“What would you like for breakfast, El?”
“Um, I think chocolate, please.”
“Chocolate is not for breakfast.”
“I, kindly, dis-ah-gree, Mama. ”
We volleyed back and forth a little. I told her that if she could prove to me why chocolate for breakfast would be a healthy choice, she could have it. Her little 4 year old brain worked furiously. She said it made her happy, and happy is good for your health. We compromised 5 little chocolate chips on top of her oatmeal, because happiness after all is certainly a piece, but not the whole of it.
I’m sure some parents are horrified at our little interaction over breakfast. She’s four. I’m her Mother. Chocolate is not for breakfast, end of story. Because I said so.
I’ll tell you today that it’s these conversations I have with my daughter that thrill my heart. THRILL it. Make me proud to be her mother. Make me proud that God chose her for me. After living 32 years in this life as a woman- a woman in the workforce, a woman in ministry, a woman at home- I believe one of, if not THE most important thing I can teach my four year old daughter is that God gave her a beautiful brain and a worth and a story and a song and the Holy Spirit inside of her, all her own and she will have to fight for it- to keep it, to grow it, to validate it. And the best way to learn how to do that is to face conflict courageously, kindly, firmly and with the greatest love of Christ knowing in truth, who she is.
I had a student my last year of teaching who negated every single thing I said. Every literary criticism. Every proposed character development. Down to the genre. Everything on the board or the screen on the page was up for debate. She did it thoughtfully, purposefully, respectfully. She raised her hand, never her voice. She had well thought out responses. We just always seemed to arrive at different conclusions. I respected her opinion, she respected mine. We kindly disagreed, each changed by the other’s influence but validated in who we were. Before graduation, she told me I was one of the best teachers she had ever had. I thought I hadn’t taught her a thing. It was one of the most beautiful metaphors throughout my life of how conflict is not, at its root, pejorative in nature but when used appropriately, broadens our scope to see a little more of God.
My daughter, as she grows, will make choices people will not agree with. She will see the world differently and, because we’ve raised her this way, will say so. She will be confronted with ugliness and bitterness and baggage that someone else had carried that they will project on her. She will be told she is wrong, and sometimes she will be and sometimes she won’t. But when that day comes I want her to remember how we raised her. To be courageous and firm, to be open for discussion and if a conclusion cannot be reached or compromised, to always choose to love. To seek Christ above all else. Even when it’s the hardest thing to do. Especially when it’s the hardest thing to do.
Too often we discourage questions, doubt- we immediately dismiss those who think differently. Too often we’re afraid of conflict and back down from a platform we knew we were called to- too often we allow others to dictate what we believe and how we are presented.
I will continue to encourage my daughter to use her critical thinking, her own relationship with Jesus, her own knowledge of who she is and what she was made for, even if it makes us late for school….every. single. day. I will continue to welcome her questions, her doubt about the existence of a God she can’t see because that means she is really working it out. I will stand by her now, at four, when her biggest choices in life are whether or not to wear the blue Elsa dress or the purple Elsa dress and allow her to test me and question my authority-respectfully, kindly- wanting her to learn that her own self can be trusted. Her thoughts and feelings and opinions are important, they have value and they should be heard, but not at the expense of others. Courageous. Kind. Firm. With love.
Because, there will never truly be a resolution to conflict on this Earth but there is a hope that she will learn how to approach it better, to see it differently and embrace it for what it teaches her.
Sometimes, you can have chocolate for breakfast.