they may run

by Guy

littleangel

Her eyes, squinted and unfixed, glanced my way, not as to lock in but to demand explanation and confess fear.  It’s toughest when I can do little to intervene and help her.

She’s oldest of the three, all blazing toward maturity.  Before us lies frantic years cresting high in emotionalism and confusing nose dives for no discernible reason.  Teenagers are a mystery of hormonal weirdness.  It’s a stretch of life confounding the most prepared of us parents.  I gaze at my oldest daughter in moments flashing unfamiliar and pray it all sticks and holds together.  The worst part that really cripples me is the understanding that she will disappoint me, break my heart when she pushes me away and says hurtful things.  I pray for her then and teach as often as I can now.  I don’t own control, and to a large degree neither does she.  Out of control, her choices will be tied to insecurity and friends she’ll swear are so close to her.  I’ll wonder in those moments how we got to that point so fragile and ready to break.

I pray He holds His words in our hearts and goes to valiant pursuit when we stray; we, the one, apart from the ninety nine.

“What’s wrong?!  Why are you crying now?”

“I don’t know.”

“You must know.”

“I just look so ugly.”

I took a path of less understanding and shot holes through her feelings, reasons why she shouldn’t feel the way she did.  Honestly, the reasons were given to stop her from going too far from me.  I’m a man raising three little girls quickly morphing into young ladies.  My emotional capacity is regularly dwarfed by those little estrogen soaked hearts dreaming in fairy tales and sparkly endings.  When I cry, a recognizable cause stands clearly identifiable, but they cry and move through varying emotions with the suddenness of a jack in the box.

My response lacked patience and strength and once again insecurity lashed out at her heart I understand far less than I realize most of the time.  A mini lecture filled the broken space between us followed by a litany of reasons to be strong and quit crying over ‘something so ridiculous’.  She retreated further inward, lost and longing and silence pushed us away.

Later in the morning while driving together, I apologized and confessed my insecurity to her, my little eleven year old.  Fighting the constant swell of wanting to justify myself to her, I stayed a course of simplicity.  “I’m just sorry, sweetheart.  How are you now?”

It’s astounding how effective my parenting becomes when my heart is simple and still rather than circling hyperactive with three quick steps to change behavior or the fix for their current issue.

I got eye contact and reassurance that she was okay, and then quietness.  Her silence then was different from before when she protested my insolent reasoning.  I knew she knew I cared, really cared.

Sometimes I find myself as empty and unable to help as the first time I felt the weight of being a parent eleven years ago.  In those times, I’m wisest and largest of heart.

As the day gave way to evening and bedtimes arrived, we sat in a carelessly strewn circle of sorts as we typically do, feet tangled toward our circle’s center.  We each took a moment to thank God for the day full of His undeserved goodness and for the one who’s hand we held to the left of us.  My left hand held hers.  As she thanked God for me, her dad, my heart accepted it and drank deeply.

She may stray and return, break my heart and push hard against me, and in response, I’m teaching my heart to give release rather than squeeze my daughters’ hearts idolatrously, echoing what I feel promise to ‘be still and know that I am God’*.

 

(*Psalm 46:10)

(image credit: Flickr: digitalbreakout)

 

5 Responses to “they may run”

  1. Chad Miller September 18, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    Guy,
    This is beautiful and terrifying at the same time. The anxiousness it created was overcome only by knowing that I’m not alone with these feelings as I struggle through my own self doubt as a parent.

  2. Amy September 18, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    This is beautiful. I wish my dad had been more like this when I was a teenager. Andy Stanley writes in his book “Enemies of the Heart” that so often we’re taught how to behave, how to look good, and so little emphasis is placed on the condition of our hearts. Anger, guilt, greed, and envy can fester there for years and remain unchecked until it finally begins to seep out and break our “good” veneer.

    He suggests asking your children every day, “How is your heart? Has someone upset you today? Is there anything you need to tell me?” This way, it’s not so much about their good behavior and performance but their hearts, where so much of who we are starts from, are in good standing.

    I think you’re doing a great job of this with your daughters. They know you love them and that you are trying to be the best dad to them you can be. Even when you don’t see it, their appreciation for you and your support will always run deep. :)

    Amy

  3. Mona Hebert September 18, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Guy,
    Every now and then I come across your blog. I am so proud of the man and father that you have become! As your third grade teacher I want to grab all the pleasure of having taught you and sometimes wonder if I did something to be partially responsible for your vocabulary!!! Lol! You are a gifted writer and I am proud of you for that too;). I can’t wait to read your book!

  4. Kreine September 18, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Fellow parent to an 11-year old girl, here. And even as a mom, I do hear myself sometimes saying, “What are you upset about now?” with a tinge of exasperation or frustration in my tone. Even though I remember how out of control my emotions, my hormones, my body – heck, my whole life felt at that age.

    Rest assured, your daughters will remember that you were humble enough to apologize when you fumble with their hearts and take the time to reconnect.

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