Some days I think that I’ve got it. I know this parenting gig. I know the theories. I know what to do. Of course, I also know that I don’t do many of the things that I believe are good and right. I lose my temper; my consistency flies out the window all too often and I can be oh, so, lazy. But, at least I know the theory, right?
Wrong, because knowing the good I should do and not doing it is just plain ol’ sinful. After all, the apostle Paul pointed that out a few millennia ago.
The learning curve I’m on is only just beginning to curve, and I’m not quite sure if that’s part of the upward trajectory or if I’m heading for crash-and-burn. Sure, I’ve got a whole bunch of theory, but some days it’s the “real life”-ness of it all that teaches me lessons I’ve never found between the pages of a parenting manual.
This past week, my “real life” lesson came in the form of my younger daughter. She’s a creative, carefree, sunshine beam of a 10-year-old girl.
And she’s as stubborn as they come.
Her elder sister is all about diligence, practice and perfecting. She’s also all about interacting with me about her dreams, plans, writings, plays, gymnastics, dancing, singing and whatever else is consuming her thoughts at the time. I don’t have to seek special time with her. Encouragement and attention are easy to give, because its subject arrives under my nose while I’m preparing supper or unpacking groceries.
But my flighty, life-loving 10-year-old is independent in her plans. She needs me only for permission to raid my craft cupboard or to create another kitchen delight. And so her ideas, dreams and wishes don’t cross my path quite as often as her sister’s. And when performance is required – the violin lessons long ago abandoned or the piano pieces she hates to practice – it all too often results in shattered patience and tears. My “hard work is hard work!” does not quite gel with her desire to float through life, every learning moment an effortless delight.
At least, that’s what I thought the issue was when we tackled the next performance: a drama eisteddfod. It was her first one. Her teacher ably assisted her with her chosen piece. The lack of practice at home, however; the unconcern and the complaint that all the practice lessons were hard work and boring… these protests culminated in that familiar feeling that buries itself in my chest: frustration. But, this time, I determined, I would not let it interfere. I reasoned with myself: what was more important? our relationship or her performance? The frustration dissipated as soon as I chose to back off. I offered my help, but chose not to push her up the hill of disciplined practice. It was an enlightening moment along my parenting journey. And I felt good.
For a week.
Oh, it was a blissful week of ignorance! And then it dawned on me. I had, along with my advice, removed from her my attention, my encouragement and my joy in her. The disappointment crashed over me in one tidal wave of emotion.
My sweet sunshine of happiness – so independent, so caring, so joyful – was so starved; starved of a mother’s caring, loving words whispered unconditionally into her heart. Oh, we still talked and loved, but while one sister’s dramatic endeavors were actively discussed and encouraged, the other’s were quietly ignored.
I didn’t quite realize just how starved she was until the moment I finally drew her aside.
I’m so proud of you. So proud that you’ve persevered this far. So proud that you’re taking this huge step. Nothing you do on that stage can make me any prouder than I already am. I’m so sorry I’ve not told you this sooner.
Such simple words left my lips, but those words were like the fingers of a sunbeam. She behaved like a flower unfurling its happiness in the warmth of the sun. Her upturned face lit up and then the tears rained. It was over her bowed blonde head, her arms fiercely linked around my waist, that I prayed thanksgiving to Him who does get it.
And when I watched her finally skip away, the lightness in her step mirrored the joy in my heart.
No, I don’t get this parenting thing entirely. But the curve I’m on is one that projects me into the arms of Him who made me mom.
Taryn Hayes loves that she gets to live in the shadow of one of the new 7 Natural Wonders of the World: Table Mountain. Since the age of four, she has called Cape Town, South Africa her home. It is here where she came to love Jesus at the age of six and meet her loving husband, Craig, at the age of 15. These days, she is in the thick of raising four diverse and wonderful children. Homeschooling her kids is a large focus of her day-time hours, but by night, Taryn likes to write. Her first published youth novel is Seekers of the Lost Boy, about a 12-year-old homeschooled boy, Simon. He discovers a mystery message-in-a-bottle and finds himself catapulted into an incredible adventure.