“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:9-12 NIV
Every year we take up the task of planning how to celebrate our daughter’s birthday. For the first five years of her life tradition held for a trip to Chuck E Cheese, whether it was a full pizza/game party or just a family outing. Then the pizza parlor/arcade closest to our home went out-of-business and so ended the tradition.
It was around the second grade that our daughter began hating her birthday. The acting out behaviors would begin late July, early August and last sometimes until October. She becomes easily agitated, her temper is quick to flare up, her responses to requests to do her chores or homework surly and disrespectful, she is in constant need of reassurance of our safety and our love and all because she hates her birthday? The birthday is the object of her anger but what she hates is the symbolism of her growing up. Our daughter would like to stay five forever!
This year we are midway to her birthday and the tween hormones are also adding flavor to the cake. Not only is she making the last steps of childhood as she starts high school, changes classes on her own, has a locker with a tricky combination lock but her two best friends have moved out of her life. One went back to live with her parents and the other decided to just move on to other kids.
Parenting isn’t for the weak of spirit, that’s for sure! Our daughter asks for many things during this crisis time of her life. Some are reasonable, some are indulgences, some are impossible, and some possible and within our means but bad for her in the long term.
Last night when my husband and I took our family prayer time to surround her with ourselves, our love and prayers I thought about the words Jesus said recorded in Matthew 7:9-12. Our daughter has to be secure in her life regardless of her age changes. She needs to know that while a birthday is a blessing to celebrate, it is not a time to throw God’s prescription for life out of the window. Her dad and I are believers saved by grace, not perfect by any means, and we are capable of making parenting mistakes. But God is incapable of making a mistake.
God, Our Father, will not give her what can hurt her. He may gift her with challenges to teach her to rely on Him, but no vindictive suffering or self-indulgent excesses. We are all refined in the fires of life.
Our daughter, and we, will be just fine as we get through this birthday. She may never enjoy getting older, but we pray and work towards her acceptance of this annual event because as her parents we want to give her good things.
There are those children though whose parents would give them a stone instead of bread or a snake instead of fish. Or black eyes and broken ribs instead of birthday cakes and happy wishes. There are also those who in the name of love will spend incredible amounts of money and time using a birthday as an excuse to be overly indulgent and another way of teaching their child to be self-centered. For some kids birthdays are no celebration because they are not cherished, not loved, whether over-indulged or abused they suffer harm. Our daughter is fortunate that this isn’t the case with her.
Never saying no, not setting limits, and not having clear boundaries is a recipe for a parenting disaster. While always saying no, having barricades instead of boundaries and letting the only limit be the sky is equally a recipe for a parenting disaster. Loving your child as God loves them, however, is a recipe that has the most hope of being one for God’s type of success.
Sometimes the world clouds our vision of which parent type is the one providing fish and bread and which are providing stones and snakes. Jesus can clear up your vision if you are willing to allow Him too. This too is certain!
Parenting a tween.