She gets into my car after a long day at school. “Long” because she had to serve a detention for excessive tardiness. She sighs as she buckles her seatbelt and places her school bag beneath her feet.
“How was your day today?” I ask her cheerfully. I haven’t had the pleasure of spending an entire day moving from bland classroom to bland classroom like she has. “Not good,” she replies with a long face.
“Uh-oh! What happened?” This is my usual response because, on most days, she launches into a story about how one of her teachers became annoyed with her continual talking in class, or silliness in the cafeteria, or disorganization throughout the class time. Usually the conversation ends with me scolding her for her behavior and siding with the teacher.
But not on this day. This day it’s different. Her face tells the story. Kids were mean. It was unwarranted. She wants to crawl under her covers and forget this day happened.
“It was Evan again,” she tells me. “He’s such a jerk!” I gently pat her knee as she tells the whole story. Not only was Evan a jerk but he rounded up others to join in the ‘fun.’ Fun at my daughter’s expense.
As a father, and a former bullied kid growing up, my blood boils. My fleshly father’s heart wants to turn the car around, hunt Evan down like the cowardly weasel that he is, and threaten his life, or at best, tie him upside down a half an inch above an ant hill with maple syrup dripping from his little punk head, and leave him there.
But then reality draws me back in and I realize this would not be wise. I would probably lose my job and serve time in jail where an inmate named Carl would beat the tar out of me for my antics against a 6th grader. Not good. I return my focus to my broken-hearted daughter.
The church leader part of me wants to begin giving her advice. Do this, say this, go talk to this school official about this. It’s all spinning in my mind. Since I spend so much time with teenagers and families who face the same thing on a regular basis, my knee-jerk reaction is usually to advise. After all, that’s why they show up at my office- they’re looking for a solution. They’re looking for answers. I’m tempted to do this with my kid, but something inside me holds my tongue. She’s not looking for advice, I realize.
She’s looking for her father. She wants to be heard.
After a little while, when the conversation tapers off, I ask, “What can I do to help you feel better sweetie?” She says nothing for a while but then softly asks, “If we pass a McDonalds could you buy me a strawberry milkshake?”
“Absolutely!” I reply. And I mean it. I would never just buy things for my kids because they ask but this day is different. She’s broken-hearted. She just wants to run away and hide. But on this day, God above chose to put her with me in my car, right after all hell broke lose for her. And He chose to keep my mouth shut and my ears and heart open.
The best thing I do for her broken heart is listen, and love, and give. Sure, I’m going to find a way to talk to the school about Evan the idiot, but that can wait. Today, right now, in this moment, at this place, my entire focus is on my baby girl and her hurting spirit.
Daddy’s here. Daddy loves you. Daddy believes in you!
Parents, have you been there before with your kids? Share your story with us.