I have four beautiful daughters. Misha is 21 this month, Bonnie is 19, Jasmine is 17 and Emerald is 15.
I am a solo parent to these four girls. Mark died when they were 16, 15, 13 and 11. For nearly five years I have been officially parenting alone but, because of Mark’s long and severe illness, I was essentially doing the job on my own before that.
I remember when my youngest was born, holding her and saying quietly to her, “You are going to have the coolest dad when you’re a teenager.” I could totally see Mark with his dreads, piercings and tattoos (which were in the planning stage) taking his four girls to rock concerts.
However, my youngest never got to have any memories of her dad before his first brain tumour was discovered and took us on a ten-year journey through terrible sickness.
So here I am, doing something I never, ever thought I would do when Mark and I first started our family – bringing up my girls all by myself.
I love my girls more than anything. I tell others, having children is like having bits of your own heart walking around in the world. The love of a parent towards its own child is something no words can ever explain.
But, parenting them on my own has been exhausting – especially through the teenage years. My friends will attest to the naïve dream I had of looking forward to the teenage years, when my girls would be growing up and we would go shopping together, drink coffees at cafés and have deep, meaningful conversations about all the things going on.
Yes, I can hear you laughing as you read that. Because, of course, it hasn’t all been raindrops and roses. Don’t get me wrong – my girls are great. They are funny and full of life. Our house is loud, with lots of dancing and singing. And often we do have amazingly deep conversations, solving the world’s problems or discussing verses in the Bible.
But there have been great big chunks of the teenage years that I have downright hated, and I have voiced loudly that I actually hate teenagers. It got to the point where, whenever I saw cute little babies I would think, “You are not really cutey cute. You are just a big trick, because you are going to grow up and be a horrible teenager.”
But there has been some amazing learning during all this …
I have learned to let go of my girls and totally leave them in their heavenly Father’s hands.
This was a hard lesson learned, because at 18 my eldest took off (the first time) for six weeks and I scarcely heard from her. She was in a very bad place and just left one day. She was legally old enough to go and I had no say. What could I do? Nothing! So I gave her over to Jesus.
He looked after her and has continued to do so.
As the girls all journeyed through their teenage years, God has had to train me to let go and let Him be their protection and their guard.
There are many nights when I go to bed and none of my girls are at home. I lay my head on my pillow and pray, “God, I’m going to sleep now. Please look after my girls, wherever they are and whatever they are doing. You will do a better job of this than I could, so I trust them to You because You love them.” And then I go straight to sleep without a second thought.
An extension of this trust is leaving God to work in their lives to bring them into a relationship with Him, because it actually all comes back to this: the most important thing in the world is that each of my four daughters grasps hold of, falls in love with, and has her own heart set on fire for Jesus. They cannot live on my relationship with Jesus. It has to be their own. Because I cannot live their lives, I cannot be their faith. They, as individuals, have to make the decision to let Jesus be their Lord.
So, although the teenage years have not being my favourites, in many ways, they have taught me to let go and let God. And this, in turn, has taught me to pray for others and then relax that God is now doing His thing in their lives, too.
I have learned that I serve a very big God, who is totally trustworthy. I have trusted him with my most precious possessions – my girls – and He has not let me down.
Those who trust in, lean on, and confidently hope in the Lord are like Mount Zion,which cannot be moved but abides and stands fast forever.
Psalm 125:1 Amplified Bible (AMP)