I hate to admit, but lately, I am pretty sure my parenting skills are NOT something the Lord would be proud of. I mean, I do a good job of putting on a great show, I like to "look like" super mom, but if you were inside my home, you might think differently. When no one is watching, I have gotten lazy, I have put housework above heartwork, and allowed the excuse of "I'm a type A kind of gal" to rule the roost.
It had gotten to the point that all the children did was fight and bicker and then I would just holler over them begging them to quit. I was so consumed with trying to get my house in order and do all of the "homemaker" type things that I let parenting fall to the way side.
I tell you all of this because I feel like the Lord wanted me to. I feel like as moms we all tend to want to look like we have it all together, we get pretty high and mighty at the grocery store when we see another mom struggling with the tantruming child while ours sit quietly in the cart. When the truth is, that as moms we should be a little, okay, a lot more compassionate. It happens to ALL of us. We are parenting in the trenches and instead of delighting in another mom's moment of battle, maybe we should react a little differently.
A few weeks ago our kids begged for mohawks, we were not crazy about the idea, but decided that it was just hair and that we wanted our kids to know that God doesn't care at all what we look like, he loves us the same. Let me tell you though, if you EVER want criticism in the Christian community, give your kid a mohawk. I was ASTOUNDED. Suddenly, my cute kids who typically are very well behaved and mild mannered, got stares, looks, and snarky remarks made even by family members who love them. They were the SAME kids, just looked different and suddenly they must be heathens. Literally...they were called heathens because of their hair.
Luke got a pretty hurtful comment from a family member and came home broken-hearted and wanting to cut his hair. I asked why he wanted to cut it. His response, broke my heart. He said he loved his haircut, but he didn't like that other people didn't like it and thought he was a bad kid because of it. Seriously.
We were suddenly on the other side of the judging table and I didn't like it one bit. I hate to admit but I have had more prideful moments than I can count out in public as I watch another mom struggle with her kids misbehavior. "MY kids would never act like that".
Then all of the sudden Ben grew an attitude. He began to get mouthy and hateful and the fighting in our home was unbearable. I spent weeks, beside myself, not knowing what to do next. You know those moments where you are quite sure you are ruining your kids for life, and that you have missed the opportunity to save them from a life sentence in federal prison. Yeah...that is where I resided. He was hitting, kicking, spitting, yelling...the WHOLE deal. Like...was not even the kid I knew.
In a moment where I felt like I had nothing left to give, that I was surely the biggest parenting failure in the history of the universe, I cried out to God. (Why is it that we often ONLY resort to taking it to Him once we have reached the end of ourselves?) In that moment, I felt a peace come over me and I just started praying for that boy's heart.
I had had a conversation with another mom a week earlier and was talking about how I didn't know how to reach his heart...that I knew something was up, but that I wasn't sure what to do. I told her that I didn't want him to quit hitting, kicking, yelling etc, just out of fear of punishment, I wanted to see a change in his heart. Her response was "Oh, so you want him to be a twenty one year old in a four year old body". No...that wasn't it. I went to college to be a teacher, I get child development. I know that all kids his age are impulsive and act out. I know that. I also know that sin is sin, and my boy had sin in his heart and was struggling. I wanted to guide him in examining his heart and dealing with the sin. Yet in talking with most of my parent friends, I could not find someone who understood my plight.
After a quick Internet exchange with a friend half way across the country, she got it. She recommended "Wise Words For Moms" and "Don't Make Me Count to Three" by Ginger Plowman. I hopped on Amazon, redeemed my Swagbucks, and wondered what I would do without these resources for the next week or so until they arrived.
I sat down and had a heart to heart with Howard about my struggles. I felt like my fuse was short with everyone, I had lost my joy and that I was just a constant referee. He agreed and apologized for lack of leadership. We sat and prayed together for our family and committed to making things different and following the Lord. We have spent lots of time since praying for our kids, for our family, for our parenting. I have spent time combing through the best parenting book ever...The Bible, yet felt kind of overwhelmed still. We were definitely seeing progress, but I felt like I still was not reaching the hearts of my kids.
I sat down and wrote out some verses that I wanted to use in my parenting on index cards and hung them where we would all see them.
Here are some of the verses I used:
"God gives joy to those who promote peace." Proverbs 12:20
"Whatever you do, work heartily as for the lord and not for men" Colossians 3:23
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." Ecclesiastes 9:10
"Walk in humility, consider others better than yourself." Philippians 2:3
"Do everything without complaining and arguing" Philippians 2:14
I began praying like crazy for the hearts of my kids and for my own heart. I have often prayed for their hearts but mostly forgot to pray for my own and I was not in a place myself where I was being very effective.
Since this funk, the books have come from Amazon, and I will say they are more than worth their purchase. I was reading the Bible and finding verses, but these resources helped me to further unpack what the Bible says and the way we need to instruct our kids so that they can examine their hearts.
Our home still has squabbles and moments of selfishness for sure, but my kids are REALLY getting it. For example...whenever we go anywhere to eat, the boys always fight over who gets to sit next to mom. As we entered a restaurant over the weekend...here is the scenario that played out.
Boys: I want to sit by mom, no I want to sit by mom, NO I WANT TO SIT BY MOM.
Luke: Ben, I want you to sit next to mom this time, because I love you and want you to be happy and I need to think of you before thinking of myself.
SERIOUSLY? SERIOUSLY! That is not to say that every incident plays out like this...it is a small victory, and I will take it...it is sinking in.
Just a month ago I was in such a yucky place, I felt like a huge failure and was so beaten down. Today I see progress...ONLY GOD...ONLY GOD. I am still the same hugely flawed person. God put me in my place and reminded me of my immense responsibility to train the hearts of these precious ones. I have recently really felt called to pray for parents everywhere. If you are in that place...that rut...that funk...and would like me to specifically pray for you, I would be happy to. Please just leave a comment or jot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep on fighting the good fight...He has it all under control...follow Him and take Him at his word.