Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]
Colossians 3:21 The Amplified Bible
My daughter is a free spirit.
She sings. Loud. She sings Disney princess songs and hymns. Praise songs and jingles. She sings her own personal compositions. Sometimes they rhyme, sometimes not. Her own songs are l-o- n-g. She sings about everything. Love. Jesus. Her Heart. Disney. Sometimes she throws in a line about gross bodily functions before cracking herself up because it is SO hysterically funny. (She’s 7.) She sings in the car and doesn’t care who stares. She will climb to the top of a playground structure and sing her songs to an audience in the sky. She doesn’t care if people can hear her. She wants people to hear her.
Please don’t tell her to be quiet.
She dances. She twirls. She vogues. She bounces. She skips. She runs when and where there is open space. She swings. HIGH. She calls out “Watch me!” and wants me to take her picture. This is what happy looks like.
Please don’t tell her to sit still.
She loves to dress up. She can’t watch “Annie” without pausing the DVD player for multiple costume changes. She “invents” outfits and hairstyles. She wears prints with stripes, pink with orange and mismatched socks for “flair.” She loves lipstick and jewelry. She loves pink. Not pastel pink. PEPTO pink! BOLD pink.
Please don’t “correct” her wardrobe selections.
She loves to perform. The fireplace hearth is her stage. She wrote a play when she was in pre-kindergarten. She sat in a chair for hours on a Friday night, writing on one piece of paper after another. When it was all said and done, written on each piece of paper were the lines of each character in her play. When I typed it up for her later, she knew immediately which paper to read from next as she dictated the dialog for me. The spelling was creative, but the play was complete with a hero, a villain, a quest, and lots of songs to sing.
Please don’t tell her to “act like the other kids.”
She finds wonder in so many things. A lizard hiding in the grass. A crushed acorn. The shape of a cloud. She can’t go for a walk around the block without stopping every few feet to pick up a leaf, pet a neighbor’s cat or point out something interesting. She wants to see everything and go everywhere. And she wants to tell you all about it. Because it’s made such an imprint on her, she believes she should share it.
Please don’t make absentminded comments when she’s talking to you. She’s smart. She knows.
Don’t get me wrong. She’s not wild and undisciplined. She understands that she should whisper in a library, sit quietly attentive and respectfully listen to her teachers in class, and wear her uniform to school. She understands that sometimes she needs to follow directions instead of direct her own elaborate scripts. She knows to share and to take something she finds to lost and found. She knows that if we forget to pay for the case of soda under the grocery cart, that we are going back inside the store to make it right. She knows proper manners for the using the phone, how to handle a laptop computer and how to carry scissors. She understands that she can’t break out of line at school to chase a lizard or twirl. She knows not to run in a parking lot and to look both ways before she crosses the street. She knows to wear shorts under her skirts so no one can see “London” and that she can’t wear makeup to school and church. She even knows the only time her belly button should show in public is when she is wearing a bathing suit.
What she doesn’t know yet is that someday she may be too embarrassed to express herself “out loud” like she does now. She hasn’t spent time with “that” person. You know, the person who will try to convince her that her free and confident self-expression is inappropriate or wrong. The person who will introduce doubt and self-consciousness.
I pray that when faced with that person – that criticism – she is confident enough to stand strong and be herself. I refuse to silence her just because of what other people might think. I refuse to force her to wear what I think she should or tell her that she should only wear two braids, instead of six. I refuse to make her sit down when there’s no reason she can’t run. I refuse to squelch her spirit – just because it’s different than mine.
Sometimes it looks like she is dancing without music. She’s not. The music is in her heart. We can hear it if we just listen.
Dr. Tim Kimmel
Grace Based Parenting
This devotional, entitled “freedom to be different.” was originally posted on Pragmatic Communion on February 19, 2008. It was inspired by the book, Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel and this little girl.