It happened again this week.
We took our four young daughters out for lunch and the restaurant we chose employed a magician to entertain kids while waiting for their food. As he approached and saw me surrounded by four young girls, he looked at me and said, “Four girls, huh? Sorry dad!” This was followed shortly by, “Just wait until they’re teenagers!”
Now, I know that this gentleman, and the scores of others who say the same thing, mean well. I know they’re trying to be funny or generate conversation. I know they mean no harm. They’re echoing a common sentiment about girls who turn in to teenagers, probably without giving it much thought.
But can I be frank? If that sentiment were a person, I’d want to punch it in the face.
I cherish having four girls. Since the day they were born, I’ve never wanted anything else. How could I possibly wish that they were something other than they were? I don’t want “sons.” I want my children. And these four girls are my children. How can someone express sympathy toward that? This is one of the greatest treasures of my life.
Having girls gives me a front row seat to the exhilarating dance that will be their lives.
The oldest, Maddy, is compassionate, kind, and thoughtful. My heart fills with joy as I think about those summer evenings, sitting on the floor next to her watching the game as she leans over and says, “I love watching baseball with you Dad.” Ellie is fiery, imaginative, and passionate. I can see her now, walking in to school with the giant earmuffs with cat ears sticking up that she received for Christmas and wears everywhere she goes, whether it matches her clothes or is appropriate for the situation or not. Molly refuses to let me leave for the day without a hug and two kisses. She will often look down at the supper Beth made for her and say, “Mommy, this is my favorite supper.” She then gets up from her chair to give her a hug and a kiss. Charlotte is my last and is filled with more energy than the rest of us five combined. She’s learning where her eyes, nose, mouth, and ears are and dissolves into laughter when we finish our anatomy lesson with a poke in her tummy.
Their lives dance and weave together in a beautiful array. I have to exercise God-given restraint when someone apologizes that these are my children.
And you know what? I can’t wait until they become teenagers.
I can’t wait to guide them through those difficult years. I can’t wait to tell them when they’re struggling with their body image that they are, and always have been, and always will be, just as beautiful as their mother. I can’t wait to tell them that there is a beauty that God works in the heart through faith that is more precious than what can be molded through hairspray and makeup. I can’t wait to hold them when the world breaks their heart and remind them that they have a Father in heaven who works an eternal weight of glory in their pain. I can’t wait to shepherd them through the delicate balance of cherishing God-given authority (such as parents and elders and government) while also fighting hard for what is true and beautiful with indomitable conviction. I can’t wait to watch their interests blossom and get a front row seat to the unfolding plan that God has for each of their lives.
I. Cannot. Wait.
And I’m not looking at those years through Minnie Mouse colored glasses. I know they will be difficult. I know they will at times resist my guidance. I know there will be days when their heart is cold toward me. I know sometimes my biblical guidance will be muddled through my own impatience or their teenage eye-rolling, or I will speak when I should listen and make matters worse.
But these are my children. This is the awesome responsibility God has graciously given me. This is the dance that I get to train, direct, and then behold.
I wouldn’t trade it for the world.