By Sheila Wray Gregoire
On top of my friend Jill's piano used to sit a dried bunch of roses. They weren't particularly breathtaking, but they were special, for they were the first roses her daughter Pam ever received. Pam's dad gave them to her on her thirteenth birthday, because he wanted to make sure that when Pam got her first roses, they would be from him. He loved her first, and he figured that anyone else that she would love better be willing to love her just as much. He set the standard.
Bob wasn't there to give Pam away at her wedding last year. He died two years too early. But when Pam walked down the aisle to her husband Andrew, she walked towards a man who did truly love her, just as her father had modelled. Bob was not a perfect father by any means, just as none of us is a perfect parent. But he really got that right.
That story has stayed with me, and so when my daughter Rebecca turned thirteen last month, she answered the doorbell to receive a dozen roses from her dad. And the message he wanted to send? You're precious. Don't hang out with others who don't believe that.
I didn't let Keith have all the fun, though. I decided I wanted a chance to speak some words of wisdom into my daughter's life, too, but I did it in a very girly way. I threw a chocolate-fountain-spa party, with the important girls and women in our lives. And I asked twelve women- aunts, grandmothers, friends, mentors- to say something either affirming what they see in Rebecca, or giving her advice on growing up. It was a lovely party, as most interactions that involve chocolate turn out to be, but this was even more special because of the timeless truths my daughter heard.
Our girls get so many negative messages in this culture. They hear that looks are all that matters, that our worth is best judged by our sexual conquests, and that feeling good is more important than being good. I wanted this to be an opportunity to counteract this garbage in a real and meaningful way. And so let me share with you some of the things Rebecca learned that night.
One aunt reminded her that 10% of life is what gets thrown at you, while 90% of life is how you react to it. One of her best friend's moms gave a rah-rah speech: "your generation is the first of the new millennium. God has given you a great responsibility. What will you make the world?" One of her favourite baby-sitters whom we watched walk down the aisle a month ago still had marriage on her mind, as she told Becca that when it comes time for men, "don't settle! You deserve the very best in a guy! Wait for God to show him to you!". A woman we travelled to Kenya with reminded Becca to remain humble, and remember that everything we have is simply a gift.
My cousin commiserated with Becca since they both suffer from perfectionism. She told her, "Don't let the need to be perfect stop you from trying things. The important thing is to try your best, and whatever your best is, remember its good enough." My mother told her how impressed she was by Becca's creativity and compassion. My mother-in-law echoed how proud she was of Becca, and admonished her to always keep her word. Be someone others can trust. A family friend who has watched Rebecca learn to ride a bike, learn to swim, and learn to start fires- in our campsites, that is- said, "My deepest prayer for you is that you will continue to have a heart for God." And on and on it went, with women sharing some of the greatest lessons they've learned.
Maybe you have a child approaching a milestone- 13, 16, graduation. Or maybe those moments are still far off. But why not plan to take these opportunities, when they come, to bless your children and launch them well? That night my daughter heard, keep your word. Keep trying. Don't settle. God matters most. We love you, you're special, and we can see so much in you. All of that, and a dozen roses from Daddy. Now if her life can live out those values, we will be very proud parents indeed.
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