One Saturday morning instead of running into your arms, your young daughter runs onto the couch to watch her morning cartoon. You shrug your shoulders and get her breakfast. The next week the same thing happens. You begin to notice a decrease in the amount of times that she crawls onto your lap, or nestles her head in your neck or turns to wave before heading into the school building.
At first you are caught off guard. Then you wonder and slowly begin to mourn the inevitable ending of a stage. Finally you get used to the new norm and hope that the security you instilled in your young daughter through physical affection and verbal affirmation was consistent enough to stay in her memory banks as she journeys on the road into adolescence.
As parents, it’s instinctual to begin to push our young ones away incrementally. At first it may be mom weaning baby from the breast. Next it may teaching kids how to put on their clothes by themselves. For some dads it may be when your kids want to hang out with friends instead of go fishing or watch sports with you. Their total dependence on us must end at some point. At the same time, we don’t want to short circuit their natural need for parental covering. Sense of identity and security begins at home in the formative years. Some people believe that quality time is more sufficient than quantity time for young children. I don’t believe this. I’ve surprisingly found that even my teens actual enjoyed quantity time at least as much as quality time. The push into autonomy must occur at various points based on an individual child’s God-given developmental timetable. The push is necessary.
But then we see them adapting. And we realize that we miss the morning snuggle. Our maternal bosom or our paternal arms looked forward to “the embrace” before heading out the door to work. And we are tempted to pull these precious God-breathed souls back into us…to smell their hair, to be comforted that they are also comforted by our presence. The pull is normal.
Isn’t this similar to our Heavenly Father? He keeps his arms wide open and draws us into his sheltering presence. (Psalm 91) He delights when we come to him. He delights when we want to know more about him. (James 2:23) Relationship is powerfully precious. At the same time, our Heavenly Father tells us to go—go out and represent him in all that we do and say, especially to those people that have not yet recognized His reality. (Mark 16:15) At some point He wants us to let go of the childish stage of our faith journey and step into mature partnership with him. (1 Cor. 13:11)
A godly parent will reflect our Heavenly Father. We’ll push when it’s time for them to grow into another stage, yet desire to constantly remind our children that we adore them, that we will be safe for them, that we will always have open arms for them. The push is not to their detriment. It’s not based on our convenience. The pull should neither serve our own needs nor stifle their individuality. Rather both the push and the pull maintain the security of relationship and the value of growing up.