This morning was a rare victory: I got my two-year-old to agree to let me do her hair. We decided she would wear pigtails. She sat still as I brushed it.
Then, in my attempt to give her “buy-in”, I let her pick the color of her hair ties. Yellow.
As I brushed her hair and separated it as she played with her baby doll, I
congratulated myself on having avoided the inevitable battle over her hair. Just as I was putting the finishing tie on the final pigtail, my daughter, out of nowhere, screamed, “NO!! PURPLE!!”.
Seriously? What about yellow? Yellow is a great color! She wants purple. Knowing there was no way I was going to take out the itty bitty yellow hair tie and replace it with a purple one, I quickly formulated a plan. Just pretend to take the yellow one out, grab a purple one, and pretend to put it in her hair. She would never know. I’ve pulled stunts like this before, with “more apple juice” when there is clearly an abundance of juice in the cup.
But at that moment, I remembered something a friend of mine told me. “Our job as parents is not to keep them from suffering, but to teach them to suffer well.”
As a parent, I am never going to be able to remove every hardship or
disappointment of my kids’ experience. I’m not even going to get close. The theme of suffering is all over the New Testament. We can expect to suffer in life, and as Christians, we are guaranteed it. Jesus tells us in John 16, “I have told you these things so that you might have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
It goes against every natural instinct as parents. Obviously, we do what we can to keep our children safe and secure, but we will not be able to keep them from every instance of suffering in life. Part of our job as Christian parents is to teach our children how to respond when they do experience suffering. And of course, that is going to look different at every age and situation. Maybe it means risking their reputation at school when they stand up for what is right. Maybe it means humbly accepting a poor grade on a test and resolving to do better. Maybe it means allowing
themselves to mourn a lost friendship. Or maybe, as for my toddler, it means learning that we can’t always get what we want.
This lesson is hard, not just because we want only good things for our kids, but also because many of us don’t know how to suffer well as adults. For this, we turn to Jesus and His mother.
Jesus, teach me how to surrender my desires.
Jesus, teach me to detach from worldly influences and possessions.
Jesus, teach me how to offer it up for the sake of souls.
Mary, pray that I may teach my children to suffer well, as you taught your son, who’s suffering and death gained the whole world in return.