The other day, I had the kind of conversation I’m sure every mother dreams of having with her daughter.
It was about a topic that has befuddled young and old for ages, but it had nothing to do with God’s sovereignty or how you know you’re in love or the best way to tell if a watermelon is ripe.
Lilly was doing homework at the kitchen island when she looked up and asked me a question that had apparently been swimming around in her lovely head for quite some time.
“When I’m writing,” she said, “I have a little mind war with myself about whether I should put effect or affect. How do you know which one to use?”
Be still my beating heart.
If this question plagues you too, Grammarist.com answers it this way: “To affect something is to change or influence it, and an effect is something that happens due to a cause. When you affect something, it produces an effect.”
My response to Lilly was something to that effect, though not nearly as concise. But our little discussion didn’t bless my heart simply because I love words so much (although I do, especially ones that are used properly). It thrilled me even more because of the growth it represented.
Four or five years ago, I doubt Lilly was even aware that affect and effect were two different words, and she likely wouldn’t have been able to spell either of them correctly.
She’s been a voracious reader since second or third grade, and her ability to recall what she has read has always astounded me. But it’s only been in the last couple of years that her writing abilities and attention to detail in her schoolwork have truly blossomed.
Her development in this area has been a joy to watch, but it didn’t come because I hired a tutor for her or worried to her elementary school teachers about spelling issues (ahem).
It came because she has a gift, and it takes time for gifts to grow. Yes, instruction and practice are important, but sometimes the best thing to do to encourage the development of something is nothing at all.
As I watch this play out in Lilly’s life, it gives me great hope for what is to come for younger sister Molly. When she struggles with something academic, I remember what’s happening with Lilly and I’m less inclined to push and prod and try to cajole her into learning faster (as if that ever works anyway).
The two of them have different strengths—what comes easily to one does not always come so easily to the other, and vice versa. This makes my job as their mom more challenging, but also much more interesting.
Truth is, I am fascinated by my children—at the way God wired each of them so beautifully, and how that wiring is so obvious in how they think, speak and move. I’m also grateful that ultimately, He is the one directing their growth and development, along with their steps, all the days of their lives.
My conversation with Lilly about affect and effect reminded me of a poem I read a long time ago. I normally don’t care for poetry, but “Woman with Flower” by Naomi Long Ladgett made an impression that has never left me.
I wouldn’t coax the plant if I were you. Such watchful nurturing may do it harm.
Let the soil rest from so much digging and wait until it’s dry before you water it.
The leaf’s inclined to find its own direction; give it a chance to seek the sunlight for itself.
Much growth is stunted by too careful prodding, too eager tenderness.
The things we love we have to learn to leave alone.
I’ve seen these beautiful words transpire in my own flowerbeds many times. Lately, I’m finding the analogy also applies to parenting. And oh, for the wisdom to know when to prod and when to leave alone.