(Note: I've noticed that when I give such vulnerable peeks into my parenting, it can really bother those who's approaches are different. While I respect that not everyone would handle this situation like me, and I KNOW I don't handle these situations perfectly, I think it can help to get a real life look at how someone else deals with the nitty-gritty. I thought in light of my mom's post yesterday about strong-willed children, the following post would be appropriate. Please be respectful in your thoughts and comments on this very raw look at a situation from my life.)
The morning had started out rough, but I was determined to tackle it with a good attitude. I began making toast for one when the other said,
"Mommy, I have a runny nose."
"Okay, bud. Mommy's making breakfast, go grab a kleenex and I'll help you wipe it."
"No. I want you to get me the kleenex."
"Mommy's in the middle of making breakfast. Go grab it real quick and I'll help you."
(Throws self on floor) "NO!!! I don't want to get it! I want you to get it!"
(Kicking and screaming commence.)
<Sternly> "Calm down, bud. That's enough."
This was already the 3rd tantrum of the morning. I finished preparing the other one's breakfast and calmly picked him up and carried him to his room. I sat him on his bed.
"When you're ready to eat breakfast calmly or want to grab a kleenex for your nose, feel free to get up."
I left the room and spent time with his brother who was eating. It had been a stressful week. My sister was getting married that weekend and I was making the cake on top of my other matron of honor duties for the week. This child had chosen to be particularly defiant all week long. My stomach had been hurting and I didn't feel well. And, possibly because of stress overload and hormonal imbalances, this particular tantrum was bothering me more than normal. My heart was hurting for him.
The minutes ticked away and the tantrum hadn't let up. He had moved from his bed to the floor and was throwing himself against his bedroom door. I went into his room and he stopped to watch what I would do. I quietly sat down next to him. Tears filled my eyes as I empathized with his heart. I knew what he was feeling. I had been there. And though it's been 20 years since those hard-hearted, defiant years as a young child, I remember well the joy they stole from my life.
I stole my own joy and I was watching my son do the same thing to himself.
I prayed with him. Told him I understood. Talked about how Jesus died for these sins of ours and can soften these hard hearts that we have. I used my CTB to point him to verses on defiance. I even made him laugh as I had him imagine Eph. 6:1 reversed. "Mommies and Daddies obey your children..." He giggled while I explained to him that this was not how God designed it and that just as it was wrong for him to disobey me, it would be wrong for me to obey him (which is what I felt like I would be doing if I got the kleenex for him - and I'm not saying it would be wrong in every instance, but I felt like it was in this one).
Wouldn't you love the story to end here with a heart that softened and repented and a child that melted into his mama's arms?
But that's not what happened.
When given the choice again to come eat breakfast or grab himself a kleenex, his anger erupted once more. The tantrum lasted nearly 2 hours.
I can't say this always happens or even that it usually happens, but for some reason I didn't lose it (I did later that day on about tantrum number 9... ugh...). I needed to go pick up the cakes to start decorating, but I knew his heart was more important than my to do list. My mother-in-law graciously offered to bring the cakes over and I got to work, stopping frequently to check in with my child and lovingly correct him and see if he was ready to do the right thing.
The battle finally ended. I wish is was because he finally saw the futility of his defiance. It wasn't.
He stopped because his nose stopped running.
At least that's what he said. Maybe it was a combination of that and exhaustion from his fit, but either way, the ending wasn't warm and fuzzy. I didn't feel like super mom when it was over. I was thankful that I hadn't lost my patience with him, but doing all the "right" things didn't make for a happy ending... at least not the one I was looking for.
But I was reminded of three things in between screams and pleads and sighs and discouragement:
1) I'm not in control. I am not in control. I. am. not. in. control.
2) God is.
3) The process can glorify God too. Even if the results aren't what I'm going for, the process that gets me to that result can be pleasing to the Lord. I didn't flip out. I pointed him (and myself) to Christ. I was discouraged, but not defeated. In that sense, my end of it was somewhat successful. What drives me bonkers is that I'm not in control of his end of things, which drives me to my knees begging, "Lord, please change his heart."
It was in the trenches of this tantrum that I was reminded of the beauty of the gospel, that God can redeem my messy heart and my child's messy heart. I'm not in control and, in all honesty, that's a good thing... especially when you measure my wisdom next to God's. And most comforting of all, He IS in control. As my mom said in her post yesterday, God can be glorified through my kids and through their exasperated parents.
To him be glory both now and forever. (2 Pt. 3:18b)
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