Why Supporting Your Child’s Interests Matters — The Better Mom

Why Supporting Your Child’s Interests Matters — The Better Mom

“Mom, I need you.”

I startled awake and spied my 12-year-old daughter standing in my bedroom doorway, silhouetted against the dim hall light. I couldn’t see her face, but I heard it in her voice. Panic.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?”

“I just need you. Come now.”

I glanced at the clock—only 10 p.m. What could’ve possibly gone awry in the last half hour since I drifted off to sleep? These days my kids often stay up past their dad and me, but we know it’s because they’re either reading or finishing homework or FaceTiming friends before lights out. Nothing too scandalous happens in our house at the bedtime hour. Usually.

I whipped off my covers and followed my daughter up the stairs to her bedroom, where—now out of Dad’s earshot—she told me the news.

“I can’t find my snake.”

Oh, booger.

Let me back up a second. A week ago, we welcomed a new pet into our home—an African cape house snake, shipped snuggly and tenderly from Florida to a meticulously equipped glass enclosure in my daughter’s bedroom menagerie. The snake is just the latest in her happy collection of exotic pets, joining a crested gecko named Freda, and four Madagascar hissing cockroaches—Paul, George, Ringo and John.

This kid LOVES reptiles and creepy crawlies of all kinds. She studies them daily. She knows the names of nearly every species—in English and Latin. She researches potential new pets for months before finally settling on the right critter for the right reasons (easy to care for, friendly to handle, affordable, doesn’t eat anything we’d be horrified to keep in our house, etc.). And then she asks for Mom and Dad’s blessing.

Which brings me to a very important detail.

My husband is TERRIFIED of snakes.

He hates them. He can’t touch one, won’t watch them on TV, avoids pictures of snakes at all costs. The poor guy had a psychologically triggering experience with a snake when he was younger, and he’s been anti-snake ever since.

Until God gave him a daughter—who loves snakes.

Now, my husband didn’t warm up to the idea of a pet snake overnight. It took some time—many months, years, really, of watching our daughter reading about reptiles, piling her bed high with plush snake toys, tuning into YouTube channels like Snake Discovery and Clint’s Reptiles, which have millions of views (who knew?) and have actually spurred some meaningful conversations and science lessons that we have to admit add value to our daughter’s lives and ours.

Last summer my husband even agreed to travel three hours one way to attend a reptile trade show in Chicago, where thousands of snakes were on display in every direction.

He survived. Barely.

And our daughter was in heaven.

So a couple months ago, when she finally determined exactly what pet she wanted to add to her collection, she broke the news to her dad.

An African cape house snake—a gentle species, not too big, not venomous or poisonous (did you know those are two different things?), and hey, it eats frozen thawed mice, not live rats or something horrid like that. So, basically, if you’re gonna get a snake, this was a good choice.

And my amazing husband said yes.

He even drove our daughter to the local FedEx hub to pick up her special delivery. He celebrated the experience alongside our sweet girl.

Crazy? Maybe.

But my husband knows something I wish more parents would. Supporting our children’s God-given interests is so valuable to their upbringing, to their character-shaping and their confidence in who God created them to be, that my husband was willing to cast aside his own reservations, opinions, preferences and fears in order to give our daughter hands-on experience in pursuing how God made her.

If you’re lucky, your kids aren’t into snakes. But what is that “thing” for your son, your daughter?

Art? Music? Hockey? Robotics?

Is their interest expensive, time-consuming, inconvenient?

I get it. That’s parenting.

It’s one of God’s greatest tools to chisel our character, inviting us to cast aside our selfishness and serve one another in love, like Jesus.

Please understand I’m not talking about creating a child-centric household. Not at all. Parents are parents first, not just playmates. We set the rules and enforce the boundaries so our children grow up safe and wise. Our job is not to acquiesce to their whims but to teach them the value of patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control.

But it certainly doesn’t hurt to “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4), especially when those “others” are the people God entrusted us to nurture.

The greatest outcome we could hope for our kids is that they’d come to know Jesus and His calling on their lives. As parents we have the power to help them discover both.

For me, as it turns out, that means living with a snake.

Back to my daughter’s panic moment, when just days into her new snake-mom role she went to check the enclosure before turning out the lights, and the little yearling was nowhere to be found. Not under the hides, not wrapped around the grapevine wood, not slid behind the foliage.

“There’s no way she could’ve escaped this enclosure,” I said to convince myself just as much as my daughter. Please, Lord, don’t let this thing be lost in a closet somewhere.

Together we poked around in the snake’s bedding, three inches deep, hoping—yet kinda not hoping—to find her slim body coiled beneath a heap of shavings. Imagine just waiting for a snake head to pop up any second, right beside your tasty finger.

“I found her!” My daughter gasped and let out a sigh.


“Right here, in the corner. She must’ve figured out how to burrow beneath the substrate.” And sure enough, through the glass we saw a tiny snake head peeking out from a pile of bedding.

Crisis averted.

Our daughter’s bedroom door opened and in walked Dad.

“What’s going on in here?”

We giggled. I put my arm around our daughter.

“Nothing, Dad. Trust me—you don’t want to know.”

The next morning, we settled on a name for our newest pet. We’re officially calling her Needle. As in… needle in a haystack. It suits her well. And for me, Needle is a reminder—to keep seeking whatever God wants us to find… in our kids, in ourselves, and in the middle of the night as necessary.

Becky Kopitzke


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