Thursday, June 11, 2015

When Parenting Hurts

It is the first week of summer break, which in my mind means things should be easier.  More relaxed. Less demanding on my brain.  But, then comes the personality and strong-willed temperament of my third child.  All those hopes of less?  Gone.  In one moment of deception and lying.  And then, then, I have to really be the parent.  And you know what?  Sometimes it hurts.  That moment, it hurt me almost as much as it hurt her - I can guarantee it.  I know you must be thinking that something HUGE went down for this moment to be the cause of pain like this.  But, it wasn't.  Not really.  What was this about?  Something simple.  But really, isn't most of those hurts over something simple?  And something that we make decision about?  It was for her.  And for me.  Honestly, it didn't even start that moment.  It all began a couple days before.  

We had a pretty good discussion about starting to do things that show she is getting older.  I don't mind that.  She is a 5th grader now, so it makes sense.  It is a good chance to teach about modesty and inner beauty and how Jesus sees her.  And we did talk.  And laugh.  But then, then, it happened.  The meltdown over something not so important but that seemed huge to her.  I will be honest.  I lost it.  I didn't throw things, but certainly didn't handle it well.  Well, in the end anyway.  I started out being very calm and rational.  Only she wasn't calm and rational.  At all.  I had to really get stern and put my foot down and just tell her NO.  And there were tears (and this momma does not do tears - not from myself and really not from my girls - I don't know what to do with the crying thing!).  Lots of tears.  In the end I thought we understood each other.  That she knew what she was not allowed to do.  I trusted that the matter was closed.  This strong-willed, servant-hearted child of mind was NOT done with this.  She was for that night, but then a couple of days later came the painful parenting moment.  

She was caught in the act of deception.  And to make it worse, she pulled a sibling into it with her.  The sibling was innocent.  Completely.  This one?  Not so much.  The denial, the lying, the deception hurt.  Because what was truly lost was my trust.  Her dad's trust.  In her, in her word, in her actions.  How do you deal with that?  Scream, yell, throw things, grounding, something else?  Every so often I head the still, small voice of God in those moments.  You know, the moments when you want to completely lose it?  This was one of those miracle times when His voice came through.  My husband and I sat in her room and she sobbed.  She was racked with them.  Her regret was palpable.  So was her hurt.  I just so much wanted to snuggle her close and tell her it was alright.  That she just shouldn't do it again and move on.  But you know what?  God spoke in that moment.  Not because I needed to punish.  This isn't in any way about a punishment.  This is about walking in what He has called us to do as parents.  To correct this child.  To show the natural consequence.  For her, it was understanding that she had broken our trust.  That trust is huge and gaining it back will take time and effort on her part.  So why did it cause me pain?  Because I saw my child completely broken.  And yet, I still had to make her understand the consequences of her actions and feel those for real.  I don't want her to hurt or feel those things.  I want to shelter and protect.  BUT.  If I hadn't let that happen, she wouldn't understand how everything in life comes with a consequence - sometimes good, sometimes bad.  If I don't do it when she is 9, she will have to learn this lesson later, but when it is a much bigger issue with much bigger consequences.  As a parent, it can be hard to see your child hurt and have to walk through those consequences, but we MUST do that.  They must be allowed to fail a bit in a place where there is restoration and healing.  The world won't do that for them, we must.

In those moments, when God does manage to get through and I actually listen, that is when He is able to teach me as I teach my child.  I see so very clearly that He is always parenting me.  How often have I done as my child and lied, deceived, and then been broken?  I can't even begin to count them.  Those times are times of learning and growth and, in the end, healing.  God does this for us are our Parent.  We have to do this for our own children.  Even when it hurts.  

This child?  She is happy today.  But the experience has made her think.  Yesterday morning she wrapped her arms around me and just sat there.  I wrapped my arms around her.  She told me she loved me and she was sorry.  And I knew she was, deeply.  The healing was starting in that moment.  So was her growth.  And later that same day she said, "Mom, I know I have to regain your trust.  I don't know how to do that.  Please help me."  And that, that right there made it worth while.  The hurt and pain for both of us.  She has and is learning.  While she is in a place of love and protection.  A place where failure can still hurt, but healing happens.  It is the same for me as a child of God.  

It is okay for parenting to be painful.  Sometimes it ends in beauty.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Kids can bring so many emotions.  There is a blessing that comes from each of them.  Today, I missed the chance to find the blessing.  Not with my kids, but with those others.  The ones that come into my classroom each day.  The ones that have a life that I have never experienced and one that I pray they didn't have.  Sometimes it is so easy for me to focus on my class that I forget that "my kids" are often damaged.  Hurting.  Lost.  Because we live in a broken world where kids go hungry and are forgotten.  And I mean really forgotten in this life.  People that work with children get this.  They see it every day.  It can hurt us as much as the kids we are with.  Sometimes more because we feel almost helpless to change anything.  Somewhere in this day I forgot that I am dealing with those kids.  Most of them broken.  Until something happens.  Like today.  I am not talking about my kids, but "my kids".  The ones at school.  The ones I love more than I could have ever thought when I started my year teaching.  I don't just have four kids - I have 604 kids or so.  Every kid that walks into my classroom is mine.  Undeniably mine.  And there are some that break my heart.

Today, I forgot about the broken world we live in.  The one where mom walks out the door without looking back and leaves those little ones with a hole in their soul.  Forever.  Where that dad is barely able to function because he is an alcoholic.  And the weight of the world falls on the shoulders of a 12 year old boy who just doesn't know what to do with himself.  And there is me, in the midst of this mess.  I know his story - and that he shares it with 4 siblings that are also "my kids" - and I forgot.  I didn't choose to look at his hurt and only responded to his actions.  And now, I regret my reaction.  I can't even begin to fathom how life feels to him.

Does that excuse his behavior?  No.  But in the middle of teaching him in my class, I need to acknowledge the greater lessons he needs.  That there are adults that love and care about kids.  That I am one of those adults.  There is a sense deep inside me that I have failed this one.  Missed it.  Failed to see the big picture.  Failed to walk in the love of Christ and show this boy that he matters.  Really matters.  And that out there is a Father that loves totally and completely.  That won't leave, forget, hurt him.  What if the only chance this boy gets to find this is through me?  How have I done today?  Not well.  Totally missed the mark.

Not that there won't be a time to try again, but this year, it closes.  And then he is gone.  And so is my chance.  My chance to shine a light into his world - our world.  Because just maybe I was supposed to be that one.  His one that cared.  How can I miss it like that?  I am human, and just as broken and fallen as the rest of the world.  But Jesus.  But Jesus.  I am to be HIS hands and feet.  We all are.  And it all starts with looking beyond.  Shining that light into the darkness - whether that means a sassy pre-teen boy or a grumpy person in the check-out line - we need to shine.

I am going to do my best to not miss another chance to choose.  To love.  Maybe even yet this year I will get the chance to repair a relationship and speak light to this boy.  Maybe.  My hope is that we can all shine a bit.  Please, be a light.  Look behind.  See more.  Make a choice.  Because, honestly, missing it feels pretty bad - even if the kid is mad at me.  And I mean mad.  Mad enough to dump hand sanitizer all over my chair and desk.  He is hurting.  And after I got over the shock of it all, we he needs most is love. And that is what it all comes down to.  Love.  Whether I am at home with my kids or with "my kids", it is about love.  I pray that I might be given another chance to speak into the life of this young man.  And that this time - this time - I won't miss it.  I won't just react to a sassy mouth and attitude.  That I will be able to choose to love.  To be the light in the darkness.  I hope you will join me.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

I want to talk about kids.  Specifically, my kids.  The thing is, I have great kids.  I mean really great.  Not like the ones you see on television or in movies.  Better.  Polite, kind, genuine, kids.  Certified 100% authentic -  And I have four.  But, even beyond all that, they LOVE Jesus with their whole heart.  And they live it.  The kindness, politeness, genuine-ness that is I see each day is from that.  That love of Jesus.  Are they perfect?  Heck NO! :)  But they are all mine and they are incredible.  I'd be lying to myself if I tried to paint a picture of something that wasn't real.  We have plenty of not-so-great, I'd really like to strangle you, days.  Mornings actually.  Like trying to get out of the house on time for school.  With struggles about brushing hair, brushing teeth, not touching your sister, and forgetting to have permission slips signed.  Yeah, that happens.  It happens all.the.time.  But, when I sit down and really think, and I mean really think about what I have in my kiddos, I am often just stunned.  I don't do that nearly enough.  Sit and appreciate them.  Simply for who they are right now, who they are becoming, and how completely amazing that is.  And a deep part of me knows, they didn't get here by accident.  They didn't evolve into these fantastic beings.  That's where motherhood comes in.  The real kind.  Not the kind on talk shows or fancy articles in magazines.  The kind where you are in trench warfare each and every day.  Where you have to make the decision to let them fail a bit, not be their best friend and be the parent, not bail them out when they forget their homework/instrument/lunch, walk through mean kids at school, and let them get mad at you.  Really mad.  Because you were actually their MOM.  And that can be hard.  Gut-wrenching hard.  Take your breath away hard.  I don't like seeing my kids struggle.  Every part of me wants to save them from the hard things.  But, I can't.  And I don't.  I won't.  That is how they learn.  It isn't mean, it isn't calloused.  It is real.  And this is me, being transparent.  It is hard.  Sometimes it makes me want to cry.  BUT, it is about raising real adults.  Functioning members of society who don't feel entitled to things.  That know how to work hard and understand that every action they take has a consequence.  And that is important.  And you know what?  They are amazing.  They have thanked me for doing those things.  The older two, they are starting to get it.  Really get it.  They don't always like it, but they understand.  They grasp what I am doing.  And you know what else?  They still love me.  Still think I am pretty neat.  Still talk to me, tell me things, ask me to pray with them.  This journey, it is huge.  It is important.  It MATTERS.  Every mother faces challenges.  And there are plenty of times when I really want to walk away.  To let them have their way.  Believe me, many times - let's be honest, most times - it would be way easier to just give in.  Be their best friend who listens and sympathizes and helps plot revenge on that mean girl that told you your hair look funny or you aren't wearing the right shoes.  The thing is, they don't learn from that.  Is it easier, yes.  Better?  Not really. Instead, I listen, pray with them and show them a scripture about turning the other check and loving your enemies.  I ask them what Jesus would do.  Honestly, some days I do way better than others.  Because I am human and I got up at 4:45am that day and then spent some intense time in ministry teaching 100+ children who aren't mine but need me all the same.  And that is real.  But, so are they.  I can't give them any less because I gave away my compassion and mercy and grace to my kids at school.  So, I dig in a bit.  Whisper a prayer.  Sometimes close myself in a bathroom and cry for a bit. But, then I go out and try to do this mothering thing the best way I know how.  With Jesus to help and the Holy Spirit to guide it can be done.  And then, when I sit back and have that moment to marvel at the wonderful little lives I've been blessed and privileged to play a role in, I am blind-sided and overwhelmed at the magnitude of what I am doing.  Thank goodness I don't have to do it alone.  God is always there, always supporting and ready to help.  To guide, to lead, to catch me when I fall - and boy, can I fall!  We all have great kids.  Amazing kids.  We all are simply trying to do the best we can.  In the end, being a mom has no higher calling or great challenge on this planet.  In the end, mom, don't ever forget that you matter.