I let my 12-year-old daughter go running by herself for the first time the other day. She ran around our neighborhood and returned successfully home. It was another step toward independence for her.
I was feeling pretty good about letting her jog around the neighborhood until yesterday when I heard the news about Hailey Owens. Hailey was 10. She was blocks from her house. And she was kidnapped and killed.
And my first instinct when I hear a story like that is to pull my kids close. It’s to keep them in a bubble. It’s to go everywhere with them and not let them out of my sight.
That might have worked when my girls were toddlers and preschoolers, but the truth is my older daughter is 12. She’s five years from graduating from high school. She has to learn to be independent. She has to learn how to navigate this world on her own.
And I have to give her that independence. It may be in baby steps like jogging around the neighborhood and going to the movies with her friends, but I have to start to let go. Even in the face of scary news like what came out of Springfield, Missouri, yesterday.
I can’t let my fears of the evil in this world hinder my girls’ ability to grow into the young women that God wants them to be. I don’t want to send my girls out into this world unprepared to stand on their own two feet. I don’t want them to always need me. And I don't want them to live in fear.
Letting go of our kids and sending them out into this big, bad, scary world may well be the hardest part about being a parent. It means we have to let go of our fears, turn our kids over to God and let them navigate the twists and turns of life.
Even when we're confronted with the evil in this world, we can't let fear rule our parenting. Because when we do, Satan wins. Fear that paralyzes us, fear that keeps us from letting our children become independent, isn't from God. 1 Timothy 1:7 says "For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline." When we let fear control our decisions, we let Satan win. We let evil have the last say.
Today, it's going to be hard to send my daughter out the door to school, it's going to be hard to let her walk home from the bus stop. My heart will be breaking all day for the tragedy the Owens family has suffered. I'll be flipping my porch light on tonight in honor of 10-year-old Hailey. I'll be having conversations with my kids about what to do if a stranger approaches them. I'll be hugging my girls just a little more today.
But I won't be letting fear push me into creating a cocoon around my kids. I won't let fear turn my girls into kids who are afraid to play outside or walk home from the bus stop. I won't let Satan use fear to paralyze my parenting. Because if I do, then evil wins, Satan triumphs.
God hasn't given us a spirit of fear -- even in the face of horrible, incomprehensible evil. We can live without fear today because we've read the end of the story, and we know that God triumphs. So, today, say a prayer for the Owens family, hug your kids tight, teach them how to be as safe as you know how, then let them be children. Let them play outside, walk home from the bus stop, and continue to become independent. Because that's how we triumph over evil -- by refusing to let fear win.
The best book I've ever read about the dangers that confront our children and how to combat them is The The Gift of Fear : Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin de Becker, and the best book I've ever read about protecting our kids is de Becker's Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane). If you're concerned about keeping your kids safe, read these books.
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