Recently I was talking to a friend about some struggles she was having with her 10 year old daughter. My friend, who is a wonderful mom, was worried that she had messed up too many times and because of her own struggles with being open, would not be able to build the things with her daughter that she wanted in their relationship. Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged when we are so conscientious and long to do all things well in our parenting. We bring our own issues that we’re working on to the table and worry that God won’t grow us fast enough to help those we love and live with. Even after our kids are grown, it can be easy to look only at our regrets and forget the good things we did and how God worked in spite of our lacks. But in reality, each of us has to walk our journey with God, family, friends, and self regardless of what bumps we have in life, and kids without perfect parents will need Jesus. Focusing on the positives instead of the lacks and remembering that mistakes make good lessons helps keep me encouraged.
As I was talking to my friend, I had a little “aha” moment. It occurred to me that relationships work pretty much the same with all ages. So if we are working on relational skills and cooperating with God as He works on our issues, we can be assured that we will grow–and our relationships will flourish regardless of age. Yes, we are going to mess up, but repairing ruptures and returning to joy are part of those skills we can practice in any relationship.
Here is what I told my friend in an email:
“It is definitely not too late for anything with your daughter. She is young. Wanting to be with her friends is fine and normal. It’s what you do when she is with you that matters the most, not just the length or amount of time. Keep being relational through all the periods of her life as much will change, but being relational is basically the same with all ages. She will respond to your humility and vulnerability as you confess when you mess up and share inner things with her. You will have lots of bumps in the teen years, but the foundation you are building now will be good and that will help. Treat her somewhat like you do your girlfriends, in the sense of relating, but not necessarily sharing the same things as age appropriate. Openness and vulnerability and authenticity and humility work with all ages. You know these things. (Interesting, I don’t think I have ever put this into words like this before. I think I’ll write a blog about it.)”
And I did. So think about how these ingredients for a great relationship fit for most age groups: Being open, vulnerable, authentic, humble, approachable, kind, interested, accepting, loving, joyful. The list can go on. . .