While Friday nights aren’t nearly as exciting as they were before kids, I still look forward to them. Every Friday night, we make hot dogs and macaroni for dinner, put our pajamas on early, and have a movie night with ice cream. I love these nights because everyone can finally relax after a long week. We stay warm against the cold winter nights, snuggle under blankets on the coach, and enjoy laughing together at whatever movie we happen to pick.
Last Friday, however, my oldest had reached her limit and was having a rough time. I could tell she was overtired, and as smooth as I tried to keep the evening, things still didn’t go very well. I let her play Minecraft while I gave her little brother a bath, thinking maybe the down time would help her.
However, after about ten minutes, I heard sniffing. I craned my neck to listen and I could hear sobbing. My daughter shuffled into my room, her face a complete picture of broken-heartedness, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Babe, what’s wrong?” I asked.
She could barely get out the words.
“I..lllooosstt…m-m-mmmy…w-w-woorllddd… in…M-mminecraft!” she bawled, going on to blubber about how she built a portal and went through it but went too far and couldn’t get back. (Whatever that means. I still don’t get this game).
Friday nights, as cozy as they are, are also the nights I hit my limit, and I struggled not to roll my eyes at this ridiculous problem. I took a deep breath.
“Sweetie, I am sure it’s fine, you know daddy can probably fix it when he gets home.
“I DOUBT IT!!” she yelled and ran sobbing into her room.
Drama lives here.
I finally got the kids situated in bed, my daughter still upset. I read a couple chapters of her book to her and laid with her for a bit while she cried.
As I watched her cry, her sweet face contorted in utter sadness, tears pricked my eyes too. As silly as this little problem seemed….as ridiculous and dumb and avoidable…how often in her life will we be in this exact position? How often will she crumple into tears over heartbreak, sickness, pain? How many times will she cry over even bigger things…things I cannot fix for her?
I prayed over her as her breathing calmed. I asked God to give her peace. I asked God to help in this moment, to give me the wisdom to explain to her why she didn’t need to be upset about this seemingly small thing. I asked for wisdom in general, that He would help me parent her into a well-balanced adult who didn’t waste time being sad about silly things.
As soon as I said it, it hit me that it was a pointless endeavor. I only had to look at myself to know that that could never happen. I stopped praying for a moment and just watched her sleep.
Her cheeks were still flushed from crying, her eyes puffy. Thick blonde hair, that was once wispy and thin, swept across the pillow. Bony shoulders and skinny arms, which once were thick and squishy, poked out from a tank top. Chipped nail polish, hair ties around her wrist, chapter books on her bedside table, and tiny bottles of nail polish sitting quietly next to her clock. All replacing what used to be stacks of board books, scattered pacifiers, and a sippy cup of milk.
I sighed, my heart hurting just a little at the changes.
I have had these moments so many times before, each one as bittersweet as the last. But this one was particularly poignant. As many times as I have heard that there is no parenting manual, this was yet another moment I gave up trying to do things the “right way.” I couldn’t parent her into a perfect, well-balanced person.
Such a thing doesn’t exist.
She will have her own weaknesses, her own passions, her own quirks, and her own bad days aside from mine. (Heck, I throw a fit when I get to the gym and find I left my earbuds at home! I CANNOT DEAL). There is no amount of teaching or guiding or parenting that will provide for her a life without rough days or sadness or meltdowns.
Upon first realizing this, I felt a smidge of anxiety well up in my chest. But I took a step back and thought about it. My only task is to love her unconditionally, guide her the best I can, be there for her, and point her to a God who will catch her every fall and use her every mistake. That’s a foundation I can trust. That is freeing. It’s not only freeing that I don’t have to parent her into perfection, but I can also stop striving for perfection myself.
We survive pain and heartache God allows into our lives by remembering who He is and what He has done. Even though I still don’t really understand Minecraft, I’ll have compassion for my sweet girl who just wanted something to go her way on a lazy Friday night. Because I can totally relate. Instead of trying to get her to be someone who doesn’t sweat the small stuff, I can guide her into someone who comes to God for the big stuff and the small stuff. I can encourage her to be thankful for what she does have, what God has done, and let her know that will carry her through the rough days…even if she has to rebuild her entire (Minecraft) world from scratch.
Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good?
Will he never smile again?
Is his love worn threadbare?
Has his salvation promise burned out?
Has God forgotten his manners?
Has he angrily stalked off and left us?
“Just my luck,” I said. “The High God goes out of business
just the moment I need him.”
11-12 Once again I’ll go over what God has done,
lay out on the table the ancient wonders;
I’ll ponder all the things He has accomplished,
and give a long, loving look at His acts.