by Dena Hobbs
I remember how very glad we were when our daughter finally learned to talk at 18 months of age. She had come to us 13 months old from an orphanage in China. She was baby-talking just a bit in Chinese, but could neither understand nor speak English. We used some simple sign language to communicate the urgent things for a few months and then all at once she began communicating verbally in English.
When our daughter was young she was very shy. She didn’t speak much to non-family members and even in our house she was pretty timid with her voice.
I remember praying she would find her voice one day. Praying she would find the courage to use her words loud and clear.
Well, flash forward 10 years and my prayers have certainly been answered. My daughter is easily the most talkative person in our family and can confidently have a conversation with anyone. Moreover, she has gotten to the age that she can talk about anything. Whether it be her huge crush on Tom Holland, how middle school Language Arts classes ruined her love for reading, climate change, theology, politics, or anything in between, she can and will have a conversation with anyone about anything.
Most days this is okay, as the main conversations our daughter has are with family, her friends, and the folks at church – people who, in most cases, will treat her gently.
But then there is social media.
Over the summers my daughter blogs in her free time. Mostly she posts about yummy baking recipes or some cute DIY project she found on Pinterest. But then one day my daughter sat down and wrote a blog post about the misuse of #blessed. Specifically, she laid out how most people use #blessed in a way that promotes a Gospel of Prosperity (except she used a lot of teenagery words instead of saying Gospel of Prosperity). She then went on to quote the beatitudes and talk about what it meant to her to be blessed.
Now, a part of me was jumping up and down and doing back flips that my daughter sat down and of her own accord wrote this blog post from her heart.
And the other part of me was totally freaking out. Because I was scared of the backlash she would receive. I was scared of the comments people that neither know or love her would make. So much so that when she asked me to copy edit her blog for grammatical errors, I actually toned her language down a bit. I felt horrible for doing it, but I also wanted to protect her tender self.
However, since my daughter is finding her voice in so many areas I know that I will not be able to protect her for long. Within a half an hour of Trump tweeting about banning transgender people from the military, my daughter had shared a couple of Instagram posts supporting the Transgender community. Again, part of me wanted to give her a high five and part of me worried how many friends she would lose in our conservative town by speaking up on that issue.
But more and more, instead of keeping quiet, she is starting to speak her mind. And I know that is exactly what a new high schooler is supposed to do. And I am so proud of how she is using her voice. To stand up for the marginalized, to fight for justice.
And I am still scared for her. For the day someone will use their voice to tear her down. That other unkind voices will cause her to lose her own.
I don’t really know what to do in this new and uncharted territory of my daughter using her voice. I guess all I can really do is stand by her and support her. And model how to use my voice to build up and not tear down. To work for good instead of harm. And maybe keep a container of ice cream in the freezer for the days when it does get hard. To show her that when someone tries to silence your voice you just tend the tender places for a little while and then keep on speaking.
How have your children found their voices? How have you supported and/or protected them in this endeavor?