Let me tell ya. This whole parenting thing? It’s not for wimps.
Last week was probably the single most difficult week of parenting I have experienced in the 11 ½ years that I’ve been a mom. And that’s saying a lot. With previously mentioned Middle Child , it was a perfect storm that exploded into some serious ugly.
He was tired. (Who wouldn’t be after a full summer of sleeping in and spending the day relaxing, then having to wake up at 6:20 every morning and go to school all day?)
He was lonely and confused. (He started at a new school, whose building is completely different from his old school building, and he knows no one.)
And the rug was still being pulled out from under him at home with all of our new discipline strategies.
All of that put together? Like I said, serious amount of U.G.L.Y.
Screaming, yelling, name-calling, hitting, pushing, blatant defiance and disobedience. (And that was just to me.) By Wednesday night, I was an exhausted, frazzled mess. I was done.
Not surprisingly, I had a really hard time sleeping that night. As I lay awake in my bed, an idea started to form in my mushy, exhausted little brain. A conversation. A plan. I truly believe God was speaking and telling me exactly what to say – because the end result was astonishing.
The next morning was off to a (sadly expected) rough start. Griffin gave us an ultimatum: Give me what I want, or I’m not going to school. Fine, we said. But you still have to get up and get dressed, because you will need to go into your principal’s office and explain to her why you’re not going to class today.
He decided to go to school.
I picked up all the kids that afternoon, got them a snack, then called Griffin into my bedroom. I closed the door, then sat on my bed and invited him to join me.
“I want to tell you the story of you,” I began. Then, lovingly and respectfully, I started my tale. I told him how excited we were when we found out I was pregnant with him. And then, in specific but discreet detail, I described to him all that I experienced and endured because I love him so much.
Morning sickness. (“You know how yucky you feel when you throw up? I threw up every single day for a month.”)
Discomfort. (“For four months, I had to sleep sitting up, otherwise you would get up under my ribs and I’d wake up feeling like my ribs were broken.”)
Labor. (“Can you imagine the worst tummy ache you’ve ever had? I had that every 3 to 5 minutes for about nine hours…”)
Exhaustion. (“I had slept for about two hours, then we had to go to the hospital, and you weren’t born until the next afternoon…” and “Staying in the hospital isn’t restful. Someone is coming in every few hours to check on you, and when they weren’t checking on me, I had to feed you…”)
Nursing. (“You know how it feels when you fall on your ‘no man’s land’ on your bike? Imagine someone squeezing you there as hard as they can for twenty minutes straight, then throwing up all over you, and then coming back to do it again every two hours, around the clock.”)
Exhaustion Part II. (“You’ve seen your 2 year old cousins this year. That’s how old Meghan was when you were born. I had to take care of you and her, and daddy was a resident, so he was gone all the time. None of our family was close to help me. There were many days I couldn’t even take a shower.”)
Life in Peril. (“When you were three and Meghan was five and I was pregnant with Nathan, my doctor said I had to stay in bed because Nathan was trying to come early, and he would be very sick if he came early. But I still had to take care of you and Meghan and fix your breakfasts and your lunches and your snacks, and I had to take you to school. I rested when I could, but you still needed me.”)
Soccer. (“This is exactly how much money we spend every year for you to play soccer. We could take a really nice vacation with that money, but we don’t. This is exactly how much time we spend in the car every single week, just taking you to practice. We know God has gifted you to play soccer, and we love to watch you play, so we don’t mind doing this.”)
At the end of this extended, very detailed speech, I said, “I want you to look at me because this is important and I want you to remember this. All of these things I told you about? This is why I deserve your respect, and why it makes me so sad and so angry when you treat me so badly and call me names and say that I don’t love you. I have endured so much for you, and I have sacrificed everything for you. I love you.”
He looked at me, then snuggled up next to me, gave me a hug, and said, “I’m sorry, Mom.”
After that, The Alien went back to his home planet, and my sweet, tenderhearted, obedient son returned.
(Out of all of that, strangely the story about bedrest had the greatest impact. “You could have had Nathan early and would’ve had to take care of a sick baby, but you still took care of us…”)
Because of his behavior that previous week, we had decided that he would not be allowed to go to soccer practice that week, nor would he play in the championship game on Saturday. (Both of these consequences had forewarning, yet he still chose the behavior that resulted in these consequences.) In order to drive the lesson home, we told Griffin that he would have to go to practice and explain to his coach why he would not be practicing or playing.
I know. Brutal, aren’t we?
Normally, he would have thrown a huge defiant fit over this and refused to do it. But after our little chat, I told him what he was going to have to do that afternoon – he silently considered, nodded, and said, “I think I can do that.”
And he did.
So here we are a week later. The weekend went amazingly well, and we had some really enjoyable family time together. There have been a few…ummm…hiccups in the last couple of days, but we feel like we finally have a handle on it and can redirect relatively quickly.
(He’s writing I will love my family and treat them with kindness and respect 20 times and Ephesians 6:1-3 as I type – with the understanding that he will not watch TV or go to soccer practice until he finishes. I was pleasantly dumbfounded when he accepted his assignment calmly and graciously.)
During the night of insomnia when God gave me the words to speak, I knew they would go straight to Griffin’s heart because that’s the kind of kid he is. He can’t stand to see anyone hurting or sad or sick. He’s the kid who will empty his piggy bank for the American Heart Association fundraiser at school or the special offering at church. He’s that kind of kid.
(Despite the wild Norwegian-Spanish flare that he comes by oh-so-honestly.)
I knew that telling him the proof of my love and how much it cost me would reach that part of his heart waaaay down in there that he had closed off to us.
How much like our children we are. Disobedient. Defiant. Unkind. Disrespectful. And does not God similarly speak to the prodigal? I love you so much. Here’s what I did for you. This is how much I gave. I gave My life for you. I sacrificed everything because I love you so much. Please let Me love you, and please live a life of love and gentleness so you can live in My love.
And how much more peacefully and joyfully we live – with ourselves and with each other – when we accept His love for us. How much happier we are when we (for crying out loud!) simply obey.
How abundantly we live when our own little aliens go back to their home planet.