The Real Life (Mis)adventures of Parenting: I Didn't Listen


Are you guilty of wanting your daughter to be the best—not for herself but for YOU?

I told her that she would have a two-week break from swimming.

I told her that because it’s what I *thought* the coach’s email had said.  But a subsequent email spelled it out much differently.  Swim practice would be held, and although they recognize that some swimmers would be out of town, for those of us still here, those of us who were extra dedicated, we could swim all our practices and then be allowed to *buy* a special t-shirt that would prove to everyone that we really were serious about our sport.

And so, I told her that we were dedicated ones.  We were serious.  And we would go to all four practices during her break.  And I bribed her with a trip to Sonic.  We made a deal.  We shook on it.

And then one morning, we went to the pool and no one from her usual class was there.  She knew no one except her coach and she declared that she would not be swimming.

And being the wonderful parent that I am, I threatened.  And I threatened.  And I threatened.  No lunch and in her room all day before church.  And she just stared at me and said, “Fine.”

Further proof of my excellent parenting skills, I started in on her about the importance of keeping a commitment.  I told her that she broke my trust because she said she would do something and now she was refusing to follow through with the promise.

And this was true.

But then she quietly whispered from the backseat that I had broken my commitment, too.


“Mom, you told me I didn’t have to swim for two weeks.  I told you I needed a break.  And now, you are going back on your word that I don’t have to practice.”

Can you say, guilty?

I was guilty of not listening to her desires.  I was guilty of trying to force her into living up to my high expectations of always going the extra mile.  I was guilty of wanting her to be at practice not because it was opportunity for fun, but because it was an opportunity to get a leg up.  I was guilty of wanting her to be the best for me and not for her.


With tears in my eyes, I told her that we both broke our commitments and that I was sorry.  But I told her that I was even sorrier that I hadn’t heard her heart.  She needed a break and I essentially told her that a break was unacceptable.  And I told her this because that is how I have lived most of my life.

The truth is, though, if I tune out the world and tune into God, I know that He doesn’t want her to waste the time that I did, doing everything at breakneck speed to try to be the best at something…at anything.  Further more, I know that He wants me to hone in on the heart of my daughter, to support her not so that the world can applaud me, but so that the world can applaud Him.

It takes time and relationship-building to see our daughters’ hearts.  They can easily become masked and cloaked and self-protected.  It is in the listening, it is in the “not-just-assuming,” that the heart has a chance to remain free of walls and false-pretense.  It is in the laying down and dying of ourselves that allows God to cultivate the soil of our relationships and, eventually, creates space for fruit to emerge.

Written by Jen Ferguson

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