A Glimpse of My Struggles as a Mom
I’d never been this mad at my son. It was a good morning, like any other really, and a preschool day. My son loves his little preschool. He has friends there, he eats great snacks, he gets to play on a playground during good weather, and he presents me with Pinterest-type art projects after each class.
He only goes twice a week for 2.5 hours. He knew it was a preschool day, and he responded to my 5-minute warnings. I had my daughter in her shoes, and his jacket and backpack already in the car.
So I was a little surprised the morning he hit me instead of going. He swatted his little arms at me and yelled “NO” as loudly as he could. He wouldn’t put his shoes on, he definitely wouldn’t let me put his shoes on for him, he was just plain NOT GOING. I talked calmly to him, I asked him what he needed, what he wanted, I told him to use his words, but he was beyond words.
I gave him a time-out, knowing we might be a tiny bit late. One time out turned into two, then three. Finally, he agreed to go. He got his shoes and coat on, and we arrived about 10 minutes late. But when I tried to unbuckle him, he hit me instead of going inside.
It’s times like these, when my kids’ disobedience makes me ugly cry, that I start to question my parenting skills (or complete lack thereof).
How I Know it’s Okay to Struggle with Parenting
It’s Not All Up to You
God likes to remind me of something that’s both pretty alarming and a whole lot freeing. It’s the simple truth that it’s not all up to me. Sometimes I’m really thankful for that, and other times I’d rather have a whole lot more control.
I was listening to a broadcast from Focus on the Family last week when Jim Daly hit me with this:
“God had Adam and Eve, he was the perfect parent, and his kids went the wrong direction.”
-Jim Daly, President and CEO of Focus on the Family
This mind-blowing quote sat with me for awhile as I stared, wide-eyed, into space as I am prone to do. I had never thought of it that way. As much as I’m aware of our God-given ability to make choices, to have freedom to say no to God, and the fact that he’s our perfect father, this particular light bulb had never really gone off in my head.
God’s wonderful parenting didn’t mean his children didn’t make the ultimate mistake. His care for his kids didn’t prevent his grandchild from becoming a murderer. There’s nothing as good as God’s parenting, and his style is definitely encouraging and guiding, teaching and correcting, but not controlling.
Born with Free Will
So, thanks to free will, I have a whole lot less control over my kids’ lives than I’d like. I have lots of influence, and I provide plenty of direction, but their choices are firmly out of my hands.
The truth is, my kids are going to make mistakes. It’s how they learn some of their best lessons, it’s how they know they need a savior, and it’s how they make their way in the world.
The control I need to have when they are little is obvious–Sylvie’s physical size means I can scoop her up out of harm’s way at a moment’s notice. As a one-year-old, she needs me to make most decisions for her. But little by little, she’ll be trusted with more, and if not, she’ll demand more. She is my vocal one, after all.
I love the verses in Deuteronomy where Moses speaks to the Israelites after giving them the law. He flat out tells them this:
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.
God’s parenting looks a whole lot like communicating the rules/expectations and encouraging his kids to make the right choice. He doesn’t want them to suffer the consequences and curses that come from disobedience.
He tells his kids what will happen if they choose what’s good as well as what’s bad. He gives them freedom…and the blessings of life, love, relationships, and comfort if they make the right choice.
So all this freedom means that I can’t force my children into, well, anything. But I’m not helpless, either. I’m glad I have a lot of influence on my kids, or parenting would be totally overwhelming. It would also be unbearably tough if I was expected to bear all the responsibility for the choices they make.
In God’s Hands
Thankfully, there’s another reason I lack complete control over my kids: They are in God’s hands. God is our father, after all, and he’s taking care of us. He doesn’t manage us like puppets or keep us from making bad decisions, but he loves us unconditionally and speaks to us in that still small voice of his. He does that for us, and he does that for our kids.
Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
I’m so glad that I don’t have to be perfect, that God steps in when I fail with the best parenting ever for my kids. He has grace for me, and he’s so in love with my kids that he’s numbered the hairs on their little heads. He uses me every day, and I impart as much as I can to my kids, but God’s love goes farther than mine.
My Parenting Struggles in Light of Grace
Even though this light bulb hadn’t gone off for me, my struggle with my son ended when I stressed to him the importance of the choice he was making. I urged him to make the right choice. I reminded him there’s nothing I can MAKE him do.
After he hit me in the parking lot, we came home, and I explained once again that he would be in time out if he didn’t go to preschool. I shed a few tears when he wasn’t looking because he was making a bad choice. I let my husband know, and he texted me this: “try again.”
So that’s what I did. I gave him another chance for the umpteenth time. I set before my son a good choice and a bad choice, and I encouraged him to pick the good one. And you know what?
He did. It was like someone flipped a switch. He happily got in the car, went to preschool, and had a great day. When I picked him up, he even explained to me that if he hadn’t gone, his friend Carter would have missed him, and he wouldn’t have had special snacks.
I know it’s okay to struggle with parenting because there’s no magic formula that says if I’m a perfect parent, my kids will be perfect too. I’ve been on the receiving end of lots of do-overs from God, and he’s asked me to try again and given me another chance because that’s what he does. He does the same thing with my kids too. He’s a good father.
Parents and kids both have life and death set before us every day. We’re all human. That’s why we should have grace for ourselves even when our kids disobey, grace for fellow parents when we see other kids making bad choices, and grace for our own kids in these moments.
I’ll be the one telling my kids for the rest of their lives, “now choose life,” and praying for that breath-taking moment when they make a good decision.
Not one of us is perfect. That’s how I know it’s okay to struggle with parenting.