Last night one of my daughter’s friends came to the door and asked if Helen could ride her bike to the park with him and I was forced to make an important parenting decision on the spot. It seems like that’s how these things always happen.
Helen is almost 8. She is responsible and kind and becoming more and more independent. And I have to stop myself from keeping her within arm’s reach at all times. So last night I had to decide whether to say, “no, she can’t go to the park without an adult” (which is what I wanted to say) and “Helen, do you want to go to the park with Sean?”
Helen was, of course, more than ready for this milestone. In fact, she was ridiculously excited. I told her she could go and told her when she had to be back. I put my watch on her wrist (obviously if this is going to become a regular thing she’ll have to have her own watch) and I sent her on her way.
And I stood at the window watching for her for the whole 30 minutes I said she could be gone (because we start small around here). I was a nervous wreck, not because I don’t trust her or thought she wouldn’t be okay, just because having her out of my sight is still hard for me. I’m guessing it will get harder before it gets easier.
The truth is, she needs to be out of my sight. It seems like she flourishes when I’m not hovering over her, protecting her from every possible mishap. She needs me to move away from her at the playground, because that’s when she really gets stronger on the monkey bars. She needs me to stop holding her up in the pool, because that’s when she develops confidence that, yes, she CAN swim. She needs to make her own choices and figure out who she is. And I love watching her do those things.
I want to protect her from every possible hurt and pain. But when I look back at my life, I realize that some of the hurts and pains are thing things that have taught me the most important lessons. Lessons about life, about myself and, most importantly, about God. I don’t want to protect her from those lessons. So I pray. I pray that her lessons won’t be too difficult. I pray that her mistakes won’t be devastating. And I pray, most of all, that God will keep drawing her to Him. Because I know she’s safe with Him.