Every once in a while, I become the child and my children become the parents. This is not an announced role reversal. Oh no, it is a very subliminal, silent, stealthy occurrence. But it shakes me, rattles me, and rolls me into a new stage of parenting. It happened last night in the midst of cooking dinner and playing with Duplos.
The Duplo task at hand was to make a birthday cake for one of the beloved baby dolls. This baby has a birthday about every six weeks and we celebrate in varying ways mostly singing, dancing, and dressing up. This particular celebration involved a colorful, cubic, cake, made to the ‘mom’s’ exact specifications. I was not the mom…I had no specifications. I was thinking of the baked taco dinner that I needed to put in the oven.
Research shows that 20 minutes of parent-engaged play with each child on a daily basis aids in their social, academic, and emotional competence. BUT, an important variable is that the parent must let the child lead the play session…the parent follows the child’s lead. So, I was trying…really trying…to learn the details of Duplo cake creating, without applying my design techniques. I was trying…really trying to put family dinner on the back burner, literally and figuratively.
Finally, I asserted myself and began adding pieces to the colorful confection. I thought I had grasped the general recipe…a little of this, a little of that…a dash of farm animals for flavor. D was struggling a bit to get two blocks to stay put while she clicked another on top, so I ‘helped’ by laying a flat piece across the two wobbly blocks to steady them.
She looked at me, sighed, and held both hands in the air.
‘You’re solving problems that I’m supposed to solve, Mom!’
She’s five…and she has identified the horribly sensitive parent/child conundrum. I’m solving problems that she’s supposed to solve. I was simplifying what was supposed to be hard for her…I was making it too easy. She wanted the challenge.
I had to sit back, lick my wounds, and examine my existence. I need to let her struggle. I need to let her fail. I need to let her figure out the colored blocks, the doll clothes, the playground pals,…so that she will develop confidence in her own spatial-relating, decision-making, people-accepting abilities.
I love my children more than anything. I want them to be stronger, wiser, gentler, and greater than I have been. But they won’t get there by my doing the hard work for them. They won’t build their academic, social, or spiritual muscles if they aren’t challenged with tasks greater than they think they can handle.
1 Kings 3:7-9 tells us an amazing story of an adult-child, Solomon. God allowed him to ask for anything…:here’s his reply:
“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
Wisdom…a discerning heart. That’s the greatest need of all parents. When to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, when to step in or leave them alone, when to push or pull back, when to talk or listen, when to pity or punish…millions of decisions, daily begging for discernment. We can give answers, but is that giving direction? We can reply, but is that instructing? Only with the Spirit leading us will we be parents who lead our children into competent adulthood. They’ll grow up regardless, but will they grow strong and wise? We must rely on God’s guidance to raise God-loving, God-living children.
We had tacos for dinner last night…and baby birthday cake for dessert. And I went to bed with a full heart and a spirit longing for more God than I’ve ever requested before.
<<Here’s the final birthday cake. Complete with apples, bananas, and a balancing chicken, ‘because baby will think that’s soooo funny!!’
And here’s more of Solomon’s story. You should read it! >> I Kings 3