Memory Monday: Passing the Decision-Making Baton

My oldest daughter turned 10 a little more than a week ago. Besides making me feel old, this milestone in her life has come with the realization that she is well on her way to being a young woman and is no longer that little girl I can hold in my lap. Pretty soon, she's going to be as tall or taller than me. She has her own distinct taste in clothing that is different from mine and pretty distinct ideas about how she wants to do things. We discovered this weekend that with age come tougher decisions. When she was little, it was easy for us to be in control of every aspect of her life. We chose what she ate, what she wore, whom she played with and which adults would have a big influence on her life.

As she has grown, we've had to relinquish some control on many of those decisions. Don't get me wrong. We still exert our influence on a regular basis, but more and more it's in the role of offering advice on making good decisions. We still step in when we need to, but we are beginning to pass the baton of decision-making to her.

This weekend, we were faced with a choice that forced us to step out of our comfort zone and pass the decision-making baton to her -- with our input.

We've always tried to surround our kids with as many Godly adults as we can. If we have the option to have them coached or taught by a Christ-following adult, we've done our best to make that happen. We've made a lot of their sports and school decisions based on who we think the best adult influence will be. I guess we've created something of a cocoon around our kids.

Yesterday morning, the sermon at our church was about being on the offense as a Christ-follower. Our message series is about being called to serve God -- about getting out there and getting in the game for Jesus. One of the points the pastor made was that too often we create these cocoons around our families. We're playing defense trying to protect our kids and families from any worldly influence instead of equipping our families to be light in the world of darkness. It was a message I needed to hear before we headed to my daughter's soccer tryouts.

God didn't tell us to create a protective barrier around our kids until they're 18. He called us and our families to serve Him. Joshua 24:15 says, "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Memorize this verse this week and think about ways that you and your family can choose to serve God.

Building a cocoon around our kids isn't a bad thing when they're small, but if we don't start poking some holes in that cocoon and giving them opportunities to be light in a world of darkness as they grow, then when we throw them out into the world as adults, they won't have the ability to make good decisions. Let them practice those decision-making skills while they are still in your home and listening to your advice when the consequences are small, so they don't make huge mistakes when they're older and the consequences are huge. That's what we did this weekend.

You see, last year when our daughter decided to make the switch to club soccer, we researched a bunch of different clubs and carefully chose a club where we knew the coach and we knew the philosophy of the coach fit our lifestyle. Our oldest had a fantastic season being coached by a Godly man who cared about her as both a player and a person. We were looking forward to another year of the same.

But the club shook up my daughter's age group by adding another coach, about whom we know very little. He will be coaching the top team. Watching her at tryouts, my husband and I were hoping we wouldn't have to make a decision about playing her on the top team or leaving her with the coach we love. But after yesterday's tryout, the coaches asked us to consider putting her on the top team.

While proud of her for making the team, we were torn. We loved having her on a team where we knew she would essentially be protected from harm. That second team is a known quantity. Yet, she had worked so hard and the opportunity to play tougher competition really appealed to her. Ultimately, we realized we had to lay the decision in her lap.

So, we presented the pros and cons of each situation to her, and she chose to play on the top team. Despite being sad about not playing for her current coach, she's really excited about the coming season. My husband and I aren't sure how it will all turn out and left to our own devices would probably have chosen to play her on the team that we know.

But we also know that the goal of parenting is to move our kids to a place where they can make their own decisions, relying on God for wisdom. My daughter may find herself faced with some tough situations on this new team in her interactions with a new coach. We don't know if she'll play a lot or little. We don't know this coach's style of coaching. We don't know whether this choice will make her happy or make her miserable.

What we do know is that it's important to begin letting our daughter make decisions and live with the results. No matter the situation in soccer this year, our daughter will have a chance to be a light for God on her team. No matter what the coach is like, she'll get the opportunity to learn that her reactions to him matter to God.

And we'll be right there with her, offering guidance and support. We're not leaving her on her own. We're just letting her take a few steps toward adulthood while she still has us to fall back on. And isn't that what parenting is all about?