My teenaged daughter thinks she’s in love. She floats around the house, chattering constantly about The Boy. For every breathless discovery she makes I, too, am breathless. I know this story – we all know this story. Most of all, we know how it ends. It ends with change.

Right now, there is a delightful child twirling through my kitchen. She believes that love, particularly her love, will save the world. She believes in glass slipper magic and midnight kisses.  “Happily ever after” is the biggest thing on her mind. But I know that even if she finds happily ever after, she will not be this same child when she gets there. Once again, I am facing motherhood’s most dreaded closet, the one where we leave precious scraps of wide-eyed naivety and take out rich cloaks of adulthood. We hand these cloaks off to our children and hope they keep them warm and safe, but to us they just look like ill-fitting hand-me-downs to be grown into.

I am happy that she has reached this milestone. First love is so precious and I desperately want her to enjoy every moment, but I wish she were prepared for what she has twirled into. I wish she understood that she has chosen to give The Boy a piece of her heart and when she gets it back, it might not fit quite as perfectly. It will have been shaped by a story of its own. If she doesn’t get it back, he will hold it forever. Sometimes he’ll crack it a little and try to fix it. He could drop it. He could lose it. Regardless, he will be her first teacher about who she is on her own, apart from her family. That part of her heart that he holds will be the beginning of her beautiful story.

I would be less alarmed if The Boy were not her first love, if she were not radically consumed by thoughts of him. As a parent, I wish that her first love were Jesus so that her heart was already spoken for and The Boy just got added to the story she was already creating. God is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8). If He held her heart, she could weather a first love, a second love, and anything else without her foundation shifting (Romans 12:2). The pieces of her heart may still be cobbled together, but the biggest piece would be perfect and strong.

And here’s where the doubts creep in, the regrets, the feeling wholly inadequate to raise a child in this day. In the parental pressure cooker that is social media, there are countless Sunday photos of toddlers praying, little ones reassuring the weary that Jesus loves them, tiny hands dropping coins into offering plates. There are a million reminders that I did not do enough to raise the perfectly faithful child. Frankly, I didn’t even know about teaching my children these adult lessons until they were practically adults themselves. So when I hear about kids who have been so faithfully raised that they believe a dollar is only .90, I am convicted and fearful for the upbringing my children had in this noisy, imperfect, and barely-tithing home.

But God. He steps in with His promises and soothes my heart. I pray for her and I know He hears (Psalm 66:19-20). I know that He chose me in my brokenness to be this child’s mother and walk her through a life in this world (Psalm 139:13-16). I know He honors my efforts. They were paltry, but at the time, they were the best I had and He had compassion for the life I lived (Lamentation 3:22-23). And most of all, I know that she will find Him (Proverbs 22:6). She has to find Him on her own; it’s something I couldn’t do for her no matter how much I want to.

I want so much to hang onto this tiny twirler in my kitchen (she’s not tiny. When she’s next to me, she’s 6 inches taller than I am. But when she’s in front of me, she’s still a tiny girl who needs me), but she’s not mine to keep. Somehow, God trusted me enough that I got to hold her hand while she grew into the plans set forth for her life (Jeremiah 29:11), but she couldn’t possibly grow if her life was as perfect as I wanted it to be. Just like our physical bodies, our hearts, minds, and character all get stronger under strain.

This first love will change my daughter, there is no doubt, but I look forward to her next step into adulthood, for the cloak to fit a little better so it’s easier to see the beautiful stitching that holds it together.

Tiny Twirler

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