She turns 12 today.
Our oldest daughter and child – the one who ushered us into parenthood – she eases into being a whole year older and I am quiet.
And perhaps a tiny bit afraid.
I can remember being this age, the year before I turned that magical 13. When you officially go from being a child to being a teenager.
The thing is that she is already looking and acting way beyond the world of childhood. When she comes up to her daddy’s nose and she begins to look her mama in the eye, and – I can see this wild, fierceness when I am in her presence.
I recognize that same wild, fierceness in her dad and in myself.
How do you walk out well – thriving and surviving not merely coping- the rite of passage, the last days of childhood?
How do we find a sure footing for all of us as she becomes a teenager?
Raising a Fierce Woman
There are pieces of her that are wild and untamed. She is all fierce and all young woman. Because of the places I had allowed myself to become wing-clipped and silent in my past, I think I am striving to raise daughters who see themselves beyond their physical attributes to a deep soul, a brilliant mind, a brave heart, and a broad understanding of the world around them.
I am raising little feminist, Jesus Lovers, with eyes to see and hearts that fiercely love. They see the inequality. They feel the strict definitions of gender being placed upon them: the pink and purple, watered down princess, “save me I need a hero” womanhood, you can’t play like the boys – you throw like a girl, you are too much, too loud; you should act like a lady, Get in line, Close your mouth, Quit being so bossy.
And I am watching them outright reject those definitions at every turn.
“Why is this just for boys? Why is that color defined as boy vs. girl? Why can’t I shop on that side of the store? Why don’t girl’s clothes look like that – comfortable and loose fitting? Why is my only option for a bike – pink and sparkly or purple and sparkly? Why can’t I have something fierce and bold and strong? Why do the girl’s toys in the McDonald’s Happy Meals suck? I want to be a wife, and a mom, and a chemist. I want to be an actress and a scientist. I want to do a mud run next time (after we girls did the Color Run).
Why can’t we go on an adventure like the boys in that boy’s adventure book – why is the girl’s adventure book filled with how to pack for a picnic and 5 ways to cry for help so a boy can rescue you?”
Why can’t I figure out how to rescue myself?
These are all things I have heard my girls say – about the world they are seeing and finding waiting for them from the edges of childhood.
I refuse to narrow them – by what the church or a family or the world would expect or intend for them to be.
I see wide open spaces – wide lanes – and a great, big world all around my children.
I refuse to phone this one in or do it a certain way simply because that is what our parents did, or what the world expects me to do.
She is uniquely created therefore she needs to be uniquely parented.
She is not a mini-me or mini-dad or mini-grandma or mini-grandpa or mini-uncle or mini-aunt.
She is all herself – bits and pieces of all that is good and all that is wacked in our families swirled together to create a separate and gloriously unique human being.
She is a beating heart of flesh and blood – that is all her own and all uniquely labeled and defined by her God.
I want to participate in that unique becoming with her – not silence it, mock it, slam it, shame it, or rebuke it into submission to my or another person’s agenda for her.
I want to learn how to pursue God’s agendas for her… right along WITH her.
I want to help her write the story God has given her to write:
- I am NOT her editor.
- I am the reader.
- I am a participant.
- I am the encourager, the life-bringer, at times I will be the life-sucker (intentionally, unintentionally).
I get to be in the front row participant in the stories she gets to tell with her heart and life.
And as one who has gone before her I am the pace setter.
I do not run this marathon for her – I get the opportunity to run it WITH her… to graciously and HONESTLY show her how it is done – how I have failed, what I would do differently, how she can do it better, and how to get up again when she inevitably falls too.
So I fiercely pray for her…
- That she will not be easily bought – she will know the cost of selling herself short.
- And that she comes to deeply know the only one who gets to determine her purpose and her life course…God.
Rite of Passage
This year will be about showing her what we have learned about a Great Big God. And giving her the chance to come to know Him on His terms – not ours.
I think parents can live in such fear that there children will choose wrong that they suffocate the options out.
They bind away anything that “couldn’t possibly be what God wants for their kids,” In favor of blindly pushing forward their own (and the watching world’s) agendas and ideals and expectations.
Sometimes parents are not very creative or intentional.
In the meantime they snuff the spirit out – the Divine spirit, the spirit of life, the spirit of hope, the spirit of adventure.
I don’t want to lose my girl – because I have an idea of what she should be, or what I need her to be for me – and in the process I refuse to see who she was created to be.
In the end her life is not about me. It is about Him. And I have learned to trust him enough with my life – to trust him with her’s.
We stand on a precipice together – and I have the amazing opportunity to show her the journey from my own eyes – and pray God opens her eyes and my eyes to the journey that is uniquely her own.
I am not an expert – I am a participant. A grateful, humbled,excited to see where this goes participant.
In the meantime I am putting together a tool chest of sorts – a gathering of things and stories to help us shape this next year with intention.
So that when 13 years of age rolls around a year from now and we stand together to celebrate that pushing into teenage wonderment – we will be as ready as we can be. She’ll be a little more solid on her footing in life and in who she is in this world. And we’ll be a little more clear about WHO she is and how she is and what God intends for her because we’ve spent 12 months asking the right questions, seeking the hard answers, and sharing in beautiful little adventures together.
Questions from the Front Porch:
- Are you a parent? What have you learned about this age – 12 to 13? What are some significant things that you did to intentionally walk through this rite of passage with your own kids? What have you seen done well? What would you avoid or try differently?
- What did you parents do with and for you during this time? What was significant? What gift did they give? What beautiful little adventures did you have together or alone that were important to you?
- What are some memories from this age that you have refused to face – to heal?
- Did fear, shame, guilt, silence, hiding shape your teenage years? Or did you feel that you could be yourself?
- Who was a safe place for you? How did you know you were safe? What did they do that inspired you to be honest?
- If you are a parent looking to this age in the future with your kids – what are you hoping to do?
- Do/Did you have a hard time parenting your child uniquely? Did you pursue his/her heart intentionally? Or was this very hard for you to try? Have you asked your grown children how you could have done it better? Without being defensive and weird – have you apologized without excuses?