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My daughter is turning 13 on Saturday. I’m kind of stuck between feeling very proud and very old. She’s an incredible young lady – responsible, smart, caring, conscientious. I don’t pretend I’m the one who made her that way, but I’m definitely reaping the benefits.

I talk with lots of other moms who are in the same boat as me, just trying to keep our heads above water and hoping our kids don’t end up in therapy because of us. And then I talk with the kids who ended up in therapy because of their moms. Lots of kids who are now adults and just wanting to forget and start over and make the pain stop. I find myself asking if my kid will one day be sitting in a counselor’s office trying to do the same things.

As I’m asking these questions (and breathing heavily into a paper bag), I’m strategizing. Even though I know I can’t keep her from harboring bitterness against me because of my mistakes, I want to do everything I can to foster a culture of love, forgiveness, and grace in our house. Here are some things I’m trying:

Dating

Almost every Saturday, my daughter and I go on a coffee date. We’ve been doing this for almost a year. I’m not sure if she really wants to spend time answering all my weird questions, but she sure likes her mocha frappuccino. I ask her how friend stuff and boy stuff is going. I ask her what struggles she’s facing. I ask her what God is teaching her. And I tell her about what I’m facing as well. Of course she doesn’t have to know all the gory details, but I figure this is what it looks like to slowly become more of a consultant and less of a command-giver. If she doesn’t see that I’m human, she won’t be able to have grace for me. So we drink our coffee and I listen to her talk about the drama that is seventh grade. And I try not to tell her how she should handle every situation. I find that if I ask her how she’s handling it, I’m pleasantly surprised at her wisdom.

Location, Location, Location

I want to put myself in a position to be near to what my daughter is doing. She doesn’t do her homework upstairs or play on the computer by herself or talk on the phone behind closed doors. She isn’t connected to facebook or twitter. I know which contacts are in her phone, and she knows the phone belongs to me – therefore, I can look at her messages at any time I choose. This was the rule the moment she got a phone, and it will be the rule till the the moment she moves out of the house. Privacy is not a right for teenagers – it’s a privilege. She is earning greater privileges as she proves her trustworthiness, but it’s a slow process.

Be Messy

She’s way past the age of thinking I never mess up. Trying to hide it from her only makes me look more like a hypocrite. So I make it a point to tell her when I make mistakes. She’s starting to hear more from me about my bad attitude, poor choices, and shortcomings. I have found that when I talk about these things with her, she’s more prone to talk about her struggles. She knows it’s ok.

It’s only going to get harder from here. We’re at the tip of the iceberg, and I know I could sink this ship at any moment. I’m destined for failure. Fortunately I’m not alone – I’m adopted by a Heavenly Father who wants even better things for my daughter than I do. He is her protector and helper, so I can trust Him to do the hard work and let me walk alongside her for this journey.

Happy birthday, sugarbear. And have some grace for your dad – he’ll be buying his first shotgun soon. It’s probably a couple of years till you start dating, but you can never be too prepared.

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