Once on a plane ride, a stranger shared some things with me about one of her children - the one she had always considered her "favorite."
"The hardest part I don't understand, is she was the one I gave everything to. She never went without; I never told her no. And now ... she is the most miserable person I know. She is never content or happy. All my other kids respect me, but the one I thought I loved the most is unkind to me and everyone around her. I gave her everything — my whole world; and she despises me," she said.
Yesterday - as I battled with one of my own entitled children — I realized that in some ways I have done it too: asked a child's permission to parent.
As parents, we sometimes get stuck between parenting and wanting to be their friend.
But the truth is, our kids don't need us to be their friends. They need us to be their parents.
We think they want stuff. So we buy them things and over-stimulate them with "fun," rarely slowing down for the little moments.
We allow them to do things we don't like, and buy them electronics they aren't emotionally ready for; but not because it is a good idea - it's because we are scared.
We're scared they won't be popular or they won't think we're cool; but mainly, we are scared we are not enough. We become their friends to avoid the hard parts of parenting - the most important parts of our role.
We avoid being the person in their lives who needs to teach them what the real world will one day slap in their face. And we don't want them to blame us for their pain; so instead we cover it up with more stuff.
So really, we suck at parenting — to protect ourselves.
Parenting takes patience — sometimes patience for the child, and sometimes patience to let them suffer consequences of their actions. It is hard to watch them solve a problem we think we already know the answer to; but we cannot bail them out of the very things that will lead them to their strength.
Entitling, though the world would tell us is love, is actually fear. The most balanced kind of parent loves unconditionally, gives boundaries and is consistent.
Growing up, I had a friend that had no limits. I will never forget the night she said, "I just wish I had parents who cared where I was."
At that moment, I saw my mom's love a little differently. She gave me curfews and budgets, and sometimes told me no. She gave me limits and boundaries because she loved me.
Our kids don't want parents who treat them like they rule the world. They want to know they have a place in it — a purpose.
What if God would have panicked as Jesus suffered for us and said, "OK, wait. Take it all away. He isn't strong enough. I cannot watch Him anymore. I need Him to be OK ... so that I can be OK"?
God knew that pain - that sacrifice - was going to change everything. He saw the bigger picture of what Jesus was going to become because of it. He saw further than the moment.
It is in consequences, struggles, learning to accept personal accountability and sacrificing for others that our children will find their purpose.
So maybe being the cool parent has been our goal. But sometimes by "protecting" our children, we are hurting them. Prepare them for this world by teaching them how to live in it. They need us to be engaged, encouraging and present; they need the right kind of love.
Someday we will be sitting on an airplane evaluating our lives. We will inevitably have regrets; but hopefully those don't include "protecting" our children from learning how to stand on their own.
Ashlee Birk is the author of The Moments We Stand, the blog and book series of her healing journey after the secret infidelity and murder of her husband in 2011. Graduate of Utah State. Mom of six. Contact themomentswestand.com www.themomentswestand