I had just walked in the door and collapsed on the couch.  I had a diet coke in one hand, the remote in the other and the game on my mind.  That’s when my 11-year-old daughter came in. It was clear she had an agenda and sitting on the couch watching baseball was not part of it!  Over the next 30 minutes I fielded these questions “Dad, can we go to the mall tonight?” “Dad, will you help me cut a board for an art project I want to do?” “Dad, will you build bunk beds for my dolls?” “Dad, will you get down the cake pans so I can bake something?” “Dad, can I look on Pinterest for some craft ideas?” In my head I was wondering which of the following responses to choose

  1. Can’t you just sit down and relax?
  2. Let’s do those things later.
  3. Go ask your mother!

I’ve learned that while this type of behavior is normal for her, it is not for me. She can’t sit still. She likes to be on the move. Even if we have a family movie night she insists on coloring or playing a game or braiding someone’s hair (and yes, sometimes mine.) And yet everything in me wants to say, “why can’t you just do what the rest of us are doing? Relax.”  But this is not her nature.  She’s not being disobedient or rebellious, she’s just being – her.

Years ago I heard someone say that our kids come to us already hard wired rather than blank slates. Much of our life is reading them like a book rather than writing in them like a journal.  Some parenting is rather clear –  Be kind to your sister. Speak with respect to your mother. Don’t play with knives.  But most parenting is choosing when to say something and when to let them be.  I’ve discovered this is the most difficult decision I make as a parent:

When do I write and when do I read.

There are things that I can write into the hearts of my kids.  I can write our family values. I can write our beliefs and why we have them. I can write habits of cleanliness, follow through and discipline.  I can write make your bed, do your chores, pack your lunch, and go to church.

But there are many things I need to just read – things that are already written in their heart. Things like a tenderness for animals, a need to create; a desire to achieve, a fascination with biology, a yearning for knowledge, or a comfort with sitting in silence.  This not only means they don’t need to be just like me or their mother, but it also means I need to value them for who they were created to be.

So I’m learning to watch them more, listen to them more carefully, and see the wonder behind their eyes.  And when I do, I not only value them for who God created them to be, but I read a work of art from the Master Author.

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