My Image Was All Tied Up in You


Here’s My Image Was All Tied Up in You

The opening lyrics to the More Than Rubies song I Would See You describe much of the way I’ve parented. Perhaps you can relate to this:


I wanted you to pretend you were okay

Hold the truth inside you with all the pain

My image was all tied up in you

You were my billboard, you had to make me look good, too


I’d jotted down these ideas on a scrap of paper early one morning, shuddering at the sin I’d seen in myself. My daughter Kristi had just read an early draft of my memoir and shared her emotions from years earlier. It was a hard conversation. Partly as I discovered what she’d been through, and partly as I heard the ways I’d added to her pain. At first I was defensive and irritable, eager to justify what I did and said. But after a long night of thinking and praying, I realized she was right. Here’s what I learned:

My children are not my billboards

I’d overlooked my children’s pain because I was more concerned about what their actions said about me than what their behavior revealed about them. I wanted overt and instant obedience, not meandering, messy conversations. In my mind, everything my daughters did was like a billboard, advertising my parenting and even my faith. It had to look good. For years, I’d silently judged people whose children seemed “out of control” and I heard other people judge them as well – and I didn’t want to be judged. My daughter Katie would point out my hypocrisy, but I’d always turn it back on her. She was at fault, not me. Of course, I didn’t see any of this at the time. I thought I was listening, caring, and doing what was best for them. I wanted to parent well, perfectly even, but I couldn’t see how much of my image was tied up in them.

I can try to understand my child’s perspective

After Kristi and I talked, I better understood some of her struggles. And after I talked to Katie, I realized they’d each experienced unique pain, even though we all lived in the same house and experienced the same life-altering trauma. Kristi shared how confusing it was after her father left – how her world had fallen apart and how she felt unsafe and unknown, unsure of whom to trust. When she was younger, I’d been intentionally sketchy about details, not wanting to criticize her father and undermine their relationship, but my vagueness made everything even more bewildering.

She hadn’t felt safe to share her feelings, perhaps because I hadn’t been honest about my own or perhaps because she couldn’t put her emotions into words. But she remembered that she’d felt misunderstood and unseen. My family and friends had been critical of the girls’ defiance, but few had reached out to see what was behind it.  I assumed that their anger was rebellion against me and took it personally. From my perspective, it was all their fault. I wish I had been able to look past the anger to see them.

It’s never too late to make amends

As parents, we try to do the best job that we can. We love our kids and strive to make decisions for their good, so we don’t want to apologize when they bring up past hurts. We may listen, but we are quick to defend ourselves. We want them to see how hard we tried. We want them to admit their mistakes. We want them to understand our perspective.

But perhaps as parents, God is calling us not so much to be understood as to understand. To listen without judgment. To apologize for the ways we have hurt them, both intentionally and unintentionally. To stop dismissing their pain. And when we do, perhaps that will be the start of a new, more honest relationship. It’s never too late.


I’m so thankful my daughters were courageous enough to tell me how they’d been hurt. That gave me the opportunity to apologize and ask for forgiveness. I want to understand life from their perspective. I want them to feel heard. I want to see them.

Have you ever seen your children as your billboards? Have you had honest conversations about your parenting with them? Is there anything that you might need to apologize for?


I Would See You, featuring Christa Wells, is on The Bravest Thing EP which is being released February 26. The five-song EP was written around themes in my memoir and is available everywhere you can stream music.

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