Sometimes being a mom is just hard.
Sunday afternoon was one of those times. Our family was planning on going to the movie theater to see a cool new family flick in celebration of Father’s Day. And one of my precious children was caught in the action of losing self-control of one of his appendages, actually punching a sibling in the head.
Now before I continue to tell you my story from Sunday, I have to stop and share with you why I haven’t shared many of these kinds of experiences in my life here before.
You see, when I was a younger mom, I thought I had it all together. I didn’t actually think that, but looking back, my judgments of others proved that I did deep down. I know… pride is ugly isn’t it. Two kids was no sweat, most of the time. I was a sanitation expert, usually had cooked a new recipe with ingredients from our garden, and the laundry in the baskets barely saw the top, let alone overflowing like they often do today.
Then three came along and the transition was a bit harder. I experienced my first bout of postpartum depression and struggled to get my groove for about 8 months or so, but then, I figured it out! It was a humbling experience and I grew tremendously in grace for other moms as I was craving it myself. Then for about a month I found my new normal, or so it seemed until I became pregnant with baby number four.
Up until this point in my life I thought I was doing a pretty good job as a mom. I was gardening, grinding wheat and making homemade bread, being pretty consistent in managing my home, and keeping the kids on a regular schedule, living healthy and my husband and I were having regular date nights. Life was good!
Then came baby number four. At six weeks, he had colic and it went on for the next 6 months or so, every night from 7:01 pm- 2:03 am, like clockwork. I was exhausted and done. Then he hit toddlerhood and that was when God really humbled me.
I have often shared in women’s groups that God allowed me to walk through an intense refinement as a mother when my fourth child entered our world. He humble me from being the “know-it-all mom to a realist keenly aware of her own sin and that of her children. For a long time, I un-admittedly believed that if I did A, B, & C from this Christian parenting book and that one, that I could somehow create a perfect parenting formula. Of course, I didn’t really believe that, but in hindsight my judgments of other mothers revealed that I thought I had it all together. If only they would, X, Y, & Z. If only they read _____, ______, and _____.
Well, after a huge dose of humility with child number four and some revelations about who God is in my children’s lives, things were calming down again. Until I was on bed-rest with baby number five, and that was no cake-walk. The humble pie kept getting served up. Once the baby was born, he was perfect. No colic! Happy smiley baby, cute chubby cheeks, he was my pride and joy and the easiest of toddlers!
So now let’s fast forward to Sunday. This precious quiet baby has grown and has been challenging mama’s patience full time.
This had been the third occurrence of a lack of self-control physically, but it seemed more serious than that. It has been building for years. Years you say, how old is this child? Young, very young, but after having been raising a few children for the past 15 years, I have seen a growing lack of self-control in this child for a few years. We have addressed it. But it has become clear that the battle we are in is deeper, it’s spiritual. The lack of self-control was revealing something deeper. So, I had to respond with an appropriate punishment that would make a lasting impression.
So, I chose to let everyone go to the movie without us! And it was so hard for many reasons.
- You should have seen the look on this child’s face. Totally upset about not getting to see the show. Movies are his thing. Of all our kids, he enjoys them the most!
- I really wanted to relax and go to the movie and it was like I was being punished too. Not fair!
I have to laugh out loud as I am writing this SO terribly transparent because it just reveals my own selfishness. “Not Fair!” What am I, three years old again?
We all have those moments don’t we? When we think life isn’t fair. Even though we preach to our children that it isn’t!
This scenario I have just shared with you brings up one of the hardest parts of parenting
When you realize that the most effective punishment or consequence that you need to allow happen to your child requires you making a sacrifice too. It’s when you have to buck up and be a parent. Parenting is tough and requires you to be tough without sacrificing grace and love.
Many of you might be thinking, that was a really harsh of a punishment. But the reality is that this child didn’t exercise self-control, and we have seen this before. Honestly, I had warned of other punishments when the temperament got out of hand and then found ways to justify letting this child get out of that punishment because it would be punishing the whole family. Have you ever done that?
That is not parenting. I don’t even know what that is. In reality, what does that teach the rest of the team?
But I recently saw something in my child’s eye the last time we were having a talk. What I saw was disbelief. He didn’t believe that the consequence I was putting in front of him would happen. So, after much prayer and realization of how soft I had become, I buckled down and stuck to my guns on this one.
I followed through on allowing this child to experience the said consequence. And as I pulled away from the movie theater, I found myself steaming mad. I was angry that someone else’s sin had impacted me not being able to watch a movie. And as I acknowledged my anger in my mind, I realized how messed up my priorities had become. I told myself, to be careful not to punish in anger. Follow through, have him take a nap, and then after the nap, pray with him, talk with him about Jesus.
Once we got home, I had him lie down to take a nap. It was nap time and he usually takes a nap even though he is getting older, and I could tell he needed it. But napping wasn’t going to fix the problem that we had been seeing grow in our son.
However, the nap was crucial for mom. When I preached to myself, don’t punish in anger, like I have tens of times, I knew I needed a time-out to collect myself, my quiet my anger, to reflect, pray and get my heart ready to correct and instruct.
You see one of the things I realized with my first-born is that we cannot assume our children are saved just because they are being raised in our version of a Christian home. We can’t assume that they will really know Jesus just because we want them to and we talk to them about Jesus, listen to worship music all day, and read them the Bible.
Instead we have to proactively teach our children, point out their sin, and help them learn how to ask Jesus to help them have self-control over the sinful nature that wells up inside us and how to fight the temptations of the evil one.
I had to remember that, I am a mom.
Movies aren’t eternal, but my child’s spirit is.
And this was an opportunity for me to allow God to use me as His ambassador in my child’s life to again re-share the gospel and explain what sin is and the need for repentance. This is my calling, my mission. To make disciples. It requires stepping up, and being the parent we are called to be; willing to allow our children to experience consequences for their actions, and holding them accountable.
If you are struggling today as a parent, and you feel weary, just burnt out and feel like you are failing in your parental role, let’s pray together. Because you know what? I am pregnant with my 7th child, and though you might think I have this parenting thing down, I don’t. I mess up and make mistakes, and fail to follow through sometimes, and even chose to be selfish and make wrong decisions. But there is grace for you and for me. So let’s pray.
Parenting is hard. It isn’t all bubbles, vacations, and butterfly kisses. And we recognize the incredible privilege we have to be parents, but we also come to you and ask that you would guide each of us to be and do as you would have us. Lead us Father. We acknowledge that all wisdom comes from You and that You are the most gracious Father, but that you are also just. Help us to make wise decisions in our parenting and guide us. Help us to be the mother and father you call us to be. The one that is willing to do the hard thing because we love our children and don’t want to see them continuing to walk in sin.
And Lord Jesus, would you help us to have grace with our children. As the Son, you understand fully what it is to be a child as well and sometimes we forget. Would you remind us? Help us to have perspective and to be receptive to our children’s needs both spiritually and emotionally. Amen.
And lastly, if you are reading this post and are appalled that one of my children hit the other. I am with you. I was appalled too. But I would warn you from judging. Because I used do just that, I used to see the child having the temper tantrum in the grocery store and the mom giving him what he wanted to get him quiet and I would judge. I did! I admit it. It was ugly and ungodly of me.
And the truth is that God knew the ugly in my heart, and because He loves me, He keeps offering opportunities through the sanctifying journey that motherhood is to purge these sinful heart attitudes and a critical spirit out of me. I invite you to take this time and pray to God, asking Him to forgive you of any critical spirit you may have hiding deep in your heart or mind. Because the truth is, this critical spirit does contribute to the quiet fight between women. Our pride or even our low self-image of ourselves is just the place that the enemy wants to entrap you to keep you from experiencing the sweetness of fellowship with other sisters in the Body of Christ.