The morning was off to a rough start.
Her bagel didn’t have enough peanut butter. She didn’t want to wear the outfit we had laid-out the night before. She wanted to stay in bed. Her stomach hurt, then it was her head and then finally, she tried to blame it on a toothache.
She was grasping for an excuse. Desperately searching for a reason to stay home. And I knew it wasn’t because of anything physical. She was perfectly healthy.
Alone in the car without the prying ears of two little brothers, I prod her to speak to me, to tell me what it really is that’s making her want to stay home.
As she reluctantly admits that she doesn’t want to tell me, I gulp heavy air and sigh. My mind wanders to mean girls bullying on the playground. Or maybe she’s being left-out during recess or even being teased for being so painfully shy and soft-spoken.
But what wounds me the most are the words “I don’t want to tell you.”
I just discovered last week that my daughter, who turned eight years old two days ago, is considered a tween. I had no idea. I thought that happened around the age of ten—clearly, I still have so much to learn with this whole parenting gig.
When I read this new information, it was if the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle I had been trying to assemble since last fall were finally coming together. I was beginning to see the big picture. Though she might be entering into the land of the tween, I was determined to keep the lines of communication open.
Five minutes after our conversation, I could still see the sadness on her face. The same face I gazed into during those late night feedings. The same face that became streaked with crocodile tears when I left her at Mom’s Day Out. The same face that revealed her pure joy when the tide crashed into her ankles.
Faces that will forever be imprinted into the depths of my heart.
We reach a stoplight and I pray because that’s all I know to do. There are so many moments like this in my parenting journey, so many times I’m at a loss.
The light turns green and it occurs to me to just speak truth to her. I can see the lies battling in her mind written on her face; I can almost hear their mocking voices reverberating through her thoughts. “No,” I think to myself. “I won’t let you have my daughter.”
After reassuring her that she can trust me and I’m always on her side, I begin to tell her she’s fearfully and wonderfully made. That she’s loved so much she was knit together in my womb. How He knows how many hairs she has on her head and how He says she is His. How she’s beloved.
Though still sullen when we arrive at school, a fleeting smile dances over her face for the briefest of moments. As she exits the car, I pray that God would pour an extra measure of grace over her and comfort the unease I could see festering in her heart. I continue that prayer throughout the day.
Later in the afternoon, she bounds through the door with a smile and a hug. I ask about her day, she grabs a snack. As she sits down at the table, she reveals that she really just didn’t want to go to school because she was tired and she just wanted to stay home. “It’s so unfair that you don’t ever have to get up and do anything you don’t want to do or go anywhere you don’t want to go,” she laments.
I giggle at the irony and reassure her that yes, I still have to do things I don’t want to do pretty much every day and I sometimes have to go places I don’t want to go as well. “What do you do then?” she asks.
I tell her that I pray and rely on the truth of His word—pretty much what we did in the car. I’m suddenly reminded of the importance of the voices of truth speaking louder than the lies of the enemy.
And once again, I discover that He’s taught me through my child yet again.
So we do the only thing I know to do at the end of a tough day—we bake chocolate chip cookies, vow to go to bed early, and just lean into the cross.