I know I have said this many times before, but it never ceases to amaze me how much I learn about life from our about to be six-year-old daughter.  I am convinced that, before she came into my life, I only spoke out of arrogant ignorance or borrowed wisdom.  Now, knee-deep-in-the-hoopla of  daddy-hood with daily routines of raising a daughter, I am learning for myself many spiritual gems of truth.  Tonight’s bedtime routine was no exception.  Our bedtime routine for Aspen goes something like this:

Round One: I tell her it’s time for bed and she replies with a polite, “No thank you.”

Round Two: I thank her for being so polite but we need to get ready for bed now.  She replies with a, “No thank you, please.”

Round Three: I praise her for being such a wonderfully polite child, but polite children all over the world are going to bed as we speak and she needs to be one of them.  She looks at me with big, puppy dog eyes and says, “But daddy, I’m not sleepy, and I want YOU to put my mammies and pull-up on for me.”

Round Four: Having lost the logical debate I turn to the ancient tried and true parental tactics of bribery.  “If you get ready for bed by yourself right now, I’ll play one game with you on the Nook and read you two stories.”  Having already completed approximately six years of life on this cynical world Aspen has learned and honed her skills of negotiation.  She replies with, “I’ll put on my mammies AND my pull-up by myself if you’ll play two games and read three stories!”  Having the manly need of knowing I wasn’t completely out maneuvered in the art of negotiating I close the deal with, “Fine, but no glass of water.”  And with that we are off to bed.

The reason this exchange is important is what came out of it tonight.  When Aspen asked me to put her pull-up (big girl diaper) and pajamas on for her, my immediate heart and gut reaction was to say yes, carry her into her room and allow her to be the passive recipient of my loving and dedicated fatherly caretaking.  I would feel fulfilled as a parent and she would continue to be my little girl who needed me for many things.  Then it hit me, I knew good and well she could easily get dressed for bed all by herself.  She has already done it a dozen times.  The first time she was very excited to surprise us with her accomplishment.  Miranda praised her and I got a panic attack—my little girl didn’t need me to dress her anymore!  I got the first pang of what I fear will be many pangs of emotional pain as I not only watch my little girl grow up but along the way help her to become independent…to need me less and less…it hurts even to type that!  But I know it’s good for her.

I know Aspen is going to struggle with some things along the way on her road to becoming a beautiful, independent woman.  Because I know me, I know I’m going to want to jump in and rescue her every time.  I also know that’s the worst thing I could do and in the end it would do far more harm than good.  So I have to let her struggle, and fight, and fail and find her own way…as much as it hurts—me.  Along the way Miranda and I will try our best to instill in her some wisdom and faith and love that will help guide her, but little by little we will have to let Aspen make decisions and choices on her own that we may or may not agree with.  What helps to give me the strength to do this is the faith I have in the woman I believe she will become.

Yes, again, all of this flashed through my mind as I watched her dress herself in Disney Princess Pull-ups (they were on sale) and polka-dot pajamas.  And in that moment, God whispered to my heart, “You know, it’s a lot like this for me too.”  I was almost brought to tears.  Not because God had spoken to me, not because I know some…ok, lots…of my choices in life have brought God pain, but because God made me feel again that I was His little boy, and He was trying to help me grow up too.  And I suspect, no matter who you are, the same is true for you.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. I John 3:2