In the last few weeks our state and local community have suffered unspeakable loss. After the May 20 tornado hit Moore, my husband and I both leapt into action, each according to our own talents. We talked openly about our activities in the presence of our 3-year-old daughter, but not always WITH her specifically. Several days after the storm the inevitable day came that we were running errands in Moore, our hometown, and we drove by our beloved Veteran’s Park.
Since infancy, this park has been the favorite destination for countless play-dates and snow cone treats, and it was the last place of devastation I wanted our daughter to witness. I wanted to shield her from this ugliness, so unrecognizable I held out hope that she might not realize where we were. Not so! She first clarified that this was indeed “her” park, and that it was indeed broken, and when we thought she might cry or become angry she announced “I want to help!” Despite our many attempts to explain that much of the helping is a “daddy” job, she has relentlessly pursued us over the next several days to let her help. It finally sunk in, that while I had been shielding her from what I thought was too much to handle, she responded in the most natural way she knew.
Turns out, the best thing I can do for my daughter is not to shield her from the devastation, but to be with her as she experiences it, talk about it frequently with her, and process our reactions and emotions together as a family as much as she is able to participate.
Certainly, she is not ready for everything; none of us can process all of this information at once. But God knew before He formed her that this day would come, that it would be a part of her life experiences, and He’s had a plan all along to use this to mold her into the woman she will become. We’ve prayed and discussed what God has to teach us as individuals, a couple, and a church body through this experience, but God’s plans aren’t only for adults! He has a special plan for my child, and your children as well!
Lord, let me not stand in the way of your teaching moments with my daughter, but give me wisdom to step back when necessary and to step in when needed with a wise word and loving heart. Thank you for humbling me, for reminding me that this incredible little girl is yours first, mine second, and your plans for her are greater than my wildest imagination. Give me wisdom to walk with her and teach her, but most of all to point her to you as she experiences both the wonder and the devastation in this life.
When painful things happen, I encourage you to prayerfully consider what God is doing in your children’s lives as well as your own. Take specific time aside to talk on their level about the experience, even if they are mostly experiencing it vicariously (through you, or the media, or friends’ accounts), give them constructive ways to express their emotions, positive or negative (art, music, and role play are a few suggestions). For our daughter, we’re going to plant flowers to help re-grow what the winds blew away. We’ll start with pots in our yard for now, as the devastated sites really are not appropriate or safe for young children, and then we’ll find a way to make her efforts a part of the public healing process as it is appropriate. Who knows, maybe one day she’ll take her own children to the very spot we plant those flowers and tell the story of what God did in our community!
Angela Fashimpaur – Ready To Help: Leading Your Children