Giving What is Best Can be Painful.
As hard as it is, if our love is real, we’ll give our kids what is best – even when it hurts. In the throes of raising kids, sometimes it’s just plain hard to keep that goal in mind. It’s hard to focus on where I want my child to be then when it’s so painful now.
The little girl in this story is now grown and working full time. She will complete her Master’s degree in a few months. Today I applaud the many teachers of Halifax County Public Schools who were involved in her life (and the lives of all of our kids) and who supported us in the way we raised our kids. This story was first published in The Southside Banner. It is also in the book Southside Glimmers.
Giving what is best in the trenches
Loving in the Trenches
I found the note one day this summer.
“I am runing away. Srrey.” my almost-seven year old had written.
She must have changed her mind — or else she’d left and decided to come back before I found the note. When I went to look for her, she was riding her bike in the yard.
This wasn’t the first time she’d declared her independence from us. When she was four, she moved in with an aunt and her family—and stayed there one day for each year of her life.
“I am tired of you bossing me around,” she said.
She didn’t want to brush her teeth or comb her hair. She saw no need to make her bed or pick up her toys.
“I don’t want to be your little girl anymore,” she informed me one day after another battle of the will.
Oh, but she did. She just didn’t know it—yet.
For several days, she insisted she wanted to live somewhere else. In exasperation one day, I told her to choose a place to live.
The folks she chose agreed to let her move in with them. I helped her pack her bag.
We read The Runaway Bunny together, more than once, by her request. I told her I was just like the mama in the story. She could go away, but she would always be my little girl. I would always love her, no matter what she did.
That evening, we sent her on her way.
Did I cry? Has it rained this July? Did I pray? Does night come before day?
She gets it honestly, I suppose. Her father tried that number once as a little chap. He informed his mom that he was leaving because she was too mean. His wise mom called his bluff. She packed his clothes and put him on the porch. Then she closed the door and cried.
What will I do if he actually leaves? She wondered.
I know she prayed. He didn’t get far that night before he decided to come back.
“If it hadn’t been dark, I’d probably have been gone,” he says today.
So when his littlest princess decided she didn’t want to be bossed, he took it in stride. He knew she’d be back.
We trusted his sister to support us in raising our child. There’d be none of the usual frills of a sleepover at Aunt Ruth’s house this time.
The other kids didn’t seem to mind her being gone. Normally, I wouldn’t have, either. In fact, on the days our little tornado is gone from home, there is less “stuff and mess” to deal with than when she’s here.
But now I missed the mess — because of what its absence meant.
Eventually, she decided she wanted to come back. She was too proud to admit it by herself.
So a friend helped her find the words to say that she wanted to come home.
I am grateful for my friend Sue and our child’s Aunt Ruth. They supported us and loved her as well.
She came home one afternoon and didn’t know quite how to act. Neither did we.
How could we show her the depth of our love? Rolling out the red carpet would have applauded her defiance. Ignoring her absence might have indicated a lack of care.
There was no “happily ever after” in our house. The battle lines remained drawn. She still had to make her bed and brush her teeth. She had to pick up her toys.
Less than twenty-four hours after her re-entrance into our lives, we had one of those “meet me in the bathroom” sessions. She asked for it. No, she begged for it as she deliberately poked her foot across forbidden lines, daring me to stand up to her. I couldn’t let her down. I don’t know that I’ve ever loved her more than behind that closed bathroom door.
Things I already knew became more real when I walked the trenches:
- Real love releases others to make their own choices, even if those choices would not be mine.
- True love does not smother and stifle.
- Genuine love seeks the best for the other person.
- Real love keeps giving and waiting, expecting and believing the best.
- Genuine love allows the consequences of choices made to be experienced.
If I really believed it, I had to practice that love.
I found that note the other day, stuck in my files. It’s my reminder that true parenting involves releasing.
I’m still practicing releasing her, today.
In a few weeks, I’ll be standing at the driveway watching her board the bus for another year at school. I’ll be releasing her again, although in a different way.
There will be a lot of other moms who’ll stand at the edge of their safe place and watch their kids board that bus. For some of them, it’ll be the very first time.
Will they cry? Did it rain this July? Will they pray? Does night come before day?
To their teachers, and all the teachers out there in the trenches: please love our kids.
- We’re trusting you with our most important possessions. When you love them, release them.
- When they test the waters, don’t let them down.
- When they step across the lines you’ve already drawn, meet them at that line and deliver the consequences.
- Help us raise our kids by supporting what we believe.
- Don’t try to be popular and roll out the red carpet for the kid who’s been excused from class.
There’s no “happily ever after” in the home or in the classroom. In life’s classrooms, there’s no such thing as being fair in everyone’s eyes. Sure, I want my kid to get what he earns. I’ll be there, applauding and cheering for a job well done.
I may possibly think you’ve been unfair. While I might talk about it to you, he’ll never hear it from me. The sooner he learns that life isn’t fair, the better life will be for all of us.
If the day comes that my kids show disrespect or defiance, please let us know. We’re still old-fashioned enough to believe that “if you’re in trouble in school, you’re in trouble at home”.
I’d like to think he’s a better kid than anyone else’s, but I know better. It’s a myth to think that my child would never do something wrong or let me down. Look who he has for parents!
I’m not asking you to raise my kids for me. I’m asking that you not undo what we have done.
I’m not asking you to be a part of a village that raises a child. I’m asking you to be a part of a community that doesn’t fix things or bail a kid out when he deserves to experience life’s consequences.
Together, we can make our world a better tomorrow. When you walk in the trenches, you’re willing to invest your heart in the lives of others.
When you really care about someone, you give ’em what is best— even if it hurts.