Deborah, Barak, and Solos
My oldest daughter, now seven, sang her first solo Sunday night at church. It was a short, little line with, as she pointed out to me, 17 words. I watched her, nervous and proud all at the same time. She knew her cue. She knew that if she did not move quickly enough to the microphone the song on the track would move on and she would not get to sing her lines. She was fast. She was confident. Her words were loud and clear. The experience culminated in a twenty second moment in time. She walked away pocketing an experience that left her with a drop more confidence that she COULD DO IT.
I am not a big pusher of performing on stage. I appreciate a good performance, but my daughter being a star singer is not that important to me. I care more about what this experience gave to her, more about the words she memorized, the words that were planted into her heart mostly because she had to sing in front of a lot of people, wanted to do a good job, and really wanted to not be embarrassed.
Work with enough families, enough mothers, enough daughters and in the midst of all their beautiful intricacies, certain patterns begin to emerge. For example, the age of about 7-11 is sometimes a difficult transition for daughters and moms. There are a lot of changes, a lot of struggling and wrestling. It is a beautiful, exciting time. It is also stressful and nerve-racking. More than once, a mom has come in for her daughter to be treated at this age. More than once, I have ended up working with mom instead.
The mom will come in expressing a lot of anxiety about her daughter’s changes in behavior. Knowing that anxiety exacerbates any changes that are taking place, one of the goals is to calm the anxiety. One aspect of getting at the root of anxiety is to determine the root cause of it. Part of this process involves doing a thorough family evaluation. I ask a lot of questions about the family’s background, often going back a few generations. Sometimes, these questions perplex parents. Why do I need to know if a mom’s family of origin had any domestic violence?
A few steps into this process of asking mom questions, a tender spot is stepped on. Tears well up. I slow down. Holy Ground. Source of anxiety has been touched. Mom went through unspeakable pain. At age 7. Or 8. Or 9. Or 10. Or 11. Whatever her daughter’s age is. Right. Now.
We don’t have one little girl in the office. There are two. And, one is still so scared and hurt and devastated that she will do ANYTHING to keep this new little girl from having to EVER go through that same pain again.
Parenting is such a mystical thing to me. Mystical in that in some deep ways, it is a chance for us to grow up…again. As we parent our children, we can encounter, if we are willing, areas of our lives where we are still children who need to grow up.
Peter De Vries wrote: “The value of marriage is not that adults produce children but that children produce adults”. To fully enter into the parenting crucible, we are faced with the task of “growing up” those parts of us that are still hurt little children. If we do not, we will end up parenting OURSELVES when we should be parenting our children.
Our children are not us.
When I was my daughter’s age, I had my first solo, too. I got up in front of my large church, scared to death, and with my soft voice…forgot my lines. I was mortified and desperately trying not to show it. When I got back to my place with the choir, the girl next to me said: “You messed up!” Oh, wow. I hadn’t noticed. Thank you for that information.
Watching Eloise, I was amazed. Amazed at her confidence. Amazed at how loud her voice was. Amazed…that she is not me.
Eloise is my daughter. She has my face structure. We share the same 1st grade teacher and the same elementary school. She has my painful ability to discern what is going on underneath the surface of conversations.
But, she is not me. And, she is not my husband either no matter how close in shade their eyes are. She has her own strengths and her own weaknesses. She has her own battles to fight.
In the book of Judges in chapter four, we read about the judge Deborah who was leading the people of Israel. Deborah called for the warrior Barak to see her and she gave him orders from the Lord. His orders were to go into battle against Israel’s enemies. Barak responded to Deborah. He said that he would go into battle, but only if Deborah would go with him. Deborah agreed. She made the trip with Barak to the place of battle.
However, Deborah did not go with him to fight. The morning of the battle it seems that Deborah woke up from bed first. The bible tells us that she said to Barak: “Arise…Behold, the Lord has gone out before you!” (Judges 4:14). Barak went into battle…without Deborah. The enemy was defeated.
Have you ever heard of Barak? Yeah, me neither…until a few years ago. The name I was taught in Sunday School on the flannel graph was the Judge, Deborah. Yet, she was not the one that was called into battle that day. Why was her role as a leader so important that we are taught to remember her above the warrior, Barak, who actually did the fighting?
I think Deborath, woman of God, probably a mother, had strength and discernment. Strength and discernment to know that Barak’s battle was not hers to fight.
So, I am going to keep trying to be Deborah for my children. Keep working on knowing that they are not me. Working on knowing that they have their own battles to fight and that I have to fight mine, have to grow up my own hurt, childlike parts, so I can have enough energy to call out the warrior in them.
Letting them sing their own solos.