One day after school about a year ago, one of my daughters inadvertently allowed me to see something that wasn’t supposed to be for my eyes. It led to a huge discussion between my husband, daughter, and I, which although unplanned – ended up being a good thing. We may never have known something and it was a blessing in disguise.
You know those times as a parent. Long discussions that last a couple of hours. Lots of tears. Decisions that need to be made on the part of the parent and ones that you aren’t always sure are right. That’s how this evening was for us.
At one point in the evening I moved to the floor where my daughter was and enfolded her in my arms. I know that I’m the kind of person who when I’m really distraught, a hug is the thing I need most. It doesn’t solve the problem, it doesn’t say that someone agrees with me or thinks what I did was okay – it simply says I’m loved despite what is going on and that’s what my heart needs to hear. So on this night, I offered the same to my daughter who willingly took it.
I did something else too. I told my daughter that I didn’t want to condemn her for what she did. We all make mistakes. I think she really needed to hear this for what she did was totally out of character for her. It was not something miniscule and it truly shocked and bothered my husband and I. But I still wanted her to know that we all make mistakes. For we do. I made a mistake just a few weeks prior to that and certainly know how much I need grace and forgiveness when I mess up. I needed her to know that too.
I’ve never seen her cry so much. I knew she truly regretted what she had done and I knew that it was a mistake made in a “moment.” We talked and talked. We asked questions. We listened.
Near the end of the evening, my daughter said, “Thank you.” I couldn’t imagine what she was thanking us for. Here she was embarrassed, upset, and in trouble. So I asked her. “What are you thanking us for?” We had all decided together that some changes needed to be made – hard ones. And so she said, “For giving me courage.”
Parents – sometimes you don’t have to have all of the answers. And you don’t need to act like you have it all together and your child should know better (even if you truly feel they SHOULD). Sometimes you just need to listen, put yourselves, in their shoes, and try to understand. Sometimes you just need to be honest (in love), and encourage. Sometimes, you need to push gently in the right direction all-the-while letting them know that your love, your faith in them, and your devotion to supporting and standing with them are strong.
I started to tear up when my daughter told me that. It was the last thing I expected to hear. But I’m so thankful for our relationship. She may make mistakes that make me feel like I failed somewhere along the way, and she may make choices that I don’t agree with – but there is nothing she can’t do that would make me stop loving her. And there will never come a time in life that I won’t fight for her – physically, emotionally, or spiritually. I will always be honest with her.
All I know is that if you take the time to know your child’s heart, invest in them, and listen to them – it WILL pay off. And when you think they are in trouble, they just might surprise you and say “thank you” for giving them the courage to stand up for what’s right when they were having a hard time mustering it up on their own.
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I so rememeber being in this same spot a year ago. My step-son eventually moved out because he knew that his lifestyle could not co-exist with ours. Such a painful time for us all. I commend you for the love and grace you willingly gave. Tough love is so difficult. Only God can give us enough wisdom and strength to parent His way. That fact that she said thank you speaks volumes about your parenting skills. From one mom to another- well done!
Thank you for your kind words, Sherry. My daughter is a good girl who just made a huge mistake. I’m so thankful for my children and am constantly asking God for direction in parenting them! I’m so sorry for the painful experience with your stepson. As a stepparent myself, I’m sending an empathetic hug your way.