My best friend and I had little time together during visits, as my children commandeered most of it. Interrupting us for what seemed like the 7th time, my daughter asked for help. I don’t remember what she needed, but I’ll never forget my friend’s reply—directed at me. “You do too much for her. She’s capable of much more than you realize.”
Instinctively defensive, I advocated for myself and my daughter. After all, she had endured struggles from birth. When asked the common Bible study question, “What struggles have you endured?” she blinked her doe-like brown eyes in response, “I haven’t had any.” I later learned she had been comparing herself to the missionaries in the biographies we often read together.
With calm and logic, my friend made a succinct, sound argument—as she does—leaving me without rebuttal, rather time to observe and reflect.
I wanted desperately to help my little girl, fiercely fighting to find every available resource, but as I began allowing her space to try things independently, a profound realization struck me: in my best efforts to help my daughter, I was hindering her.
In general, children can do far more than we think. Even two-year-olds can help load the dishwasher, clear the table and fold laundry. They just need a little more time, and we—a little more patience.
Slowly releasing my control of her independence to God, she tried, failed, and tried again. Successes bolstered her confidence and failures taught valuable lessons in patience, perseverance and tenacity.
Did I still help when struggling beyond her capabilities? Yes! But after en-abling with a hug and a word of encouragement or advice, I released her onward towards autonomy.
She came alive, successes filled with confident smiles and knowing glances—a thing of beauty to the unintentional days of dis-abling. And failures, while testing the tender buds of self-confidence, were opportunities for growth.
She didn’t always succeed, nor I always release at the appropriate time, but we learned together, celebrating successes and growing from failures.
We catch-and-release, for parents are fishers.
I dressed my toddler to leave as Moms chatted pool-side and a throng of children splashed enthusiastically. Instructing her to stay seated, I jogged 10 steps to retrieve her shoes. Returning, she had vanished.
I called—nothing. Standing up, I searched the perimeter of the pool. A climber and runner since she could walk, I scoured a little longer, but no pattering feet emerged.
It’s a surreal moment when driven to look for your toddler in a pool. There she was, drowning in a sea of teenagers. I shouted their names, begging assistance, but it quickly became obvious they were oblivious. So a distressed, fully clothed Momma jumped in to rescue her overly ambitious toddler.
I learned an immediate and valuable lesson. No one will care for my children like me. I believe it takes a village to raise children (truth backed by God’s Word and science), but we alone possess a parental love for them.
Rescue missions, most plentiful in the toddler years, involve stairs, stoves, poisons and pools to name a few. As she grew, my missions changed. A watchful eye and prayerful heart afforded discernment.
When suitable and safe, I learned to step back, watchful of when to offer support and when to allow wisdom to do its life-transforming work. But I couldn’t do it alone.
The second lesson that day, as contradictory as it sounds: the importance of community. God graciously blessed us with our homeschool co-op, offering the craved companionship and godly wisdom to help discern those age-appropriate risks and so much more.
While we alone possess parental love, we cannot parent in a vacuum.
We rescue from danger, not valuable life lessons, for we are protectors.
Requiring 10-12 hours of sleep from birth, she affectionately called herself Grandma. As she packed her bag for the sleepover, nervousness peeked from behind pale green eyes. “I don’t know what movie they’ll choose, and I’m worried about staying up late.” Reassuring her she could call anytime for me to get her, she wasn’t fully satisfied.
Recalling sound advice, I hastily devised Plan B.
“Just tell them we didn’t want you to stay all night, and I’ll be there around 10.” Relief showed from her now bright eyes, and this became our Plan B when needed, “just in case.”
Friends ahead of us in parenting coached, “Let your children know you’ll be the fall guy. If they feel uncomfortable, take the blame for their untimely departure.”
This afforded our children the peace and confidence needed in social settings, and as they matured, their confidence and judgment grew to make these decisions independently.
Of course, they made many mistakes, but we were there to support and encourage, establishing boundaries when needed and guiding them back onto God’s path.
We take the fall and offer a parachute, for parents are pilots.
Join me for part 2 of practical parenting lessons!