how actions had a negative affect. Constructive conversation may even prompt a request for forgiveness so healing can begin. But if actions and words continue to represent ones heart, relationships cannot grow. This is especially true if one vicariously apologizes through a third-party once they learn their behavior is offensive. Once our children pass the toddler stage, they need to learn how to sincerely apologize. We teach this as parents yet some think they can sidestep authentic apologies. If you feel no remorse, your actions and words will continue to represent your heart.
You might have noted the past tense sentences at the beginning of my blog post. If not, you just scrolled back up to read it. Welcome back. The reason I’ve pointed this out is to connect how the insight above affected our relationship. Hurting people hurt people.
I was fully prepared to start cutting apron strings as our daughter reached the 16-year milestone. One week later, she started dating a young man who has led a life quite different from her own. His life as a missionary kid necessitated strong independence at a young age. His character was initially nobel and it was easy to let go of her and allow her to fall in love. She still loves him deeply but her heart is hurting as the result of complexities that have yet to be communicated. Her story is not mine to tell but my story is.
I am being transparent once again to encourage those who read this blog with a relatable interest. I am quite certain my writing isn’t being read in Indonesia. This isn’t an attempt to rebuild or even burn a bridge of broken communication. I am hopeful we can all seek peace in our relationships, especially if we proudly claim to be God followers. We need to appreciate the goodness others possess and try to understand the walk they have experienced without allowing sin to creep in to destroy our fellowship. Sin is sin just as pain is pain and hurt is hurt. Through the eyes of Christ, none of us is more sinful, more broken, or more worthy of His grace.
My daughter and I still have a great relationship but it has changed. She is more guarded about what she shares with me. I knew this would naturally come as she approached adulthood and in many ways, I appreciate knowing less. She has a good head on her shoulders but needs to experience her own life to know empathy for others. She has always had a compassionate soul but is forever changed as a result of her first love. Living a life for Christ is worth putting yourself out on a limb. I can say this with confidence at age 48 and with the same confidence, I know she will need to come into this understanding on her own.
As you go about living your life and interacting with other humans, glean what is good from one another.
It takes a village to raise a child.
It takes a village to encourage one another.
No man is an island, no matter where you live.
I am keeping this in mind as I parent someone else’s child for a season. I’m embracing our cultural differences while hoping to share good things from my own.