Friday, July 26, 2013

Firsts, Falls, and Fruition

We celebrated a first for our children last weekend. It was kind of a big deal, and this mom forgot the camera (not my mother's daughter). We were invited to a birthday party at a local roller skating rink. The kids have seen our roller blades and often played with them, so when we told them that morning where we were going, they bounced off the walls, declaring their excitement for hours before we actually left for the party.

I was nervous though. I knew it wasn't going to be as easy as they thought, and that they didn't fully understand the hard work it would involve. I was afraid they would be frustrated and wouldn't actually have any fun.

They got there, put the skates on, and attempted to stand. Chastity's legs would have fallen right out from under her if I didn't already have a good grip on her arms. I walked out to the rink with her and helped her for a while, holding her wrists tightly and getting an amazing bicep workout in the process, while her legs flailed about, independent from her body.

After Elijah was able to gather his balance and he learned to use the wall to help, Jelani took over for me so I could relieve our friend from baby duty. She, of course, wouldn't allow me to take Isaac back, and told me to put on my own skates. While Jelani was still trying to keep Chastity upright, I joined Elijah's slow progress around the rink.

After watching him fall a handful of times, I wanted to hold his hand so badly, but we quickly learned that it made it even more difficult because he would rely on me too much and lose control a little bit. So I let go. As I let go, and watched him fall, repeatedly, I learned one of my most difficult parenting lessons to date. I learned that I sometimes have to watch my children fall.

I was watching him fall over and over and over, on his butt, on his hands, on his knees, on his elbows, and doing splits. Not once did he even wince. His face was so serious and so determined, I  became concerned that he wasn't having any fun, so I would repeatedly ask him, "Elijah, are you having fun?"


"Do you want to take a break and sit down for a bit?"


He was always very clear in his responses. I continued to skate next to him, watching him fall from only an arms length away, knowing there was nothing I could do. And it hit me.

This is parenting. This is life. My concerns were unfounded. He was having a blast, but it was breaking my heart. It was the first time something fun for my children was not fun for me. I had to retire from the rink to take care of Isaac and I was relieved to have the baby to distract me. Elijah had to learn to stand on his own two feet. He had to fall. He had to learn how to catch himself. And he would eventually grow stronger and be better.

Similarly, when God watches us fall, I believe it breaks His heart. But He can't do everything for us. He can't force us to stay upright. He gave us the gift of free will, and He wants us to learn and grow through our challenges. But He is there if and when we call on Him, walking right next to us.

We do our children a disservice by trying to hold their hands through everything when what they really need is for us to just be there to support, love, and encourage them. Right then, Elijah didn't need, or want, me to hold his hand. He just wanted to know I was there...watching.

This week, the kids learned to skate, Elijah learned to ride his bike without training wheels, and Chastity learned to finger knit. Mommy and Daddy learned how to let go just a little; just enough to watch them stumble, pick themselves back up, and ultimately succeed.

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