So there's this question that you as a parent are going to ask in the course of your parenthood. If you haven't asked it yet, you will. Am I her friend, or am I her parent? And for me this week, this question got a little more complicated. Am I her friend, her teacher, or her parent? As a young mom of a toddler, this answer was simple. Her mom, of course! I have to keep her safe, teach her rules, maintain consistency with bedtimes! But this year, with the new and wonderful and confusing stage of preteen, the answer is not quite so clear.
We sat at the table fighting about fractions. We were slugging it out over numerators and common denominators, and when to convert to an improper fraction, because THERE ARE JUST SO MANY RULES!
And as she sat there hopeful that she'd get to move forward, I was the one with the answer book. I was the one with the red pen. I was the one marking one after another incorrect...and her spirit fell. I saw it happen. And I tried to make it right in that clumsy, insensitive way moms have sometimes: "Hey, it's no big deal! We'll just practice some more! Why are you getting so upset about this? Listen, if you're going to have such a bad attitude about something as little as a test, then maybe you need to spend some time alone in your room." You know, super helpful.
I didn't realize until that moment when the dam broke behind her eyes, that it wasn't about the fractions. It's never just about the fractions! Especially when you're twelve. I forgot that. When you're twelve, your math test is your identity. Your clothes are your identity. Your talents are your identity. The way your mom talks to you...
...is your identity. When you're twelve, you haven't come to the understanding of who you are, so the entire sum of what you know about yourself is the response you get from outside influences. It wasn't about the fractions. It was a question of being good enough. Am I smart? Am I important? Can I keep up? Do I know as much as everyone else? Is my mom impressed by me?
I looked at her beautiful, disappointed, crest-fallen face, and I was at a total loss. I was too exhausted by the week to come up with anything thoughtful, gentle, or helpful like the moms on t.v. do at times like these. (Oh, what would Beverly Goldberg do!?) So I laid it down. I put my arm around her and whispered a prayer into her ear. I don't know why it's so hard to pray when you're weary. The words came slowly--I didn't even know what to say. So I just told Him the truth.
"Lord we're frustrated! This seems harder than it should be! I'm not explaining it right, or it's getting scrambled, or she just can't remember when she needs to. Help us. Protect us. Don't let us fight over fractions! Help me to know when to be a teacher and when to be a Momma, and how to be both as often as I can. Protect our relationship--the most precious thing we have. We're friends, and we laugh together, and we snuggle on the couch, and read books, and talk about music, and that's too great to get ruined by a hard day of fractions! Help her to know that I love her. Help her to feel my love for her."
When I was done, she sat there heavily for a minute until I declared the school day over--sometimes you just have to call it. But I've had that moment with me for a couple days now. That moment when our hearts were bowed before His throne. And we weren't mother and daughter as much as we were two sisters asking Daddy for help. I want more of that. I hope I remember to go to Him first next time.
Y'all! Parenting a pre-teen is new and wonderful and terrifying! I'm so excited about all the new things we have to share--like romantic comedies for example...seriously so much fun. But this is entirely new ground we're walking on now, and I want to proceed with extreme care. I asked some friends on facebook if they had any resources for parenting, growing up, or becoming a godly woman, and they did! Here are some of their suggestions. Just click on the picture to take you to the amazon link if you want to check them out.
For older teens (some mature content, I've been told!)
If you have another suggestion that has helped you through the raising (or growing into) in woman who loves the Lord, please share it!! I need all the help I can get! Emma and I are starting with Becoming Myself. I'll let you know what we think!
Much love, friend!