There’s a reason for everything under the sun. As the world turns, turns, turns, there are lessons we learn, learn, learn. (Can you name the song that inspired this?)
I have spent the last year learning to parent a prodigal, a kiddo who has stepped outside of our authority and is pursuing her own path. A prodigal has many characteristics: unteachable, deceitful, self-destructive, disobedient, selfish, wasteful, jealous, angry. The list is long and while some of the adjectives describe my kiddo, most do not.
It has easily been the largest challenge of my life.
It caught us off guard, her path. We weren’t prepared for the idea that one of ours would rebuke us and every single thing we had taught our daughters.
The first two weeks were a fog of panic and grief. Although she was breathing, she wasn’t breathing anywhere near me. I began learning the hard way that I had made some serious miscalculations, and my kid wasn’t the person I thought I had raised. Worse, I wasn’t the parent I thought I was.
From the time they were little, I worked so hard to make sure that my kiddos had qualities such as honor, trustworthiness, and kindness. Except in my push to make sure that they had the best childhood possible, I’m afraid that I overparented my oldest.
She dabbled in a lot of things. Gymnastics, scouts, art, but it was in karate class where she showed promise ... until it was sparring time. She talked a good game and could do all the moves, until there was an opponent in front of her. She wasn’t aggressive in the least and, as both of her parents are aggressive by nature, I fretted over this.
She would continue to grow and that passive nature grew with her.
So I started watching her closely to make sure that when she needed a hand, I was there. My goal was to smooth the way for her. I hoped to see her mature and grow in confidence, yet she would continue to try new things and then move on to something else rather than commit and dedicate herself to it.
And I continued to stand in the gap between her and anything that didn’t go her way. Looking back, I was not doing her any favors. Since I couldn’t get her to fight her own fights: the teacher that always called her by the wrong name ... even six months into the school year, the friend drama, the project that didn’t come easy I was her fighter who would step in and help.
I was laying the groundwork. The same cheerful, happy, loving kid was learning lessons I didn’t mean to teach. So when she walked away, she left me standing there holding my heart completely confused and feeling lost.
A split-second decision on her part moved our relationship from that of a mother and a daughter to a mother and a grown daughter. When she removed herself from my authority, I crumbled in the mist. At no point of motherhood was I prepared to let my daughter go — without guidance, without support and, frankly, since she made that decision, without my input. And the mother in me, she wept. I lost some of my footing in my very identity as I was her mom and then suddenly, I wasn’t. I was an outsider.
It was a true test of being a child of Christ. In my drowning state, I reached for him and he didn’t let me down. Between my cries and my prayer journal, he bore all the weight of the grief. I heard a sermon once that said, “Ask God to heal your heart from a hurt instead of waiting on a person, sinful and human, ask God to fix your heart instead.” And I balked at first, as my daughter may never heal that hurt but could I just hand it over to God?
God can heal anything, and almost a year later, I can smile when I think of my prodigal. I can text and call her without pain and judgment. I can love her in the moment and let go of the past.
At one point, we are no longer responsible for the actions of others. Thank you, Lord.