She rolled her eyes at me.
“Mom. I can do it. I don’t need help.”
I watched as my eleven-year-old daughter, dressed in costume and all made up for her dance rehearsal, bend over at the waist and attempt to corral her slippery-smooth hair into a high ponytail. “I know, but there are bumps. Here’s the brush. Smooth it out a little.”
She was exasperated with me; she just wanted me to leave her alone. This was the dance we’d been doing lately – I take a step toward her and she steps away to keep the space between us. Age eleven is when the independence starts to get real in our house.
But the hair – there were bumps.
“Look. If you just let me brush it up right here – in this one spot. Smooth it out. You can do the rest.”
She reluctantly let me help with the brush, but when it became apparent that I’d need to take over to get it all up in the hair band, she dropped her arms dramatically and sighed not a little disgustedly.
I threw my hands up in a display of peace. “Okay,” I said. “You’re right. You can do it. Do you want the brush?” She gave me a quick shake of her head and disappeared into the bathroom stall. Moments later she came out, hair all caught up in the ponytail. I pretended not to see the bumps.
“I couldn’t get them all out,” she admitted. “But I have to be able to do it myself. You’re not going to be there with me for the recital, and I’ll have to do it then. I need to practice.” She knew she had gone too far with her initial reaction.
“I just figured that if I am here anyway, I might as well help,” I reasoned. I left out the fact that my role as her parent is to instruct, model, and help.
“You could just go sit down and relax,” she said carefully.
It was a small battle, letting my child style her own hair. Bigger ones are coming. She has a strong mind and knows who she is and what she is capable of accomplishing. I wonder how hard it will be for her to relinquish control later in life when things get tough and she is unable to rely on her own abilities. I hope that she knows that her Father God is there for her then, to instruct, to model, to help.
It took me a lifetime to know this, to give up what I thought was mine all along, that which I compartmentalized and divvied up when I felt like it. I meted out portions of myself when the situation called for it - I was generous to a friend who needed me for a task, but not for another who called me up when I was busy. I showed unguarded love to my small children, but was chilly to my husband who forgot to pick up milk on the way home. It’s an exhausting way to live, constantly assessing the worth of things and deciding how much of myself to expend.
I forget when I figured out that God gives me the ability to do just what he planned for me to do, when I learned that no matter how capable I feel, there is another level of capability in me that was fashioned by my creator. Sometimes I catch myself having to learn that lesson again. Like my daughter, there are bumps when I attempt to do things myself despite his constant offer of help and guidance. God lets me go on ahead, stumbling and stopping and starting over and over again.
Thankfully he is there the whole time, watching me carefully and helping me smooth out the bumps with a different perspective, a life lesson, or simply his perfect guidance.
I regarded my daughter, proudly sporting her ponytail. It wasn’t perfect, but this battle was not mine to win. “Okay,” I told her. “I’ll go sit down. Come and find me if you need anything.”
“Okay,” she replied. She hesitated. “Before you go, can you help me with the hairspray?”
I smiled at her. “Of course.”
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)
Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. 1 Peter 4:11 (NLT)