She’s nine. Old enough to think she knows her own mind—but not yet mature enough to realize she doesn’t.
Her favorite colors are pink, purple, blue and rainbows.
She sings praise songs and plays piano and keeps a journal of lyric ideas because she’s forming a Christian band with her third grade pals. The Christian Kids, they’re calling it. She’s the lead singer.
She writes stories in a spiral notebook and informs me when she has writer’s block. Tell me what to write about, Mom, she says. No, not that—something interesting.
This is my child who would eat ice cream and CheezIts for every meal if I let her.
She is so much like me.
And we butt heads all the time.
I tell her to shut down the iPad and play with her toys and her crafts and her American Girl dolls—anything but screen time. As I send another text or sit at my desk typing on my laptop.
She glares at me and stomps her feet when I tell her to go to her room, check her heart and talk to Jesus. Truth is, most days I ought to join her there and do the very same.
My older daughter, my first run—the unfortunate specimen in my parenting experiments, my trial and error, my lessons learned the hard way.
I love her so much, my heart aches.
She has witnessed my mistakes, time and time again. She’s old enough now to call me out on them.
So we’ve reached this place lately of delicate relationship, in which I want desperately to live in harmony but I need constantly to chase behind her with some correction or demand, some consequence or reproach—and she’s starting to push back. I feel the pressure of it. I have my reasons, of course, which she doesn’t understand. I just want her to turn out well. I’m her mom, it’s my job. So I’m hard on her sometimes.
I fear I’m squashing her spirit.
Last week I attended the third grade Garden Party, the culmination of a poetry unit in language arts. Each of the students had chosen a poem to memorize and present. And some wrote their own.
We heard funny poems, wistful poems, short poems, long poems. I sat in the front row with a huge smile on my face, so proud of all my daughter’s classmates, these children I’ve come to know with a momma’s affection.
And then my daughter took the stage.
And I heard this.
A Bio Mom Poem—“Becky”
Encouraging, faithful, imperfect
Lover of pizza, movie night with family
Lover of worshiping God at church
Lover of snuggling with girls
Who wonders why there is so much pain in the world
Who wonders what Jesus looks like
Who wonders who she will meet in heaven
Who knows God loves her
Who knows her girls are beautiful
Who knows that Daddy loves her
Who fears wolves
Who fears tarantulas
Who fears drowning
Who is able to encourage people
Who is able to write books
Who is able to jump rope
Who dreams of daughters growing in Jesus
Who dreams of building a house
Who wants to sleep
Who wants to influence people for Jesus
Who wants to love her family
And then another one . . .
Cinquain Mom Poem
She loves me so much
She helps me with my homework
She sings beautifully at my church
Really? This child, who grieves me with her eye rolls and fights me with her tears. Who is perfecting the art of selective listening and shouts with a voice as angry as flying arrows—aimed straight at my heart—when her own feelings are hurt.
Some days I fear I am losing her.
She loves me.
This woman in the poems, this affectionate mother and lover of God—can this really be who I am in her eyes? In spite of our arguments, in spite of my scolding and correcting and parenting.
I am her safe place. She loves me still.
Tears stung my eyes as the audience sat hushed, some moms murmuring “awww” while I melted in my chair.
Never have I seen Jesus more clearly than in the hearts of my children.
I mess up, I count my failings—all the ways I’m not serving them as well as I ought.
And yet they forgive.
They do not hold it against me.
To them, I am unconditionally precious.
Praise God for such grace.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).
Moms, we will all mess up. We will all fall short. We will all wish we could take back words we said, reactions we let slip, frustrations we neglected to censor, and heartache we caused when our defenses were down. We will worry these flaws are stacking up like a wall between us and our children.
But there’s another side of the story.
It’s the moments we do it right. When we hug our kids, cook their favorite supper, ask how their day was and look them in the eyes when we listen. They watch us—when we hum along with the radio, smile at the grocery store clerk, pray and laugh and dance to the Veggie Tales theme song. They see who we are and who we hope to be.
And at the end of the day, could it be possible the good outweighs the bad? That our love shines brighter than our grouchiness?
I think so. If only because our children choose to see it that way.
And I had the unexpected privilege of discovering it in a poetry reading at school.
Then, of course, lest you think this is all a sentimental tale—just as I reached in my purse for a tissue to dab my eyes, my beautiful daughter concluded her portion of the program with this little composition.
There once was a girl from France
She loved to dance and dance
She liked to bake a beautiful cake
Until off fell her pants
Yep. That’s my girl.
And I adore her.
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