The Paradox of Parenting - I Loved Her First

family enrichment Aug 21, 2023

My wife and I have been on our parenting journey for the last 37 years.  We have raised six children and with each one our goal was the same…to raise healthy, well adjusted, resilient, resourceful and loving children.  Our dream for them was to be in a position to go out into the world and make a big, bold & juicy (the big, bold & juicy part is courtesy of my wife) life for themselves.  Here is the paradox.  In order for us to fulfill our part there comes a point where we have to step aside.  I have found that sometimes this can catch you off-guard and if I am honest feel like a punch to the gut.  


I had one of those moments last week.


My daughter Rachel is a 29 year old Navy nurse.  She is currently stationed in Jacksonville Florida.  Over the last year she has developed a relationship with a young man who happens to live on the other side of the country in California.  The feeling within our family is that this is “the one” for her.   Last week Rachel was greeted by a flat tire as she left her shift at the Naval hospital.  As she was telling us the story, she mentioned that she called Ellison… the boyfriend … for support and help changing the tire.   As I was listening to her story I experienced mixed emotions.  On one hand I was proud of her resilience & resourcefulness.  This was the goal of all of our parenting. But I also felt some sadness because she had called him first.  


As fate would have it, the next day I was driving my car and the song “I Love Her First” came on the radio.   This song completely captures what I felt the day before during the conversation with Rachel and in a beautiful way completed the gut punch.   Here are the first few lines of the song.


Look at the two of you dancin’ that way

Lost in the moment and each other’s face

So much in love, you’re alone in this place

Like there’s nobody else in the world

I was enough for her not long ago

I was her number one, she told me so

And she still means the world to me, just so you know

So be careful when you hold my girl

Time changes everything, life must go on

And I’m not gonna stand in your way

But I loved her first I held her first


And a place in my heart will always be hers

From the first breath she breathed

When she first smiled at me

I knew the love of a father runs deep

And I prayed that she’d find you someday

But it’s still hard to give her away

I loved her first.

This is the paradox of parenting.   We pray for our children to find the perfect person for them to build their own family with or for them to have the confidence to go out into the world and pursue their dreams.  We invest our whole being to put them in the position to live that big bold & juicy life.   And when they do we are so happy for them and proud but we also are left with a feeling of loss. They are no longer our little girl or little boy.   Having been through this a few times now, I can assure you that you will always be their parent.    While they don’t need you to pack their lunch, help with homework or change a flat tire, they still need you to see their inner beauty and love them unconditionally in the way only a parent can.    Trust me …  nothing will ever change that. 


Your family enrichment coach,

Jim White





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