When we were younger we were thrown into the lake and told to paddle. It was more of a “sink or swim” literally type of parenting. With waves hitting us in the face and bathing suits filled with sand this is how we were brought up. Either you learned how to swim or you sat on the beach and made sandcastles with your grandma. Both things were great, but how many times can you trickle sand on top of a pile before you want to eat the sand or take your chances at drowning? My youngest sister was thrown into a pool off the diving board and we watched her struggle to the top. Yes, I understand this is dangerous and not recommended by anyone. But we grew up in West Michigan where not knowing how to swim was as taboo as not having your hunting license. Here we were blonde haired sun kissed kids who knew we had to learn to do things on our own if we didn’t want to be left at shore.
I am not saying that my dad wouldn’t have dove into the water to save us and called in the coast guard in a moment’s notice. I am saying that my parents taught us to swim but they also let us fail.
They did not do our homework. They did not call the coach or teacher when we didn’t make the team. They didn’t call the director or gossip to other mom’s when we didn’t make the play. They didn’t run to the store in the middle of night to get a poster board because we forgot to do our project. They did not bring our work to school if we left it at home. They did not run a taxi service for us and our friends. They lived their lives and we were a part of it. Not all of it.
When my oldest was in elementary school I did her homework. I admit it. I did it all the time. Of course I let her write it, but essentially I redid grade school. (And I don’t want to brag but I totally rocked it the second time around.) This past weekend we were looking at pictures of some of those years. My eldest was pointing out to me how amazing “her” story boards and science displays were. How precise and clean. I was so determined that she would be a good student and admired by her teachers that I “helped” her on more than one occasion. If I am honest I was there was a direct correlation between my pride and others perception of me as a parent than her actual academic achievements. Somehow her succeeding was more important to my ego than letting her swim.
If you look at pictures of my second child’s projects you can see that I had obviously learned my lesson. I had discovered that I didn’t want to be “that mom”. I didn’t want to redo elementary school again. I didn’t have time to make sure things were perfect. I had learned that I needed to teach her how to make decisions and choices and not make them for her. I could not go with her to college and if I did then we had major issues to deal with besides homework.
By the time the fifth child came around we were just lucky to remember to bathe him once a week much less fill out any homework on time. Sorry Michelle Duggar I totally fail at big family parenting 101.
When one of the kids got into a lot of trouble with technology I wanted to fix it. Yes I was angry. I was angry at myself for not catching it earlier. I was angry at the people involved. I was angry at the child for not telling us what was going on. I was embarrassed and ashamed that this was happening under my roof and I didn’t know. I was upset that I had just spent hours at a seminar on parenting and now I was actually going to have to apply it. I was just angry I could not control it. I wanted to save her. And the truth was I was angry that I couldn’t.
I met with a friend later that morning. I cried over coffee and some sweet pastry I shouldn’t have been eating. She reminded me of something I had forgotten.
You are not her Redeemer.
She will never know who her Redeemer is if you keep saving her.
If we keep saving our kids. If we keep doing their homework. If we keep waiting on them hand and foot. If we keeping rescuing them they will never need the Rescuer.
I needed to. I need to let all of my kids fail. I need to let them learn to swim on their own.
This past week I watched her win another track meet. I watched her strong muscular legs strike the pavement and cross the finish line. She did this. On her own. She learned to run on her own. She learned to win on her own. By the scars on her legs and arms she has fallen many times. I didn’t make her stop running or run the race for her. I let her run. I let her fail.
But in the end she will know I am not her redeemer.
There is only ONE who can save her.