Parenting During The Autonomous Years

We have talked at length in the chapters on development about helping to call out who God is creating your daughter to be. In small ways, you will continue to do that for the rest of her life. But the loudest, most direct part of your calling is over in these Autonomous Years.

She is finding her own voice. Her body, her emotions, and her faith are working together to give your daughter the ability to care, to give, and to have a sense of purpose that is outside herself. In these years, she is discovering who she believes God is calling her to be.

What, then, does your role look like in these Autonomous Years? Mostly, it looks like a friend-size safety net. You haven't entirely left your authority behind. You are widening your daughter's boundaries so that the changes in her eighteen-year-old life will be minimal. When she falls, you are helping her get back on her own two feet. But most importantly, you are walking beside her and reinforcing with your love and support all that she is wondrously becoming.

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CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 6

[Women's] longings for relationships are relentless reminders of what we were made for and what is worth living for.

Sharon Hersh, Brave Hearts

[Women's] longings for relationships are relentless reminders of what we were made for and what is worth living for.

Sharon Hersh, Brave Hearts

During our summers at camp, we take a sixteen-mile bike ride with a group of boys and another bike ride with a group of girls. The two rides couldn't be more different. The boys pedal with a sense of purpose. They are trying to reach their destination—as quickly as possible. They might joke with each other a little along the way, but mostly they are independently pushing themselves toward their goal.

The girls, on the other hand, meander. We have a long, slow, enjoyable ride. There are typically several clumps of girls deep in conversation about friendships or boys. A mile or so up the road, there is usually a group singing their favorite childhood songs at the top of their lungs. The purpose of the girls' ride is more in the relationships formed than the accomplishment of reaching the goal.

This difference is reflective of a much deeper one that exists between men and women. In his book The Wonder of Girls, psychologist Michael Gurian refers to what he calls the "intimacy imperative" that drives a girl's thoughts and her behaviors. According to Gurian, a boy's primary search is for independence while a girl's is for intimacy. Thus, the behavior on the bikes.

Girls want independence too, just as boys want intimacy, but that search is not the one that defines them. Think back on your own years in middle school. As a girl, to have a boyfriend in the seventh grade means you have arrived. He gives you status and security. For a boy, however, it is alternately a source of profound joy and profound embarrassment. He will be sweet to his girlfriend on the phone, but as soon as his friends come around, he ignores or makes fun of her. He wants independence. She wants intimacy.

For girls, it is this search for intimacy that provides the backdrop for the rest of life. Girls define themselves by how they connect. They have passion and purpose and heart that stretches beyond relationship—but relationship is where it stretches from. It provides the context, the framework for who girls are becoming . . . for their identities.

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