Two of my daughters decided to take me up on the invitation to go on a late afternoon jog. We weren’t 20 yards from our starting point when my youngest daughter Gia started to complain. (I already expected this of course because I know her all too well).
I was able to keep her motivated for a whole mile, but she soon started asking her sister and I for a piggy back ride! We humored her for the next half-mile, but when she realized that we had a steep uphill walk to get back to the car she all but lost it!
She begged and pleaded to quit. She asked if we could hitchhike, call Daddy to pick us up, call a cab, anything!
I realized that this was so much of the parenting experience with each of our kids. We walk beside them and encourage. We walk behind them and push them uphill. We walk ahead of them and show them it can be done.
And just when the words “I can’t do it!” made it past her lips, I had a choice to make. I could piggy back her and save her from having to do the work. I could tell her to “suck it up” and trudge ahead. Or I could point out a destination and say, “Look, I bet you can make it to that lamp post!” or “I’m sure you can make it to that sign!”
We can break the big goals down with them so they can experience small successes! This is true with just about anything in their lives, whether it is athletics, academics or even finding authentic faith. Our role is to lead them, one step at a time.
I pointed to this street sign and I rooted for her as she huffed and puffed uphill and of course, Gia translated this particular sign to be a “T” laying on it’s side, symbolic for the phrases “too far” or “terribly tired!”
And that’s when our job gets really hard. When they think they can’t take another step. When they want to quit because they don’t believe they can make it. What then?
I haven’t always handled this juncture very well. I’ve often been the “suck it up” parent I mentioned before. These days, I opt for a softer response. A hand on a shoulder that says, “I know you can do this,” usually while I’m praying silently that we can get through it with the least amount of drama. Guess what? The softer response wins hands down.
She made it to the finish line (our car) and assured me that she wouldn’t be attempting that journey again. I think she will join me sometime in the future–simply because she has tasted the success of reaching the finish line, one agonizing step at a time.
You didn’t hear much about Talia here. She did very well. She even volunteered to piggy back Gia to shut her up:-) I love these kids!