Wait, wait, wait. You mean you and Dad do that?!” my daughter asked with a look of horror and shock on her face.
We were discussing an age-appropriate book about marriage and sex. Her question hung awkwardly in the air.
It was one of those mom-moments when time stands still. When you’re frozen like a deer in the headlights, clueless about what to do next. When you’re grasping for the “right” thing to say and are coming up totally empty. When you’re convinced that there are countless perfectly composed moms who handle situations like this expertly while you, on the other hand, are a bumbling fool.
Ever been there?
Truth be told, I’m there a lot. Sometimes it seems that the longer I parent, the less I know. Mom-in-the-headlights moments happen on a frequent basis in my house.
At times those I-have-no-idea-what-to-do moments are pretty funny, like my stunned bewilderment when I discovered my toddler had “decorated” her bedroom with the contents of her diaper. Or the many times I find a child’s disrespectful “attitude” so hysterical that I crack up in uncontrollable laughter rather than doling out appropriate discipline.
But sometimes those mom-in-the-headlights moments aren’t so funny, like when siblings are bickering over the same thing for the thousandth time and I’m simply exasperated. Or when all my attempts to handle disobedience the right way have failed miserably and I’m about to lose it. Or when I do actually lose it, then stand there wondering, Why did I use that tone of voice? Or Why did I say those words? Or How do I make this right?
In those all too common moments when I’ve got no idea how to parent, I’ve learned to rely on two principles that get me through: fake it and face it.
In that awkward moment with my daughter, I quickly turned to my go-to solution for perplexing parenting moments: I faked it. Even though inside I felt supremely embarrassed and tempted to run from the room like a child, I acted like I was calm and confident as we continued the conversation. For me, “faking it” means making an intentional choice to not let my own emotions (like confusion or anger or frustration) dictate my response but to instead assume a calm, centered, and authoritative exterior that helps set the tone and gets things back on track.
I also often simply need to face it: I am inadequate. I’m needy and self-centered and, for all my good intentions, I frequently get it wrong. To parent well, I need to lean on insights from friends, church members, authors, speakers, and mentors. And, ultimately, in my insufficiency I need to fully rely on God’s all-sufficient grace for my weaknesses.
In this issue of Today’s Christian Woman, we’ve got some practical help for your own efforts at “the talk.” Our cover story, “How to Talk to Your Kids About Homosexuality,” provides insights for how you can foster ongoing, God-honoring discussion on complex issues like same-sex attraction. And in “Have We Made an Idol out of Virginity?” Dr. Beth Jones offers reflections on a healthy approach to the idea of waiting until marriage for sexual intimacy. (For all those other parenting moments when you’ve got no clue what to do, you can lean on insights you’ll garner from our free ParentConnect newsletter.)
No matter how clueless you are or how badly you’ve blown it, you’re in good company: the rest of us. We’re all a “mom in the headlights” sometimes—and that’s right where we’ll find grace.
Mom in the Headlights
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