Sometimes parenting can feel like falling off a raft in the ocean with no life vest; it’s sink or swim.
There are some situations that were left out of the parenting books. I faced one of those recently when my younger daughter (who is a party just waiting to happen), had trouble empathizing with a friend who was left out.
Let’s just say, for argument sake, a group of friends were planning a trip to the mall. But one, who’s actually more like a sister to my daughter, wasn’t included in the fun.
Now, it may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but the fact is, these friends spend every waking moment together. They’re involved in all the same activities, share the same friends, and spend most weekends together…they can practically finish each other’s sentences. For one friend to be invited without the other is nothing short of a calamity.
But here’s the rub — Sydney is a party girl who LOVES a trip to the mall. If there’s a shopping trip on the horizon, she’s the first one to see the sun rise. Sydney dreams of girly stores all lavished in pink with purple sparkles and glitter all over the store walls. The image forms a gravitational pull, and there’s no stopping her.
When she got the call about the day out, she welled up with so much excitement, she could hardly contain herself, but something in my spirit prompted me to ask a fateful question.
“Is your friend going?”
“She wasn’t invited.”
“Hmm . . . well that’s an issue.”
I looked at my middle school daughter with hope, awaiting her response, but then I asked, “Do you think you should go, knowing your friend was not invited?”
Her immediate (and startling) response was, “Yeah! She probably won’t even know we’re going to the mall.”
Appalled that my daughter could be so insensitive, I asked her how she would feel if she’d been left out of a day at the mall. “If I didn’t know, then it wouldn’t matter,” she replied.
Realizing that we had a serious problem on our hands – and it wasn’t about her friend not being invited – I quietly prayed in my spirit for words that would touch my tender child’s heart.
I sat down and carefully explained that part of my job as a parent is to teach her how to make godly choices about friends. “Everyone knows that you and your sister and your best friend are always together. The girls going to the mall are friends with all of you. Do you think it’s right for them to leave someone out? What does that say about the kind of friend they are? Is that the kind of friend you want to be?”
Then came the tears. You would have thought her whole world caved in. And quickly I realized that my sweet little party girl just couldn’t imagine why anyone would leave a person out, especially from a fun trip to the mall. After all, aren’t malls supposed to be for everyone to get together and shop ‘til you drop? The last thing she wanted was to have to stay home, but it was especially hard knowing that she would miss the fun all because a group of girls decided to leave someone out.
Sometimes parenting takes us and our kids through an emotional jungle. We’re the guides, and we need to warn our kids of dangers and protect them from pitfalls, but in the process, we need to teach them how to begin recognizing these hazards for themselves. Navigating an emotional jungle requires a keen eye for bad choices. We need to teach our kids to be on the lookout for wrong choices and bad behaviors (in themselves and in others).
Although it’s terribly difficult to say no to the girl who loves a trip to the mall, it would be far more difficult to pick her heart up off the floor (or worse, her self esteem) after it’s been crushed by a misguided choice – one that she couldn’t anticipate or avoid – of a so-called friend. That’s not to say that she won’t get her heart broken, but it’s moments like these that help build discernment and wisdom.
Proverbs 22:14-16 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.”
God intended parents to breathe wisdom into children, not friends whose hearts are also full of foolishness. In correcting our kids, we drive out foolishness and replace it with wisdom.
In order for our kids to understand issues of the heart, we have to teach them how to put themselves in other people’s shoes and treat others the way they want to be treated.
So, now Sydney understands that the situation wasn’t necessarily about deciding whether or not she should to go to the mall; it was about choosing friends that have Christ-centered values.
Have you ever faced a similar situation? Tell us about it.