Nothing could have prepared us for becoming parents. We tried our best to prepare as we read through books like "The No-Cry Sleep Solution", "Baby Wise", "The Happiest Baby on The Block", and "Good Night Sleep Tight" all the while keeping close reference to the classic, "What to Expect When You're Expecting".
Well, I can tell you what I wasn't expecting: to cry more than my kids do somedays.
Parenting is hard.
Disclaimer: Guys, I absolutely love my kids. This isn't a post to bash them. They are two of the funniest, sweet-hearted, thoughtful, smart and generous kids. They are all sorts of cute and cuddly but, they are also just that: kids. Like all us "adults", they have their moments of sweet and their moments of sour. This post is a little about both.
So, back to my point.
Parenting is hard. (but, don't we make it look fun? It's got it's serious silly moments too ^)
But what I realized as I sobbed on our bedroom floor to my husband about their lack of listening and stubbornness, their strong-wills and blatant ignorance of authority; wiping warm tears and #allthesnot from my face with a kleenex was, as much as their behaviours (that are both very real and challenging) were an issue, what really wasn't sitting right with me was what my responses to their behaviours was birthing inside of me.
I felt ugly.
An fun and agreeable, [but authoritative] parent when they were listening to instruction but as soon as they veered toward challenge,
I would quickly shift back into this authoritarian persona who I simply never imagined I'd be.
Everyone has been there. Saying a phrase or using a tone your own parents did with you that you vowed you'd never say. Oh the things you think and say before you have kids of your own. Can I get a witness?
Raising my voice without a thought and barking,
"Don't do that."
And the all-time-favourite, "Because I SAID SO!!!!!!!"
This controlling attitude had developed over time.
A reliance that the first time I lay out an expectation, that they see it as a firm regulation to implement into their lives immediately, expecting in return all their respect and obedience. Not allowing any grace for them as kids to have some space to learn. To push the boundaries. To test their own voice and authority. To develop their own thoughts toward my expectations and to *gasp* be given the freedom to question them.
Why is it that the moment we feel we're starting to lose control, we try to regain it by flexing any power we think we have?
I think this can be a question asked in every aspect of life, it's not just married to challenges in parenting. When insecurity pops up in business, friendship or within leadership, what and why is our default response to flex power?
When something is unknown, it's scary. The only way to control that unknown is to attempt to control the other side of the equation which is often another persons' response. Why why why why why do we do this. It doesn't work with adults, why do we expect it to work with little ones?
Being a parent is hard. But, being a two and four year old is way harder. There are days I put my head on the pillow and ask God for forgiveness for my tone of voice toward them when they were yelling at me from the bathroom to come wipe their bum, the words I chose in frustration because they opened the fridge for the 10th time in a minute and spilled the milk everywhere or the time I spent on my phone, escaping mentally on social media out of exhaustion from answering what felt like a hundred "WHY" questions instead of intentionally connecting with them. Not out of guilt but out of wanting to be better. One very important thing I've learned in the last 5 years of parenting is: grace.
Grace to grow.
Grace to fail.
Grace to fail again.
Grace to sustain me.
Grace to make me better.
It's not about how much I messed up today, but how much each mess up is teaching me to love my kids in a different way; with different words, tones, actions and intentions. When I choose grace instead of guilt, I grow. As a Mom, wife, friend, woman, leader and business owner.
My kids made me ugly, yes.
They revealed all of the ugly things I thought I had already worked out of my character like a lack of patience, being quick to anger in tense situations, succumbing to negative self talk and thoughts and holding onto possessions more tightly than I should, just to name a few. My kids have been one of the best refiners I've ever experienced. Full of grace and love themselves whenever I humble myself (and I do) to ask their forgiveness if I modelled something that I would never want them to copy like, becoming easily frustrated with them in a situation where they aren't doing what I've expected of them.
This is the greatest and most challenging journey I've ever been on: the honour of parenting two (almost three!) kids and doing all I can to prepare them with for the world we live in. I've been taking more time lately to just acknowledge how absolutely incredible they are instead of how challenging they can be in some situations. My prayer in this next season is to be able to consciously shift my perspective when I'm frustrated to awe and understanding instead of constant correction and disagreement. While they still require structure and I do have expectations which require to be met (like being saying please and thank you, not using potty words while praying or saying goodbye to someone ... "Goodbye poopy face" just doesn't sit well), I want to be able to respond with a different kind of understanding instead of a quick, unthought-through response based on my emotional state at the time. Instead of yelling, "Hello! LISTEN TO ME NOW!" I want to be able to take a deep breath and connect with them. "Why are you choosing not to listen right now?" I want to open the lines of communication instead of deflate them with a raised voice. I want to understand instead of demand. I was to praise and smother with kisses over 15 times in a day instead of sigh and wish my co-parent were off of work sooner. I want to connect instead of always correct because in that connection is where the Holy Spirit will do His correction in me and my ability to parent effectively will span that much further.
What are some of your struggles in parenting? Are they similar to mine? Different?
I'd love to hear your side.