We can mess up a lot as parents—in fact, we will mess up a lot. We will work too much. We will have issues from our own childhood bubble to the surface. We’ll lose our tempers. We can push too hard…or not hard enough.
But there is one thing we cannot afford to do. As Brandon Boulware explains in his moving testimony about his experiences as a parent of a transgender daughter, we cannot silence their spirit. It doesn’t matter who our kids are, it doesn’t matter what we’ve been through or what our beliefs are. It doesn’t matter if it’s over a big issue or little ones, we cannot let our fears, our cynicism, our baggage, our desire to protect them, our interest in their success, our hope for their happiness, silence their spirit. We cannot try to make them something they don’t want to be.
We talked about this before, but Alanis Morissette puts it perfectly when she sings about “keeping the light in [her son’s] eyes ablaze.” For every parent and every child, that light will be different. For one kid it might be a love for art. Making it, consuming it, studying it—any or all of those really. For others it might be a spiritual practice very different than our own. For another it might be gender or sexuality. It could be a precious questioning, it could be a world changing ambition, it could be a quiet introversion.
Their spirit is their spirit. Our job is to protect it. To cup our hands around it when the fickle winds of judgment blow at their fiercest, to keep that fire ablaze. To help them carry it when they struggle. It is not to change them. It is not to bully them. It’s not to “know better.” It’s not to be “realistic.”
Don’t silence them. Don’t snuff their spirit out. Help them be who they are.