It was 1984 and I was 12 years old.
I watched Mary Lou Retton flip and flop in the Olympics. I wore a leotard and leg warmers and cheered her to gold.
It’s surreal as I plan to watch history unfold this weekend with my own 12 year old daughter.
How did I get so old?
I’m on this parenting path and I’m running this race dodging obstacles and trying to avoid getting off course.
But it’s hard and I’m an amateur.
The other night, my daughter tapped on our door. It was hours past her bedtime, but I could tell it was serious by the look on her face. She slowly walked to the side of my bed clutching a folded letter in her hands.
She handed it to me and started crying.
My heart thundered as I read her carefully printed confession. It told of how she deliberately disobeyed us. And how she quickly discovered with her secret choice, there was no joy. She was riddled with guilt.
I have never been more proud of my daughter.
Sure, I was disappointed by her choice (which in and of itself wasn’t a big deal, just something we didn’t feel like she was ready for), But I was more impressed with her honesty.
I hugged her tight, her body quaking. I wiped my own eyes.
And I felt like I had won gold.
Because somehow, some way in all of our parenting mistakes and mishaps, she got the one lesson we long to teach our children:
Be like Jesus, even when no one is looking. And when you mess up, ask for forgiveness and keep running the race.
My kids are going to make mistakes. It’s part of life. But hearing my girl ask for a consequence, made me feel like all this hard parenting work is paying off.
When I look at the world’s idea of successful parenting, it includes good grades, elite education, conforming to mainstream agendas, being politically correct and looking perfect.
I haven’t taught my kids any of that. Instead, I’m okay with okay grades and we are currently (purposefully) moving out of an exemplary school district. I’ve encouraged them to stand up for what’s right, even it it means they are alone and I’d rather overpay for a t-shirt that benefits a worthy cause than jeans that get the approval of peers.
This journey is long. It’s filled with victories and defeats.
But in this leg of the race, I’ve learned there is victory in defeat and I wouldn’t trade that bit of gold for anything.