An Apology to My Daughter

This may help other families in Christian ministry to never put their children last even if they are leaders in the church.

There comes a time as a parent that you have to own up to your parenting skills good or bad. First let me say,  I am very proud of all my children and their good character. I cannot say that I was the most attentive parent or the perfect mother, but I believe that my children did pick up some good things through the love they have seen in our home, our Christian character and a sense of right and wrong they can carry with them as they go through life.

However, the first child, as someone once said, is always the guinea pig.  As parents, and yes, each child is different, you don’t always know what to do.  Being in the public eye does not change or enhance your parenting skills, it only makes them harder, because everyone is watching and critiquing.  That’s just life.  People always place a target on people that are up talking to and teaching other people–the subject doesn’t matter.    My husband and I were trying to figure parenting out ourselves.  We still have children at home.  Sadly, the most we heard around  our church was to discipline children or we’d hear nothing at all.  So we were left to ask friends, relatives like anyone else.  Finally, a preacher in our group said across the pulpit, “preachers children are the most criticized and usually are worst than the average, Why? Because the people require so much time of the minister, they don’t have time for their own families”.

To My Daughter:

I love God, I think you know that and believe that about me.  But as a female minister in our church, there had been for years very little understanding of the balance between home and serving God.  In our religion, even though we talked about Home being first, in practice it was probably about the third on the list after, worshipping God, serving our Pastors and the church.   Teaching balance was an area in which our church was woefully lacking and has been for probably the last 20 years.  It seemed to fall apart around the time you were born.  So when God called your mom to preach, I began to feel extreme pressure to conform to what people expected me and my family to be and do. It was as if I never married or had a child. I didn’t want to slow down because I loved God and the church, but also there was another element pushing me.  If you did not conform, you could not function because you were not going to be considered a good saint.  Sweetheart, you grew up during a time that the older Pastors and Teachers, like the one who made the above statement,  had passed away.  The new set, seem to not understand this at all.  There seemed no room for special situations, mostly because leadership failed to understand women and mothers’ roles in the home.

When your brother was born and was two years old, he stood on the seats in church.  The usher came by and asked your father to please not allow him to stand on the seat.  Dad complied and said “sorry, I’ll watch it but he’s just a child”.  The usher said, “but he’s a church of God child and he’s a minister’s child” as if there was special DNA that would make him different from any other child.  One time, you had gotten distracted and pushed past an elderly saint at 5 years old because you were active. You were quickly branded as a “difficult” child.  I was told that the instant I spoke, you should fall in line.  Sometimes you did, but there were other times, like any normal child that you didn’t.

If I had been a nobody, maybe this would not have happened.  But, I was the only female preacher with small children.   Leadership at the time expected me to do what male ministers did– leave everything to their spouse.  However, my spouse was a man, and often he was treated oddly, to say the least. I don’t think they knew what to do with our dynamic.  They didn’t seem to realize that directives for him in scripture were totally different.   A totally different role in the home.  He was often working and providing, and sometimes, so was I and we all know children expect love differently from their mothers.  The leadership of the last 20 years has never realized that and often instilled in the people that “one size fits all” mentality. I’m not angry at them, it was just limited understanding.  Unfortunately, in trying to conform, you became collateral damage.   My decisions, caused you suffering.  For that, I am so sorry.

I was feeling the pressure to be a perfect mother in a system that didn’t really understand putting the home first at all.  We had services 4 times a week, street meetings, home bible studies and if you were late, that was not good, if you were not there, that was seen as even worse.  You were too young to understand the pressure I was under to “be an example”.  But you were there at every meeting, road trip, and bible study until I had your brother. This is what I was taught.  However, as a looked at the “examples” around me.  So many of them seemed to be failing with their families as well under this type of religious practice. As I look around, so many children in our religion have been bitter and some are bitter about their neglect.

 As I valued my life more, got closer to God and listened to Him more, I realized that Christ was our only “perfect” example and he never called on any person to take that place.  I remember my former Pastor  and his assistant saying that he regretted not spending more time with their families. I keep hearing all these regrets, but the system never changes.  My husband always said that if you want to see if a practice or teaching is godly, look at the fruit. It’s worked ok for some, but others not so much.

It was not Christ’s intention in giving me the gift of preaching and teaching to help other people and lose you. So please don’t blame God.   Yes, my Christian character should be above reproach but I cannot be Jesus for people.  I was never supposed to be.  I’m just me, your mom.

I remember that a woman Pastor in our group was asked what would she do if she had children because she was still young.  She said,” I guess I’d have to slow down”.  That’s reality for a wife and mother.  Sadly, not many people in our group made any distinctions so we just took children with us everywhere.  Sometimes the results were good for them, but sometimes not, depending on the child.  And often the parents made no distinctions about the needs of their particular children to treat them as individuals. Cookie-cutter parenting.

My dear daughter, you’ve been through a lot and I know we love each other as we talked this out this weekend. I am more focused on Jesus in my life and less on people.  I know in my heart what God wants me to do in my home even if others do not understand those directives in scripture.  I know I am taking the godly path for a woman of God to care for her children and her home.

There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.             (I Corinthians 7:34)

 

That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.(Titus 2:4, 5)

I remember when you were seven and I apologized to you for being so harsh. Right there,  I listened to God.  He told me NOT to continue with the advice I was being given to “bring you in line”.  You were not “bad” by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, most people I knew thought you were lovely and mannerable.  But often, because of my position, that was not enough, or rather I was made to feel that was not enough.   And so, I told you how sorry mommy was for the way I talked to you, corrected you and sent you the message that you were not good enough no matter what you did.  I could see the wall that was coming between us.  I tried to repair it by going on mother/daughter weekends together, and you appreciated that, but a lot of damage to your self-esteem had been done already.

We were both robbed. We didn’t really get to enjoy each other like we do now, and that childhood time is gone. When you are away now, I really miss you. I never really got to enjoy and embrace you as a person.  As you know, I am trying to do better with your brothers and be there for them.

We never had this conversation until this weekend.  Thank you for your forgiveness.

me and sydney

Feel free to comment below.

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23 thoughts on “An Apology to My Daughter

  1. Thank you for sharing this with the world. I too tried to be a perfect daughter. There is too much bitterness and not enough forgiveness. Let the healing began.

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  2. Wow! Thank you for the beauty of your vulnerability here! This story is so powerful + I’m sure it’s going to help change the way people (young + old) view parenting, church obligations + more!

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    • Thanks Seida, well said. We must learn, change and grow. Putting family first is something I heard in theory but seemed unable to overcome the pressure to do otherwise. Not understanding that serving at home was truly serving God. Thanks for your comment.

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  3. Very Heartfelt!! I’m happy to know this new foundation has been made between two of my favorite people! Family is important ❤

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  4. It’s too bad babies are not born with a how-to instruction booklet! Many of us parents have been where you are at some point in our parenting journey. Thank God for humility and a teachable spirit that allows us to backtrack and evaluate! Thank God he made children resilient, they seem able to bounce back over and over again in spite of our blunders. What I love about God is that he will be as personal to us as we will let him be. From what you acknowledged the very people from whom we would normally draw strength, became your distraction! Your desire to excel in your ministry and please them got out of balance with what God was requiring you! This is a lesson for us all. I know only too well the pressure this can cause! I’ve often said that while raising children my methods may not always be the best but I can sincerely say my motive have always been pure and for their best interest! Acknowledging where you went wrong is huge!! Far too many parents refuse to do that! Now you can watch your relationship blossom and grow sweeter! Thanks for your vulnerability. May those of us who need to…be willing to do the same. Love to you, my friend, and your daughter who I call “my girl!”

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    • Thanks Mildred for the times you have been there for her. I know she really loves you too. If you still are doing your parenting blog,leave your link here. So many others may need your experience as a mother.

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  5. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing. If more people took your attitude I believe the church would be in a different place. I’ve always admired you and my respect has grown. Love you and what you’re doing.

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  6. Pingback: An Apology to My Daughter | How to Walk on Water

  7. Elder Renee, I have always has great respect for you and you know your daughter is my dear buddy indeed. Thank you for sharing this. I know for me, my love for the saints children who were not saved would often love to be around me. Believe it or not, there were some individuals who became jealous or didn’t understand why the children would want to me around me. I think Sydney can probably attest to this from some years again. The children would often tell me, I was a great listener and I wasn’t quick to throw scriptures at them. I even challenge a saint with this question years ago. Who would you prefer to be around your children? Someone who is unsaved and care nothing for your child or a saved person who has his or her best interest at heart. Now that all the children are all grown, I still hear from them time to time. The best part of all, the love I had for them as children is still the same today. Just know that God has made Sydney a strong young lady who’s love will never change toward the awesome mother and minister of God that you are. Love you dearly Elder Renee and family!!!

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  8. I love this soooo much. I can relate being brought up in the church. I respect you soooo much more for this. This brought tears to my eyes. I use to have so much hate for the church up until about five years ago. Thanks for sharing this. I needed this. Thank you

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  9. I’m finding it hard to put in words how your article touched my heart. Many pressures you felt were familiar to me…and the sad thing is, those pressures were so very unnecessary. They left casualties, and a far reaching ripple effect of damage. In general, the love of God was not fed to our children the way “rules” were…and we lost so many of them in the process. …However, the Lord is a master at restoring what is broken! I am thankful that He showed me this same thing some time ago and I’ve been making up for lost time ever since. Our children, and our homes, are a mission. We can’t forget that. ~~ Thank you, thank you for sharing this! Praying every parent will listen!

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  10. This was a very difficult read for me because I’m your husband and our children’s father. Of course. I had a role in the upbringing of our children but your role as a young mother and responsibility as an up and coming minister were very unique. We learned some very hard life lessons. I saw your humility,love,strength and admissions of weakness all at the same time. You didn’t make excuses and admitted your short-comings. ( We both failed) I’m grateful that we have the kind of relationship that admitting a fault isn’t foreign and unusual. It is true that being a minister’s child carried a certain weight, that wasn’t necessarily good. I had a minister’s son tell me he wanted to treated like any other boy and it wasn’t fair to be treated differently, he said “I’m like any other boy!” He was about 8 or 9 at the time. I had another tell me they HATED when their birthday fell on a church night because they knew that meant a very short celebration or none at all….because it’s church night. At this point in our live’s we’ve learned to celebrate our children’s accomplishment and give them a FULL THROATED congratulations and celebration….as much as our pockets would allow. God bless you, baby, I love you and…..you are a wonderful mother indeed! Love, D. Gino Milton

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  11. Wow. Just wow. This really was amazing and God bless you for allowing you to SEE this so you could mend the relationship. I wish this could happen for more of us saints children.

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  12. Thanks for your open and honest words. As the oldest daughter of an extremely devout member of the church who has been there pretty much my entire life, I too felt the same way.

    As an adult today with children of my own, I still desperately search for a female role model to “mother” me as I feel it was lacking immensely in our home. No warmth, no down to earthness, everything was the bible this and God said this and the pastor said this.

    I remember trembling when Pastor Miller would preach because my mom would come home and beat the stew out of us for something old that we did or she believed we did, and me the oldest was often the most targeted, because of something Pastor Miller said in the pulpit.. As a teenager I longed for a woman to talk to about my growing body, my yearnings toward the opposite sex, and just things that teenagers deal with, but my mother’s head was so in the church cloud she couldn’t relate to me at all, and I would often get beat or punished for some of the things I was feeling.

    I have often said, My mother didn’t know how to love us maternally, she only knew the bible way and just enough to stay “saved” in her eyes. People today say it’s a wonder I’m so balanced, warm and loving towards my children, who can talk to me about anything, in fact I call them in my room often as we just talk and laugh.

    To this day, I long for a mother and daughter relationship with my mom, but her head is still so far up the church cloud that ahe neglects her grandchildren the same way we were neglected emotionally. Like a poster wrote above, I grew up hating the church and just started melting and trying to see things differently the last five years.

    I wish you would have a raw and open meeting with the saints at 46th and Drexel specifically and read these comments (anonymously of course) to them. Maybe some of the healing can begin.

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    • Dear Anonymous, Thank God you learned what NOT to do by your upbringing.You were able to come out of a dysfunctional system intact. As I say that, I understand that people can be sincere and wrong. A lot of wrong was there in spite of good intentions. While doctrine is one thing, everday life is another and everything is NOT black and white.

      When my son played football, his coach was a child at Drexel many years ago. He said, “we couldn’t wear jeans or play sports”. Those were not good memories to him. Some of these odd beliefs about life still exists today. I remember the negative phone calls I got when my oldest son played football in the mid 2000s. Thank God I was strong enough to tell them to back off, but it shows a mentality that should not be there. A lot of hurt has happened trying make children “measure” to something that is based on someone else’s personal whims or convictions.

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  13. I feel like this is a great first step toward healing. Thank you. You are the first person in a long while to step forward and say that maybe this massive disconnect that is happening stems from within the church and is not in fact to be laid at the feet of the child or even convert or even long time members that were left feeling like they were and are pariahs. The box that God was placed in, was so predefined and small that the “feast” began to taste like the space food astronauts survive on-muted, unenjoyable, barely sustainable. Maybe no box is indeed better after all. Isn’t that what we said in the first place?

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