“Why not Europe?” I said. “Other kids go to Europe.”
“I don’t want to be like other kids,” she said.
I prayed about it,” she said, “and I think this is something I’m supposed to do.”
“Anyway, I probably won’t be picked,” she concluded.
I prayed about it too, as did her father. She was picked. She went to India for about five months, stayed in rooms where the roosters awakened them early every morning, and ate cereal crawling with ants. She studied in university classrooms where monkeys came in through open windows and stole their lunches, got her nose pierced, contracted a nasty intestinal bug, and had to visit a hospital with less than ideal standards to get an IV.
“I would have told you,” she said, “but I didn’t want you to worry.” Right . . .
I endured criticism from a number of other parents: “How could you let her go? India is a dangerous place. Aren’t you afraid she’ll catch something?”
I spent my first Christmas without her. I cringed when she told me she had gotten her nose pierced. Nevertheless, she came back home to us safe and sound, looking thin, but better for the experience.
Today she is the mother of four daughters—all with a flair for independent thinking. I imagine that one day soon one or more of them will want to do something she considers risky or unnecessary. I’m betting they will push the boundaries of her comfort zone and have her wondering how much rope to give them and how soon to give it.
It’s hard being a father or mother, especially as our children grow and become more independent in their thoughts and activities. What kinds of music are they listening to? What kinds of books are they reading? How much screen time do they have and what are they seeing on those screens anyway? Who or what is influencing my child the most?
What are parents to do when someone or something besides themselves starts gaining traction with their child? What is the best way to raise a thoughtful, self-confident, compassionate young leader in troubling times such as these?
In her book, Give Them Wings, Carol Kuykendall offers some pointers for parents:
With each passing year, I see my daughter’s children growing, maturing, and advancing in life making more and more choices of their own. I know they are loved. I know they’re surrounded by supportive adults. I hope that a few years from now their parents also will have the courage to let them go when they want to spread their wings and fly. And then again, given their children’s DNA, they might not have a choice.