Last weekend, my almost 18-year-old daughter and I drove to her soccer game almost two hours away together.
A few years ago, putting the two of us together in an enclosed space would have been akin to pulling the pin on a hangrinade.
We couldn’t communicate. Everything I said was wrong. Everything she said was wrong.
In complete despair, I remember telling a friend during that time, “I don’t think anything will ever be right between us again.”
I wasn’t being dramatic. I truly believed that.
But as we drove up to the game together, our conversation was upbeat and natural. She shared what was going on in her life (to the degree a teenager does). We talked a little about her future. We vented our frustrations — not at each other, finally — but at being directed to the wrong soccer field clear across town.
At the end of the day, I was grateful. I thanked God for this ordinary, extraordinary day — and ones like it — that at one point, I feared would never come.
It got me thinking about all the “mom lies” I’ve believed over the years. They’re dangerous. They drive us to act out of fear. They cause us to feel inadequate and drain our effectiveness.
Here are a few big ones I’ve believed over the years and the truths that are setting me free:
Lie #1: Unhealthy parenting patterns can’t be reversed.
Truth: It may be more difficult, but with God’s help, we can establish new, healthier ways of parenting our children.
I’m living proof of that. My people pleasing weakness bore some ugly fruit in my parenting. I was critical, controlling and enabling. Not a winning combination.
My kids, my daughter in particular, felt like I cared more about how she made me look than about her. Beyond that, in my quest to please, I didn’t set the boundaries I should have with either of my kids. I enabled them, when I should have been equipping them.
I didn’t fully realize the damage I was doing until they reached adolescence. The middle school years are hard enough. But I hadn’t laid a rock solid foundation of trust, love and respect. I hadn’t established credibility with them. It came back to bite me, just when they needed my guidance and influence the most.
I was devastated when I realized all the mistakes I’d made. Paralyzed. I couldn’t turn back the clock. How could I ever make things right? It started with an apology to my kids. And slowly, step by small step, doing things a different way. Reacting calmly instead of exploding. Allowing them to make mistakes. Giving them small bits of responsibility. Setting a boundary instead of giving in.
Five years later, things aren’t perfect (us people pleasers crave “perfect”!), but God has brought us lightyears from where we were.
Lie #2: When you make hard choices and do the right thing, the results will follow. (i.e. “Good” parenting = “good” kids)
Truth: Making hard, God-driven choices is the right thing. The results, however, may be a long way off and are not guaranteed. Further, we have to leave the results up to God.
When we believe the truth, we embrace the mindset that our children are on a journey, just as we are. Our timing is not their timing. We realize that our responsibility is to seek God as we raise our children and make choices that are in their best interest. Then, we leave the timing of the results to God. That’s scary and freeing at the same time.
That extraordinary day in the car with my daughter last week was years in the making. Years of bitter tears and months of making hard choices and setting difficult boundaries with lots of frustration and pushback and only small glimpses of progress. It has made me appreciate the “fruit” of that time all the more.
The end of her story hasn’t been written yet, but more and more I’m leaving it — and her — in God’s very capable hands.
Lie #3: If your kids aren’t happy, you’re doing something wrong.
Truth: Setting boundaries and making tough parenting decisions means your kids will probably be unhappy often — in the short term.
As a people pleaser, this lie wreaked havoc on my parenting. I thought that if my kids were frustrated, angry or sad — even if it had nothing to do with me — that I had failed somehow.
It took me a long time to realize that “happy children” is not my goal. Again, I can’t control their happiness. In fact, the more I tried to appease them and make them happy, the more unhappy they seemed to become.
Our kids need and want boundaries. And that often makes them very unhappy in the short-term. We have to be the ones who look to the future and see how making them happy today may lead them to some very miserable outcomes later.
Everyday, we have an enemy who’s whispering lies to us. Telling us we aren’t enough. That we’re doing something wrong. That we can’t fix our mistakes.
And he’s right. But, thankfully, when we depend on God’s leading each step of our journey, He can fill in the gaps and redeem our mistakes.
And that is the truth.