To say my daughter is strong-willed would be an understatement. She’s a tough cookie. She knows what she thinks, and she knows why. At least that’s how it’s always felt to me for most of her life. I’ve always been okay with it, preferring her strong will to a push over, or a boring kid who seems to have no remarkable personality at all. But there’s always been this longing in me for a child who thinks first, acts second. A teen who considers other points of view (since my kid rarely does), and has some concept that perhaps she might be wrong about something.. you know, every now and then.
See she’s really sure of herself, and I’m kind of jealous of that. She believes what she believes, and she isn’t afraid to say it. She’ll tell you just what she thinks, but usually has a great way of doing it without being hurtful, and that’s a gift! Rarely do you find someone with these qualities. The problem is this; sometimes, she isn’t right. Sometimes, she’s flat out wrong. Like me. I’m often wrong about stuff, too.
Here’s the hardest part. She’s impulsive. It might be the ADD talking, or it might just be that she’s a 14 year old girl, but quite often, her reactions are spontaneous, and in those unplanned bursts of emotion, she can sometimes be hurtful, or even unapproachable. And it can damage relationships. It’s always been a challenge to help her understand that the world is a big place, full of ideas and opinions, and it’s ok if we don’t all agree on everything. We all have certain issues that we just won’t bend on, but those have to be few and far between. It’s learning the art of picking your battles, and that girl of mine likes to pick far too many battles.
I’m not from a Christian generation of free thinkers. I am thankful for the faith that was taught to me as a young kid, but I don’t always think I was guided in the best way. I was a bit sheltered, a bit unaware of the world, and a lot indoctrinated. I like to think of it as being taught what to believe, but not why. I’ve spent a lot of my adulthood trying to reconcile how much I believe of all I was taught – or at least, finding peace that I really can place my faith in the Bible, and in God. I work hard not to blindly follow, because I don’t think Christ wants blind people walking around trying to lead more blind people.
I want to be a free-thinker. I want to be able to have an open mind in all I hear, then make up my mind after I’ve considered lots of information. I’m getting better. And I know for sure, I definitely want to raise a free-thinker.
I never want Laine to believe in something simply because I did. I never want her to hold all the same opinions I do just because I’m her mom. And trust me – she doesn’t. And she’s not afraid to tell you! But I wouldn’t have called her a free-thinker, either… that is, not before today.
This morning, Laine’s CC tutor was telling me about how she’s seeing Laine start to process her faith, her world, and all her opinions, trying to figure out how they all fit together, and what that all means to her. She was asking questions, (unafraid of being wrong, of course), drawing from life experiences and using worldly examples to test her faith! I know there are Christian moms out there who would be terrified at this point. They would be asking, “Is my child going astray? Are they questioning their faith? Are they contradicting the Bible?” But I refuse to feel scared about all her questions and opinions.
I’m proud that she feels confident enough to wonder, and that her faith is intriguing enough to seek out the answers she’s looking for. I’m excited to see that she is willing to be vulnerable and inquisitive. I believe that, like me, she’ll find truth in The One who gave her a free-thinking mind to begin with.
Her tutor pushed back on some issues, and challenged her in ways that sometimes her mom can’t. And you know, she reconsidered. She put pieces together in ways she hadn’t before, and changed her mind about some things. She considered other points of view and listened to other opinions. And this gives me great hope that I’m raising the free-thinker I’ve always wanted to.
It’s my goal to put a human out into the world who is more than a textbook, able to regurgitate information. It’s my hope that Laine understands how to be compassionate, and thoughtful. I hope she can be kind in disagreements. I hope she can learn to discuss without offending and argue without fighting. I hope she can do these things better than I can. Today I received a bit of hope that all of this is on the horizon for her.
There are lots of open-minded people who don’t qualify as free-thinkers. Many people use the term open-minded to hide behind the fact that they stand for nothing. It’s been said that when you stand for nothing, you fall for anything, and I believe it.
I wish we all could figure out how to raise free-thinkers. I wish I lived in a world where we were all allowed, and encouraged to explore what our teachers and parents taught us without fear, or shame. When we all figure out how to live with principles that have strong foundations, I think we’ll all understand each other better, simply because we’ll understand ourselves better.
So how do we do it? How do we raise free-thinkers, and how do we become free-thinkers? I think it’s in the process of questioning, and comparing the answers we find with the answers of those we trust the most. It’s in exploration of history and literature, in science and listening sometimes to the quietest voices, not always the loudest ones. It’s in being allowed to make mistakes and in providing grace to those around us. It’s in cultivating a home of open-dialogue, where no topic is off the table. It’s in transparency and vulnerability when we don’t understand. It’s in all these things, each day. It’s in passion to understand those around us and passion to develop a foundation with which to build a strong platform upon. It’s in taking risks and not being afraid of where we land when we take a leap of faith. Mostly, I think it happens when we push ourselves to become wise, not just smart, and not everyone manages this.
And it’s hard, and scary. It can be incredibly fulfilling but sometimes it’s empty because we don’t have all the answers. But I think it’s worth it. It has to be.
Today, I saw the free-thinker in my daughter. I also saw the complete opposite a few times. And I hope that as she grows in book smarts, she’ll also grow in wisdom, discernment, and free-thinking. And I hope I can learn a thing or two from her, as I struggle to become this way myself.