Friday, August 17, 2012

How to instill confidence in our daughters

After our road trip to Indiana, it took me several days to get up the gumption to climb all the way into the back-back of my van (I mean, who knows what I might find back there) and unbuckle Jayci’s carseat so I could anchor it back in the seat right behind me. My laziness led to many unfortunate disagreements because I could never quite hear what Jayci was trying to ask me, leading her to frustration and much whining; which, obviously, then caused me to also be frustrated and possibly a little whiny myself. Despite our communication breakdown, Jayci loved having her carseat way in the back, because then Zack could sit next to her.

And the other day, I overheard this conversation between the two of them (don’t ask me how since I couldn’t normally strain my ears hard enough to hear even Jayci’s loudest pleas):
Jayci – I follow my friend whatever she does.
Zack – You don’t always have to follow her.
Jayci – YES I DO!
Zack –You can be a leader and she could follow you.
Jayci – But when I tell her “come this way” she will just go the other way and not listen to me.
Zack paused for a minute, meeting my eyes in the rearview mirror before telling Jayci: But even if she doesn’t follow you, you can still go the other way. You can still be a leader. (have I mentioned how much I love my Zack?)
I’ve since moved Jayci’s carseat to the middle row (although I still haven’t cleaned out our van since the road-trip. Jayci may or may not have told me it was ‘disgusting’ the other day). But I still can’t get their conversation out of my head.

We walk into her first day of preschool, and Jayci suddenly falls silent, her fingers popping into mouth and her eyes locked on the ground. And I think about their conversation.

My grandfather visits, and we watch home movies from when I was an awkward middle-schooler, and I see my own head ducked to the ground, my hand covering my mouth and my voice shaking with insecurity.

How can I reach her with truth? How can I instill confidence in a girl, formed in my womb, so deeply embedded in my heart? This is exactly why I was scared to have a daughter. I don’t know how to help her avoid the traps I fell into. Because I’m still not sure how I got there, or how I got out. No desire delves more deeply into my heart than that of seeing Jayci confident. Not SELF-confident, necessarily. More like God-confident. With a healthy identity, a whole and truthful view of who she is, who she was created to be. For her to look in the mirror and see what I see, not what she thinks she should see.

I open my eyes to see the clock mocking me: 2:45, 2:46, 2:51. . . 2:56 . . . . I brush blonde hair from her eyes, gentle disentangle her limbs from mine as she has ended up sprawled, somehow, lengthwise with her legs over my belly. I am laid low by her pink cheeks, her long legs, slips of wrists, purple nails, lashes rested on rounded cheeks. Her eyes pop open blue and sleepy, and I hold my breath, hoping she’ll sink back into sleep. She smiles at me, and says “mommy let's snuggle all night long.” And I smile back, sighing with contentment while also realizing that means I wont be getting much sleep. I’m what you might describe as a “particular” sleeper. I need my space and quiet and dark. Unfortunate requirements for any mother, let alone one with two little ones who don’t appear to enjoy any of those things.

Instead I lay awake, wondering how not to fail her.
And I realize somehow, as soft closet-light shines on her fingers clenched tightly around her pink monkey, that I WILL in fact fail her. And that I'll never be able to shield her from all the world’s hurt and lies and hate and darkness.

So I must always do my best to also expose her to the light, to the Truth, to love. To show her how to see it all through eyes of grace. And grace is what will carry her and me both through our shortcomings, through not knowing the right words to say, or the right way to parent my beautiful daughter into confidence. Grace covers. It heals, it brightens, and it makes us even more beautiful in the process.

I pray in the dark hours, in the middle of the night with her too-quickly-growing-up-self strewn across my bed. I pray for her, I whisper truth into her ears. And all day, I remind her that I delight in her, that even when I lose my temper, even when I yell at her to GO TO HER ROOM, I am still equally delighted in every part of her. And I meet her eyes in the rearview mirror and tell her I love her, every single time, even when she’s whining for a “special treat” or asking me the seven thousandth question for the day.

As a mom, I know just what I want to point Jayci towards. I want her to be brave, to stand up for what is right. I long for her to love those around her, to follow Jesus, to walk in Truth. I just don’t always know how to get her there. Her sin and my sin get in the way. My selfish desires or misplaced fears get my feet off the parenting path I so badly want to be walking. I see that Jayci is naturally quieter and shy. And I know those aren’t BAD things, I just see so much of myself in her, and I want to shield her from the hurt I walked through, so I’m tempted to tell her to change. To try and force her to be someone she’s not. But as I sit here and write these words and think of my beautiful girl, I quickly realize that’s not even a little bit what I desire for her. Rather, I her to know it’s ok to be shy, it’s ok to be quiet, to be an introvert. But I also want her to be confident and at peace with how she is shaped. Or if she’s not REALLY shy and just feeling insecure, then I want to get rid of the insecurity. Do you see how I talk myself in circles here? This parenting gig is harder than it looks y'all.

I don’t know a lot about instilling confidence in my daughter (and all the girls we work with really). But I do know this: I cannot do it alone. I desperately need to remember that God loves Jayci far better than I do, and He will carry her (and I) each step of the way. He will speak truth to her heart, and it is my job to point her towards it. I will beg God for patience, for forgiveness, for grace to cover my shortcomings. And I will ask Him every day to help me live by example.
Because I’m just as guilty of always going the way people want me to go, because I’m afraid no one will follow me if I turn in the other direction. But I think if I can be brave enough to speak up for truth, to write bravely and boldly about the things I believe in, even if I’m afraid no one will follow me or listen to me. To defend the causes and people I know matter, to be myself, to be ok with being an introvert, to write and take pictures. Because the important lessons are best learned lived out, for Jayci and for me alike.

So I will keep seeing beauty even in that which is broken. In the swaggering teenager who barely lets hope flicker in his eyes. In the ever-growing cloud of kiddos who surround us each morning as we walk to school. In the abandoned homes and forgotten children, in the loud kids and the quiet ones alike. Won’t my LIFE always speak louder than my words to Jayci? Wont I be telling her, by example, that we are all worth it? Or rather, than none of us deserve this dazzling grace but that God bestows it freely and calls us worthy anyways?

I tuck her under my arm, close my eyes, knowing I will never fall asleep, but content to hold her golden head close and breath in her nearly-four-year-old self for as long as I can.

How about you? Any suggestions or practical ways to instill confidence in our daughters?

11 comments:

  1. That was a sweet conversation between her and Zack. I'm so glad I got to witness it!

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  2. Girl, you got it goin' on!!! You are totally where you need to be- pointing her to Light and Truth. She will undoubtedly grow up in to a strong woman of God and then RISE UP AND CALL YOU BLESSED!!! I am as unsure as you are on how to do this thing called parenting, but I just feel compelled to tell you that even in your uncertainty, you are certain of what absolutely matters. Great job, momma.

    Now get that girl a pallet by your bedside so that you can get some rest! I've been there, done that!!! :)

    Much love to you today!

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  3. PS- you take amazing amazing amazing pictures all the time, but I think these take the cake. Truly.

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  4. I think this might be my favorite post now ... not just of your post, but out of all the post I have read. Hugs to you!

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  5. I read something the other day that I totally have on my list to tell you about next week! It has to do with our girls and growing up and "rights of passage!" don't let me forget:) love you friend! Thanks for sharing your heart so bravely.

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  6. What an amazing conversation between her and Zack. LOVE it!!!
    Honestly I think you are already doing everything right Becca. She is being raised by two of the most giving, caring and loving people who are both filled with light and truth. That will in no doubt "rub off" on her. {{{HUG}}}

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  7. Sounds like we have the same daughter....fingers in the mouth and all! Pointing them to God is the best gift that we can give. You are doing a great job!

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  8. amazing post. totally makes me think. btw, what an amazing zack and jayci moment. one day, I know she'll remember it and all your "i love you" at the moment she needs them most. praying for all our babies (outside and under our roofs) to choose God's best for their lives.

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  9. I love this post. My beautiful daughters are 22 and 19, and I'm going to be an old lady and just tell you what you already know, that you're going to BLINK and she will be all grown up. My tiny little blonde 4 year old is now leading wilderness trips on the Canadian border. Her heart is utterly the Lord's. She is beautiful inside and out, and she is her own person. She is the *Lord's person. 2 pieces of advice in answer to your question: limit her exposure to the bad girls, and be prepared to have your heart break a little because going her own way means she's going to be alone sometimes. It's possible, I suppose, to be popular with friends and Christ, but I think that comes later, after your awesomeness has been matured. In the process of growing your baby might get stomped on by people who don't get her.

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  10. You are such an incredible woman and mother.

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  11. This post just got starred in my Reader. This is one of the most terrifying things about raising a daughter. It's a fine line too because there's confidence and then there's... a bit too much. I worry about how to make sure E is confident in who she is without taking it too far. Does that make sense? But that comes from a Mother who has the tendency to be too confident and occasionally needs to be brought back down to Earth. It's scary how much responsibility we have to these girls. Thank goodness we don't have to do this alone :)

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