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 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. Â 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,Â
Wonderful Heather. So heartfelt…and so true.
I love you, my dear friend.
I love this post! I also was one of those children. Sometimes, my mom says the ones that get made fun of the most are the ones who have a sensitive heart to go and help others.
And I would say your mom had a big fountain of wisdom. What does not break you makes you more tender, in life and in faith. So consider yourself in that light, and keep right on helping others, Jill.
I was also an odd-man-out. Heck, I still am. I had a very small group of friends my whole life. My mom was my very best friend. She’s with Jesus now and I still miss her. No one gets perfect parents, but I know you (with God’s help) will be THE BEST parent your daughter could ever have. I will pray for her and for you.
lets start an odd-man-out club, ok Katherine? It is, after all, sometimes the best place to be, and I mean that. Thank you for your encouraging words
Yes I can appreciate the odd man out club too! And so can my daughter Sheri. Thanks for an encouraging post!
Heather, I. too, have a lonely child, but my “child” is 20 years old, living in a “12 year old mind” . Meagan has traumatic brain injury from being hit by a truck when she was 6 years old. My heart aches for her every day. She will never experience dating, courtship, being held by her adoring husband, hold her previous baby etc. It is very disheartening as Meagan is well enough to know she should be doing these things but not well enough to understand that she cannot. Praying tonight for our precious kids & their loving parents;)
oh Cindy……………….I will pray for your Meagan.
And hug you from here to there. <3
I am so so sorry.
I’ve been brushing back tears while reading this post and the replies. Not only was I lonely as I child, I am still lonely as an adult. And now my only daughter is lonely, too.
She has significant developmental delays that keep her from interacting socially with the girls in her age group. And the younger girls are mean to her as well because they are more academically and socially advanced than she.
I don’t know if she will ever have a friend, or a husband or children. And I won’t always be here to nurture and protect her. (My husband passed away a few years ago.) She has two brothers, but it’s just not the same. I covet your prayers for us.
Don’t get me wrong. God is still on His throne, and we are so blessed as a family. I just ache for my teenage daughter, and don’t know what to do for her.
This blog post is a blessing, for it let me know that I am not alone.
You made me cry. You are NOT alone. I will pray for your daughter, and for you. Sometimes the trials we are given are ones that do not end, but cause a deeper trust and patience and faith in Christ as He walks through those valleys with us.
Thank you for commenting.
My heart goes out to you.
I have to tell you I loved todays post and my heart feels for you and your daughter.
I don’t have any kids but I was one of those odd man out kids too.
We moved to a different continent when I was 9, never really had any friends all through college, except my parents. They made us a united 4 person family that could withstand anything.
My parent’s taught me to be independent and ignore what people say and think. Today that has made me an extremely strong person that can bend and withstand in any storm.
Keep doing what you are doing, your daughter will be better off for it. It may not seem to help now, but remind her that those casual friendships of childhood will not follow us into adulthood, we will constantly have opportunities to make new friends that we will not need to change ourselves for.
Heather, thank you so much for this beautiful post! I am pinning it to my “parenting” board on Pinterest so it can help other parents, too.
You hit a topic that’s been on my mind for a few months now. I was one of those kids, I am that Adult. (I am lucky to have a FEW dear friends that when I need them, somehow God puts me in their mind).
What have you found to help besides yourself? Which is amazing? I have several kids who are also homeschooled and we have struggled so much with the loneliness. We have tried co-op, youth group etc, but they still have this struggle. My kids and myself I have noticed seem to be very tenderhearted and caring about others, but also easily hurt by others. I think once in a while school would help them grow in this area, but then I hear your story and many others who have tried school and gone through even worse with the bullying etc. Man, it’s hard to help these little ones find their way, feel healthy and connected to good people and their families. I think that perhaps changing the direction of their thoughts to help them see how they can help others more really helps them feel good about themselves and change their perspective on what’s important. I have one graduated and three to go. Peace and blessings to you. Gretchen
I have found that being intentional about getting together with others is a key encouragement. Teaching your children that family can also be friends. Over time recognizing that this issue will wax and wane, and as they mature, will become less of an issue is a big one. I also have a couple ones that are tenderhearted, and are easily hurt. I look back now (my oldest is now 15) and am thankful that I never decided a public school was the place to “toughen them up” because in all honesty, it would have created scars that last a lifetime, not done anything but created a hard shell instead of what I hoped would happen. I have watched it happen to others’ children, and just cant see that happen to mine. Those tender, caring hearts are a gift, and part of a compassionate personality. Not something to be squashed. I completely agree with you that it is a teaching time, and a growing time. It will not always be an easy road, as the post relates, and there will be challenges, but the end result is worth it.
Thanks for your comment and God bless you and your family!