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’*.
(image credit: Flickr: digitalbreakout)