Playing for keeps

In a few weeks, my husband and I will become parents of a teenager. I really can’t wrap my mind around it. The thought that came to mind as I was driving home the other day was that we are playing for keeps now.  Really, in the parenting game, we’ve been playing for keeps for a while now.  We are well past the point of being able to count on our kids forgetting our parenting mistakes.  For our oldest especially, her opinion of us as parents is pretty much already solidified.  We are no longer building her foundation, but building upon it, for better or for worse.

I gotta say – this just about terrifies me. What if we haven’t laid a good enough foundation for her? Has it been enough? Is there still time to correct the mistakes we’ve made? Do I even know what mistakes I’ve made?

It is really easy for me to stay right there in those anxious questions. They’re like a fog that settles over me or a tunnel that seems to be getting smaller instead of heading towards light. Sometimes, though, when I look up for a minute and see her, I have hope.

She is so beautiful it cracks something inside me. She loves fiercely. She faces challenges with courage. She knows what she likes and goes after it. She takes on responsibility with relish. She still plays hard and silly with her little sisters.  Her giggle can still light up a room when she lets it come out. She faces her own failures with grief and a desire to do better. She amazes us all with her creations – setting up the best train tracks for her sisters and cousins, building extravagant secret rooms in her minecraft worlds, making personalized Christmas presents for her family. She hates injustice of any kind. She stubbornly clings to what she believes is right.  She works hard. She hugs long.

What a gift it is to be her parent. I know it’s inevitable that we’ll butt heads as she continues to grow into herself more and more over the next few years.  Two strong-willed parents do not make weak-willed children, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, really. May we all have grace to get through it with our love for one another intact!

So, as I look forward to the last quarter of our parenting game with this oldest child of ours, these are the things I pray for:

  • that she would know how deep and how long and how wide and how high the love of God is for her
  • that her dad and I would not crush her dreams or her spirit in our desires to place healthy boundaries around her activities
  • that I would cast my cares and anxieties up to God and not down on to our family
  • that she will keep discovering more about who God made her to be and ignore destructive voices that only serve to tear her down
  • that she will learn from small mistakes and endure small consequences so she won’t have to suffer the big ones
  • that her dad and I won’t stand in the way of the life she’s supposed to lead, but that we’ll push her towards her dreams with the right tools for perseverance
  • that she’ll retain her quirks and individuality in a world that seeks to make everything uniform
  • that the only things she’ll feel entitled to are love and acceptance from her family and friends; everything else will come only through hard work, trials, and the grace of God
  • that the cost of tuition for college somehow goes down?!? ugh. but seriously…scholarships, God?? starting those prayers now!

I really love this kid. It’s gonna be all right, I think. Just excuse me for a minute while I go take deep breaths and cry in to my coffee.



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