My older daughter got in the car last night after soccer practice with a disgruntled look on her face. At first, I thought she was just hot. She did just practice for an hour and 15 minutes in near-100-degree heat. But, alas, that was not the only issue.
She turns to me and says, "Did you know I'm the only girl on my team without an Instagram account?"
Turns out her coach had asked all the girls for their social media account names so he could follow them or friend them. My daughter was the only one without at least an Instagram account. (I'm not going to get into the reasons why she doesn't have any social media accounts. You can read about that here in a post I wrote a few weeks ago.)
"Some day you'll thank me," I told my daughter.
"Today is not that day," she said.
When she said those words, I laughed because isn't that the truth about parenting? We make the best decisions we can for our kids -- some of which are overwhelmingly unpopular -- then we get to face their displeasure over those decisions.
That's a hard role to have. It's not easy being the person who always has to say "no" when everyone else is getting a "yes." It's not easy being the one to bring disappointment and frustration into our kids' lives.
And the truth is, our kids may not thank us later. They may always think that the decisions we made for them are wrong. They may never make the same decisions for their own kids. And that's OK.
Our job as parents is to make the best decisions we can for our kids with the information and the wisdom that we have at the time. We may not always make a perfect decision. We might even make the wrong one, but we can't back off from making decisions that might be unpopular with our kids simply because we don't think our kids will like the decision -- or us.
No matter the age of our kids, they need us to make decisions in their best interest. They need the wisdom and perspective that our longer lives and increased experience bring. They need us to offer advice, make rules, and keep them from harm. They need us to be their parents, not their friends -- even if the thanks for those decisions never comes.
So much of the advice on the parenting pendulum has swung toward being your child's friend. So many of us are worried about our kids not liking us that it keeps us from making decisions based on what's best for our kids.
The harsh truth is that your kids don't need another friend. They need a parent. They need someone who will set boundaries and hold them accountable. They need someone they can look up to and recognize their authority. They need someone who is going to show them how to make good decisions based on God's plan, not the world's, even if it makes them unpopular.
Our kids need parents who love them enough to make the hard decisions. They need parents who love them enough to listen to what God has to say instead of what the latest parenting book offers up as wisdom. They need parents who are looking out for their children's best interests. They need parents who are willing to hear groans and complaints instead of thank yous.
When we make it a point to follow God's plan for parenting, when we choose to be our kids' parents instead of their friends, we make an important decision to be the people who mold our kids' characters, who teach them right from wrong, and who offer discipline and instruction.
While today may not be the day, some day down the road, for that, our kids will thank us.