Trusting Our Kids to Live Their Strengths

Sometimes, I’m amazed at my own craziness. Like when I plan to go to the store at the last minute before dinner with hungry kids and a child with SPD who forgot her jacket. Or when I go hiking in flip-flops….

“Mom! Are you okay?” My 4 year old yelled over the rushing water that pushed at our ankles.

She held my hand tight as we both struggled to find our footing in the freezing, stony creek. The torrent yanked off one of my flip-flops, then the other. I laughed so hard I cried at that point – at my own silliness in shoe choice that day and because no matter how stuck we were, we’d just have to get through it anyway. Then I looked at my daughter and sobered. An easily overwhelmed child with SPD, she was cold, overwhelmed by the loud water, terrified it was so strong it stole my shoe.

So I flew into protective mode, and began to reassure her, even while I was slipping on rocks in the water. Just as suddenly, she composed herself and shouted, “Hold on mom! We can do this! We’re going to make it!”

Of course, she was right. We made it across the 10-foot wide creek just fine.

Then my daughter broke down in hysterics. The stress and relief together overwhelmed her. She started screaming, running away. At home, I’d wrap her in a soft blanket and let her cry as long as she needs for the feelings to subside.

Which was NOT going to happen while I hopped around barefoot on the scalding, rocky shore, wondering how burned and scraped my feet would be after I traveled the rest of the mile to our cabin!

So I grabbed my wailing daughter by the hand, and ran-skipped across the rocks and sticks with my older daughter racing up ahead, yelling directions to the next patch of cool shady ground in front of us. I called back to her sister, encouraging her, comforting her, thanking her for her strength in the creek, and occasionally trying to make jokes about the situation to lighten things up.

We made it back to the cabin, my feet only mildly scraped and tender, which amazed me completely! Even more amazing, though, was what I learned about my daughters. So often with my girls, I try to buffer them from the impact of emotional challenges. To protect them (and, honestly, to spare us all) from meltdowns and stressors. I become the two-headed mom, doing everybody’s emotional work at the same time. (Which is probably part of the reason I end up packing flip flops for myself on a trip to the mountains in the first place!)

But as I watched my sensory-challenged 4-year-old become, in a moment, a strong and reassuring leader – even with the emotional meltdown! – I realized God’s care for her is beyond what I can engineer. He’s watching out for her and helping her grow up okay and handle the challenges she faces. I don’t have to do it all, feel it all, control it all… or be mommy with two heads, thinking through everything for everyone in the family.

Sometimes life’s going to rip off our kids’ flip-flops off and put them in tough, rocky places. Sometimes they’re going to have to just bare down and run through scalding terrain to get to where they’re going in life. And after our ordeal I know my girl will be ready when life takes her on a barefoot hike.

Will you trust that for your child too?

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