Bright and early this morning I dropped my daughter off at the airport after being home for a month. She goes to college in California (a mere 1,641 miles from her momma!) and is heading back to do a summer internship. I am most definitely not sitting on my couch trying not to cry. 🙂
I have several things I have been meaning to write about but, as I mentioned, my daughter has been home so I have been slightly distracted (the best kind of distracted!). But one mark of my writing, is that I try my best to write in the messy. Instead of waiting until I have struggled, taken steps to get “better” and then share, I make it a point to write about what I am going through as I am going through it. Hindsight is helpful but is something I have used in my past to prevent you from knowing what I am battling today.
So, today, I am just letting you know that A) I am super sad my daughter has left, and B) I am acutely aware that I struggle with being an interfering parent.
Come to think of it, being an interfering person in general has been something I have to repent of regularly. Let me explain.
When my kids were very little, I read a book called Getting Out of Your Kid’s Faces and Into Their Hearts, by Valerie Bell. The title is pretty self-explanatory and I remember giving this book to every parent who remotely expressed that they had questions about parenting. But there was a key theme to it that I could never quite wrap my head around at the time. She warned repeatedly about being what she calls an “interfering parent”. Of course I argued with her, “Isn’t most of my job as a parent to run interference? Aren’t I here to protect them and keep them from harming themselves or each other?”
It never really clicked with me until I got older and learned a few things the hard way.
I realized that even though yes, much of my “job” as a parent was to protect my kids, I often got in God’s way (translate: interfered) by inserting my plan for my kids over His plan for my kids.
And I still do it.
While my daughter was home, I had to refrain, and succeeded some of the time, from trying to fix, manage, control, sway, or steer my daughter in the direction I thought she should go. And just the other day, I managed to be “intrusively helpful” to my adult son in the same fashion. I can’t speak for what he was thinking about my helpfulness, but I can tell you that he did not utter the words, “thank you, dear sweet and wise mother, for your sound advice and insights.” I was involving myself and my opinions where I was not invited.
I am now more aware of how often, with my kids but occasionally with my friends, co-workers, husband, etc. I interfere. I forget to “live and let live” as a 12-Step slogan suggests. I try to do God’s job and forget that He has graciously given me permission to take the day off from trying to control, judge, manage or mind other people’s business.
When I fall into this behavior, it is usually disguised as love and concern, but can be a very subtle form of manipulation or wanting people to cooperate with my ideas for how they should live. Even though I see myself as just a concerned mom, friend, or wife, it often backfires and the person on the other side feels disrespected, unloved and unaccepted for who they are.
As parents, and as I have pointed out, as mere humans, we often “don’t know how to show affection or support without giving advice, seeking to sway another’s decisions, or trying to get those we love to do what we think will bring them happiness. We confuse caring with controlling because we don’t know how to allow others the dignity of being themselves.” I love that quote so much. I have it memorized actually. Doesn’t mean I always do it, but it is something I do my best to come back to when I feel the overwhelming urge to insert my unsolicited opinion.
If I forget the “live” part of “live and let live”, I am especially susceptible to relapse of my tendency to play God. And have you noticed that it is exhausting to try to be God when you’re not? My job is to live my life and let you live yours. Whether you are my friend or partner or child or parent or pastor or spouse.
I can’t let my sympathy for you get in the way of letting God take you to your “bottom” so He can pull you up and give you the life He has outlined just for you. I need to stop interfering with His plan and again, as I keep reminding myself, take a soul-selfie and focus on my own common plagues of the heart that I battle.
As much as I am sure God appreciates my valiant efforts to help you live your life, I am also pretty certain that I am still a full time job and don’t have a lot of extra time or energy leftover to manage your life when I can barely manage my own.
Today, as I blew kisses to my daughter through the glass doors at the airport terminal, I was reminded that God doesn’t have grandkids; He has kids. He can use me in my kid’s lives and the lives of others, but ultimately He doesn’t need me to get His work done. Sometimes, the best thing I can do is stay out of the way and do my job, which is to love God and love people. Everything else is up to Him.