January 01 2013



Today my youngest daughter celebrates her eleventh birthday. I would love to spend this post telling you all of the things about her that confound and amaze me about this precious child, but with each passing year, her story becomes less mine to tell. I might share anecdotes here and there, and she is still the child with the most tweetable comments, but she deserves to live her life out on her own terms, not simply as fodder for my blog.  She needs to be allowed to make choices that won’t be scrutinized by readers who can only see pieces of who she is. She needs the space to make mistakes and know that they are not part of public record.

I remember when our lives were so intertwined that there was no aspect of her story that wasn’t my own. I could wrap her up in the sling and take her with me wherever I went. The way that her curls would tangle around my fingers, so our stories tangled together.

But as she and her siblings age, the way that our stories interlace will be expressed differently. We can never be fully separated, as they are a part of me, but the way that connection is shared must continue to evolve.

As a writer, it can be difficult to give up the rights to those tales. But as a parent, it can be even more difficult.

I want to be able to direct the way that my children’s stories unfold. I want to have the ability to craft their lives in such a way that keeps them safe and tidy. And dare I suggest it, I want to manipulate things so that they are free from pain and sadness.

I don’t get to do that.

My children are individuals. They have their own feelings and thoughts and opinions. Part of respecting them is respecting those differences. Even when they make choices that I don’t understand or don’t agree with. Even when they make decisions that cause them pain. Or that cause me pain.

Oh yes, especially that last one.

Because no matter how much I want to say that my desire to control of my kids is about protecting them, a large part of it is about protecting myself. If I share about my kids, I don’t have to share about the ways that I might have failed them. If I write their stories, I don’t have to dig into the things that might be hurtful for me to share about myself. If I make all of the decisions for them, then perhaps I can redeem the poor choices that I’ve made for myself.

But instead, I will allow my children to tell their own stories in their own words and in their own time. I will give them guidance and encouragement and support, but I will also give them space and distance and separation.

And I revel in the ways that our separate stories weave back together into something more beautiful.


  1. My oldest (of four) is close in age with your youngest, but I have already found what you say to be very true. As a writer, I’ve never been that tempted to tell my children’s stories. Though perhaps this is because they are still young. As a mother, I already see what a painful, ongoing struggle it will be for me to allow them their differences. In other words, to allow them the freedom to live their own stories.

  2. I was ready to submit an essay about my relationship with my son for publication in an anthology when he vetoed it. I’ve written about him before, and he’s read what I’ve written, but in this case he wasn’t comfortable with making parts of our story public. I really wanted to be a part of that project, but not as much as I want my son to know I love him and respect his story.

    His youth group leader, a very wise woman, once told me there were chapters in her children’s stories which she wished weren’t there. But she realized she wasn’t the one writing their stories, and they weren’t finished yet. I am privileged to play a role in the stories of my children, but I don’t determine the outcomes. Thanks be to God.

  3. Absolutely love this!!!!!!!!!!

  4. brenda

    wait until you have grandchildren that do and say such awesome things and because one is in that sned them back to the parents stage. It takes a bit longer for the wisdom to kick in when their responsibility belongs to someone else.Thank God I did get it early on because it is their own story too……………….

  5. karenjo

    When my children were very small, I taught them the hand motions to bible songs while I sang the words. “This Little Light of Mine” was a favorite. As they got older, they learned to speak and to sing for themselves. Eventually, they chose their own music and their own songs of faith.

    Christian parenting is not about cloning copies of ourselves or trying to impose a traditionally defined standard. If Christianity is to survive in modern America then it must be shaped by the unique faith narrative of this generation.

  6. So beautiful, Alise. And so, so true. Being the gigantic CONTROL FREAK that I am, I tried, at times, to write my kids’ stories. And that didn’t work well at all. We cannot protect them from themselves or from others who might mean them harm. We can love them and free them when the time comes. My post on Thursday has a video attached of a grandson playing the piano – and it was vetted by him and his mom before it goes out. I accidentally stepped on some toes once – shirt-tail family – and I’ve regretted it ever since. And maybe become a little more circumspect than I could be? Rather err on that side, I think. Thank you for this one, Alise – and for all the good words that you so faithfully put out here in cyberspace.


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