“Daddy, please don’t make us take our Lego houses apart,” pleaded my ten-year-old daughter.
Her little sister joined in.
“We worked so hard on them, Daddy.”
Their pleas were understandable. These were no ordinary Lego houses. They were three-story, multi-room mansions — custom built homes made of hundreds of stray pieces from Lego sets they’d collected over the years. But we were moving and there was no way to pack the Lego houses without them being crushed.
While the thought of making the girls tear down their mansions made sense to my head, my heart was torn. They had combed through hundreds of Legos to find pieces with the perfect number of studs. They had designed kitchens, bathrooms, balconies, and beds. It was an elaborate world where their Lego people came alive, and I was about to render them homeless.
I felt like I was tearing down a little part of the girls’ childhood.
I looked over at a small U-Haul box and realized that if I was extremely careful, I could dismantle each house into three large sections and stack them in the box. There was the risk of a supporting Lego snapping off and the section of the house collapsing; but I preferred to have an accidental loss over a dad-enforced condemnation.
I carefully separated both houses into three pieces, making sure to leave the supporting pillars in place. Then, holding my breath, I lifted each section by its edges, slowly lowering it into the box.
When a small part of a section broke off as I was easing it down. I whispered through gritted teeth, “Please, please, please don’t break apart.” It didn’t, and when I finally lowered the last section into the box without any more damage, I looked up at the ceiling and exhaled.
In the “Contents” section of the box, I wrote that “my daughters’ childhoods” were inside and added: “VERY VERY VERY FRAGILE!” Then I cleared a space in the trunk of my car and nestled the box into it, hoping that it would make it to the new house intact.
Hours later, I peeled the tape off of the box and cringed, wondering if the entire operation had been for naught. But there inside the box was each section looking just as it did when I’d put it in there. I had saved the day. A little part of their childhood was still intact.
A few weeks after we moved into our new house my oldest daughter proudly announced that she had torn down and rebuilt her house into something even better. I was surprised — maybe even a little disappointed. My herculean efforts were unnecessary. Her Lego home, and perhaps even her childhood, were going to be all right.
The whole episode reminds me of the constant struggle I have to trust that my kids are going to be OK — that their childhoods don’t have to be guarded like a fragile, homemade Lego mansion.
It’s not that I’m a helicopter dad. I’m not. I let my kids play outside for hours at a time. I’m more of an internal helicopter dad, looking out of the kitchen window of my mind for any threats to their innocence. It would take so little recklessness to leave it in pieces.
Maybe I’m wrestling so much because all three of my kids are at an age in which I discovered that the world wasn’t so safe. Perhaps I’m trying to protect them from what I experienced, to create a universe free from the sins that broke me apart. If I’m honest with myself, at the heart of my paranoia isn’t a determination to be a great dad — it’s a determination to be God.
While I can scan the horizon for danger and do all I can to protect my children, my ability to spare them from this fallen world will quickly reach its max. Sooner or later, they’re going to have to face other people’s sin nature and they’re going to have to face their own sin too.
True innocence is only something Jesus can provide through the cross, where all sins — ours sins and the sins of others — died with Him. My children must find their identities in a Savior who never lost His innocence even though He suffered through sin in its most brutal form. If He can be scarred that deeply by sin and walk out of the grave without any open, infected wounds, then “by His stripes” He can heal any wound that’s inflicted on my kids (Isaiah 53:5).
My children have a heavenly Father and He has done everything to provide the surest protection that they need. My limited role as a parent is to reflect His love, to show them what it looks like when He parents. And this I know this for certain: He does not parent from a place of fear. Instead, He offers this assurance: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Kids, it’s all going to be all right.
If Christ has overcome the world, then I don’t have to live in fear of it on behalf of my children. Being a good dad means trusting that God is an infinitely better one than me.