My daughter was backing away from me and I didn’t like it. I peppered Erin with questions and she resisted more. We had reached the middle school years. My insecurity as a parent flared up as I felt my daughter slipping through my grasp and I didn’t know how to make it better. I wanted to know everything about her life. And in my panic at losing my influence, that became the most important thing – regardless of how it affected her.
“Mom, you just keep asking me so many questions!”
“But, if you would talk to me more, I wouldn’t need to ask so many questions!”
The more we talked, the more emotions flared and finally, I broke.
Through tears, I exclaimed, “You need to give me a break! This is the first time I’ve raised a child in middle school.”
I was as surprised as she was at my tears. It wasn’t like me to cry, to show vulnerability, to admit my inadequacy. But, in that my moment, my pride broke, her resistance waned, and our relationship softened.
Although I didn’t have space to reflect on it at the time, I now see that this experience was a pivotal moment for my relationship with my daughter and my understanding of freedom in relationship. My strong emotions in the midst of our conflict surprised me enough to re-evaluate my role as a parent and give my daughter more space to mature and grow.
In his book Reason for God, Tim Keller observes, “One of the principles of love… is that you have to lose independence to attain greater intimacy.” I realize now that I was placing supreme importance on my “right” as a parent to know everything about my daughter’s life, without considering how that constrained her freedom to grow and become more independent with age.
As my pride receded and I could share the sense of inadequacy that I had been afraid to reveal, our relationship shifted. In surrendering the tight control I held over my daughter, I gave Erin more freedom to become who she was meant to be as an emerging adult. And in that exchange, God gave me the gift of greater intimacy with my daughter that we continue to enjoy.
This mother-daughter exchange of control and vulnerability is a glimpse into the great exchange Jesus made for us. He gave up all his life in order to rescue us from the constraints of sin – to make us free! As we embrace that truth, God invites us to release our pride and our fear of earthly constraints, to let go of those things we hold on to for dear life. In their place, He empowers us with the freedom to love – even in the middle school years.