Raising a teenager is almost like having a never-ending Courageous Conversation. It feels like all things lead to some teaching point based on the various sometimes-sudden moods, the social pressures, and the transformation that my daughter Emma is going through. She’s caught in that world between kid and not-quite-old-enough.
I walk with her, and she walks with me, my imperfections no longer hidden or sugarcoated. It is crystal clear that I don’t have all the answers, and unlike her younger years, a simple kiss on a “boo-boo” after a fall on the playground isn’t enough to chase all her tears away. I’m realizing that sometimes the best thing I can give her is presence and prayer.
I see her shying away from being open with good friends at times. I encourage her towards conversation, especially through conflict. And I see how challenging that can be in an age of texting and Snapchat. Everything is so instant with this pressure to respond quickly before thought even has a chance to intervene.
Good conversation takes time and effort, and to have any depth, it takes honesty. I find it takes courage to be honest with her about some of the mistakes—the big ones—I made along the way. And despite the fact that my flaws are pretty apparent, it is admittedly a work in progress. I guess I fear if I’m “too honest” that it might do damage in a way I can’t perceive.
As a freelance writer and editor, I spend time a good amount of time reading and editing books, and I have worked on several life stories the last few years. I know the authors well enough to know that it wasn’t easy for any of them to put their secrets on the page, where even close family members would know things about them that they never knew.
But I also see the freedom those writers have experienced in that type of courageous expression, modeling how our personal stories in even their most raw parts can be redeemed and used to help other people on the journey. And that is what I’m striving for with Emma. I want to keep stepping forward, whether I’m feeling brave or not, to have those tough conversations.
I know my words and honesty can’t keep her from failing or making mistakes of her own. But my story and the stories of those around her can help her see that though we are all flawed, our life stories—with bumps, bruises, U-turns, and dead ends as well as victories, celebrations, and glorious horizons—make a beautiful tapestry that is meant to be shared. It just takes a little bit of courage.
This post originally appeared on the C3 Nashville blog. C3, held March 6-8, 2014, is an annual event where participants engage in topics related to culture and faith. This year’s theme was Courageous Conversations.