Curls bouncing as she twirled around, little dress flowing, humming to herself as she danced to the song in her heart. Lost in her own world in a room full of people. As I watched my daughter from across the crowded room, a smile came over my face and I whispered a simple prayer that day many years ago.
“Lord, may she always dance to her own rhythm, think without boundaries, and move freely by the guidance of your Spirit.”
Ten years later with a free spirited, boldly outspoken fifteen year old whose desire is to travel the world, live among other cultures, and share the love of Jesus – God is at work answering my prayer.
I have much to learn as I continue to navigate parenting the teen years, but here is what I have learned from others and along the way: encourage your children in the way that God has wired them (my son is very different – that’s another post). Wise words from other parents taught me to allow children to flourish where God has gifted them and given them passions, even when it is different from what we want for them. They will not flourish (or enjoy) sports if they really want to be on stage performing or behind a canvas creating. Pray, pray for the little things, pray daily. Finally, love your children in such a way that they are not the center of your universe.
It’s important for me as mom to nurture who God has created my daughter to be and push her to step out of her comfort zones a bit too. So I pray for opportunities, pray for her influences, pray for her friendships, pray for her thought life, pray that her heart is sensitive to the Holy Spirit! Certainly no attempt on my part to mold her into the “typical teen” girl – whoever that might be. Since she is bold in her beliefs, I will question them for her, reminding her that intelligence is beautiful ~ know what you believe and why you believe it. Be prepared to give a reason for the hope you have. Reading and journaling are two of her favorite past times, so I feed her good books. Singing Taylor Swift songs at the top of her lungs and taking study breaks to dance in the kitchen are a must – so I stop and “shake, shake, shake, shake it off” when the mood hits. She’s for women’s rights, desires to end modern day slavery, loves the orphan, but is timid and scared of the elderly. So…I encourage her to get out of her comfort zone to visit widows, hold the beautifully wrinkled hand of someone whose life experiences hold more wisdom than the Niagra Falls pour down. I pray for opportunities for her to grow.
In a culture of child-centered parenting, dare I take the plunge? With the chance of bruising my child’s self-esteem to let her know that she isn’t the center of the universe, things will not always go her way, others are right and at times she is at fault, you bet I do! I am and always will be my daughter’s greatest advocate, but I will not excuse bad behavior by blaming others when she makes a bad decision. Entitlement is an ugly delusion that many children are growing up with, encouraged and fed by child-centered parents – who want whats best for their child, without their child having to ever earn it or see the consequences of their actions.
I want for my daughter to earn those places of leadership – whether in a class, on a team, or within a group. When she makes mistakes, there are natural consequences – and sometimes loss of privileges. I want her to fail graciously, learning to do so under the umbrella of a loving environment before she hits the real world where, indeed, life is not fair, her heart will be broken, and she will mess up.
I honestly believe the teen years are some of the best years in parenting. The richness of our late night conversations, being transparent about our mistakes, spontaneous song and dance –
I am cherishing what is quickly fleeting, while learning from my daughter…
to dance like no one is watching.