In less than 20 minutes they were changed. When my girls left the apartment to go play with their friends they were the girls I’d always known. Full of laughter. Full of energy. Full of plans.
“Okay, you go get Channah and Abi and Natan and I’ll go get Devorah and Tamara and we’ll meet back at the park.”*
They returned only a few minutes later with tears in their eyes. The light that usually radiated from their faces was replaced with something that I knew I couldn’t avoid, but hoped would be delayed until they were much older. Mean girls had said mean words. I saw past the tears on their cheeks and saw their souls and realized I could never undo what had been done.
My oldest was angry. “Who do they think they are?” She was mortified and humiliated that girls younger than her would reject her.
My youngest was heartbroken. “How could they?” She is a giver and a lover. And her greatest gift, friendship, was refused.
I held them and we cried together and I prayed for them. And then I spent the next week wrestling with a gamut of emotions. I was angry.
If those girls ever show up at my door again I am sending them away with a piece of my mind! I was hurt.
How could anyone reject the purity of my girls’ friendship without care for how it would make them feel? I felt hopeless.
I guess it’s true. I can’t protect them from everything.
As my heart raced between emotions, it came to a startling halt at the realization of one very important truth. How I responded to this was actually of greater importance than the situation itself. You see, my girls and I truly do life together. Just about everything they know they’ve learned from me.
My oldest daughter is very nostalgic and dreamy. She seems to drift off to another time and place when she talks about chilly weather, warm fires, a great novel, and a cup of hot cocoa. She also gets extremely frustrated by the pressure of having to learn something new. “I just want to know it. Why do I have to learn it?”
My youngest daughter is silly and clever. She is also extremely hard on herself. We seldom have to admonish her for bad behavior because she’s already taken care of it and much harsher than we would.
These attributes, the good and the bad, they got from me. No, I never sat them down and said, “Now, you should love warm cozy afternoons and you should inflict harsh punishment on yourself.” All of these things they learned simply by watching me.
This time would be no different. Although, it might be more critical.
This is parenting. This is discipleship. This is a divine calling.
In ancient Israel, a Rabbi would select his talmudim, his disciples, and they would walk with him and talk with him and learn from him so much so that the end result was a mirror image of the rabbi right down to mannerisms, voice inflection, and facial expressions.
This awareness always leaves me trembling with holy fear. What I am today, my daughters will be tomorrow. When I become angry, they will be angry. The circumstances that make me giggle will one day cause them to stop, pause, and smile. And in the situations where I struggle, wrestle for a bit, but resolve to offer grace, they will one day offer grace from an unclenched heart.
Days later the neighborhood girls apologized and came over to play. When they walked into our apartment, I greeted them with a smile and took the three minutes it takes to make microwave popcorn to ask the Lord to give me the grace to offer grace.
*The names of the children have been changed in order to protect them from the possible scowls and wagging fingers of mamas all over the world that may show up in our Jerusalem neighborhood and have also dealt with mean girls.