I was 25, young, flush with youth and passion, and full of ideas on how to raise my brand new baby. My heart wore the scars of laying my first child to rest, and I knew that nothing, at any time, was ever going to be allowed to harm or hurt the precious child I held in my arms.

Oh, the ideals of being young.

At three she stood at the picture window, mask over her sweet, blue-eyed face and pointed at the neighbor children playing in the yard next door. “Play, Mommy?”

No matter how I tried to explain it that she could not go out and play, that we had just gotten home from the hospital and that we needed her to gain weight and grow strong, that those sweet, precious children next door both had colds and would get her sick all over again, it just never sunk in. Instead we both stood and watched as they built a snowman, and my heart broke a little bit inside at the wistfulness on her face.

And then there was the time that we decided she was healthy enough to enroll her in the local private Christian school. Second grade, petite and sweet, filled with hopes and dreams and excitement. How did we know that literally months later, after six weeks of missed school, and 20+ lbs dropped off her frame to where she looked like a refugee from the starvation camps we would have to break her heart again and tell her that she was coming back home to home school?

We didn’t, or we would never have broken her heart that way. Ever.

Fast forward another six years, and let me tell you, I have learned over

and over

and over again

how hard it is to be a parent.

But I come to you today, not as a parent who professes to have all the answers, but as a parent who just wants to pass on what I have determined to learn from my mistakes. If my words help one single mom or dad out there who is feeling like a failure, who is watching their teen child suffer, and encourages them to try again to do the right thing, then I am counting this all for gain, and wiping the tears away.

I have a beautiful, precious, precocious, march-to-the-beat-of-a-different-drum daughter now. She was a challenge at 2 and remains a challenge at 14. She loves passionately, weeps dramatically, dances a mean Irish step dance without any training, drives me to distraction with her intelligence (if you have ever asked a home-schooled child a question about ANYTHING, you will understand this), and……..

she is lonely.

I wish I could tell you that I have faith this will go away in her life. I wish I could share with you the heartbreak, and struggles, and pray there is a silver lining. I do, oh my friends, I do. I pray every day for this sweet and amazing child that I am incredibly grateful to be the parent to.

I don’t know what it is about the other girls her age, but at best they are patronizing and at worst they are downright cruel. I hear other parents talking about their daughters starving themselves for acceptance of their body type, or changing everything that is real and true and genuine about themselves just to please their current circle of friends, and I am grateful that, in some ways, she is not as exposed to that as she could be.

But it hurts.

When your child is so lonely that they follow you around the house and just want to engage in conversation…or have stopped calling “friends” because their answer is always no…or have decided that perhaps the “best friends” they will ever have are 2-3-4 years younger than them because they are kinder……….well, you break down and cry, and pray, and hope that someone, somewhere has some wisdom for you.

You see, I was one of those children too. Bullied, tortured really, by all the other girls my entire childhood, and when I was my daughter’s age I decided that I was tired of being the odd-girl out. I decided that no matter what it took, I was going to fit in, and not care about the consequences of what that would cost me.

I will tell you what that decision cost me.

It cost me my dignity. My health, as I developed a severe eating disorder. Many of my high school friends will most likely read this and say they did not know. That’s ok.  Sometimes the worst things we do to ourselves we do in secret. It cost me my self-respect, and many other things. It cost me a good part, some of the most precious things a person has, and affected my future for years.

All so I could fit in for a short time and have friends.

I don’t want that for my precious and beautiful daughter. I don’t want her to take that road and think that what other people say, and think, and share about you is more important than what you, and God, think about you. I don’t want her to lose her inner beauty, question if she is worth anything, or lose a single part of the unbelievably fun and creative spirit that God created her to be.

So here, as a parent, is what I have decided to do. This is my plan.

I am, and will always be, for as long as this precious child needs me to be, her very best friend. I will always strive to say the things that will lift her up, gently show her the right way, feed and nourish her spirit, and comfort her. If that means giving her a thousand hugs a day, or lay down on the floor with her while she is sobbing her heart out at the cruel words that are thrown her way by other girls, then I will do it. If it means that her birthday invitations go unanswered and the parents I call give lame excuses, I will show up, dressed to the nines, and show her that to me, to US, she is one of the most precious things I have ever been blessed with.

And I will do my very very best to soften each and every unkind word that is sent her way, from well-meaning adults, and children.

After all, that is what a parent does, right?

Let me tell you something, please. It is so so easy for us to get caught up in all the things WE need to do, that sometimes we forget, as parents, what we should do. Make no mistake, my kids will never lose sight of the knowledge that I am their PARENT and as such have authority in our home that is given in love. But sometimes, parents, we also need to remember that WE are the ones that are supposed to be guiding and nurturing our children through the rough spots.

It is easy to lose sight of that, and I know I am not the only one guilty of that mis-step. I know I am not. But I also want to put my voice out there for the parents whose children are hurting. You see, I was their youth leader for years and years. I have heard things from kids that they were terrified to tell their parents because they wanted to avoid “bothering them” or “upsetting them”. I was one of those kids too.

I guess I really just wanted to put this post out there today to tell you, be what your child needs to the best of your ability. Love them. Show them favor and encouragement so much more than you show them anger and irritation with where they are. Engage them, and enlist their help. Sit down on their beds and ask what is going on. Explain gently to them that everyone, everyone makes mistakes and hide behind them.

Explain how to choose grace and act in mercy.

Pray for guidance and seek wisdom.

And I will pray for you, knowing you are praying for me.

Thank you for listening today.

Blessings to you and yours,