I don’t have too many parenting regrets at this point. Sure, I wonder if we’ve made the right choice about certain things, but we’ve prayed and researched and made the best decisions we could with the insight we had at that moment. But I remember realizing at one point that I had stopped seeing my child as a beautiful gift from God and instead as a problem to be solved.
And that immediately filled me with regret.
It took me aback and made me realize I had to adjust my thinking about her, me, and everything we were doing.
A Child is Not a Problem
Notice I didn’t say she was a problem. She isn’t a problem and never has been. But she has puzzled me at times, made me scratch my head, required me to spend
hours days weeks months years trying to figure her out, and challenged me in ways I never expected.
Parents of children who take a bit more figuring out will understand what I’m saying. Some children are a bit of a puzzle. There are different pieces that don’t seem to easily fit together. Sometimes you can’t even clearly see all the pieces you are working with even though you know they all have to be there because God has created this wonderful little human being! But at times it can feel a bit like trying to put together a puzzle in the dusk with several of the pieces turned over so you can’t see what’s on them. You know it’s all there, but you can’t figure out exactly how it all fits together properly.
The Problem with Seeing a Problem
But seeing a child as a problem to be solved is a problem itself in so many ways.
It may mean you’ve bought into the idea that there is a standard of “normal” all children must adhere to. Seeing the individual quirks of a child implies that there is something “wrong” with your child. The reality is that “normal” encompasses a huge range of variety. Normal should not be based on the expectations written by faceless bureaucrats who know nothing about my child or yours.
When a child is viewed as a problem, your child becomes a project, something to research. We look at her as a group of symptoms, idiosyncrasies, and quirks to figure out instead of a delightful child wired in an amazingly complex but GOOD way.
When we see a problem, we forget that this is her childhood. She only gets one shot at a happy, secure childhood to launch her into a healthy adulthood and we’re the ones that give that to her. Her childhood should not be filled with thinking she is a problem to be solved.
Approaching our child as a problem to be solved rather than a gift to be embraced and enjoyed can cause emotional distance between the parent and child as we deal with the sometimes very strong emotions that come with parenting a child who takes some figuring out.
Embracing the Child You Have
So what did I do?
First of all, I reminded myself that my child is a wonderful human being, created by God, and given to me as a gift to parent and prepare for her own life.
Second, I reminded myself that my child is a CHILD. She’s a little girl. She’s not an adult. She’s not a teen. She’s a funny, thoughtful, kind, creative child and I should do everything in my power to give her the freedom to be exactly who she is.
Third, I reminded myself that trying to search for answers is about making her life better, helping her understand who she is, and giving her the best tools to live her life. It’s not primarily about making my life easier although that will often be a benefit of the journey.
The focus should always be about stewardship of her life, gifts, and person.