I frowned at my youngest daughter, sure I’d heard her wrong. “No? But you’re taking a shower later today. Your body’s going to be clean and—”
“No! I don’t want you to change my sheets. The more you wash them, the more pilly they get, and then it annoys me when I go to bed.”
“Okaaaay.” So the dirty sheets remained. But later that night, minutes before she had to slip into bed, out popped her question: “Did you wash my sheets?”
Up went my eyebrow. “You didn’t want me to.”
“Nooo!” Her face crumpled and her fists clenched. “I just took a shower. My sheets are dirty.”
“You told me you didn’t want your sheets washed—”
“I never said that!”
Days later, with twenty minutes to spare before heading to school, she was still in her pajamas. I pointed to her room. “What are you doing standing around? Go get dressed.”
“I don’t have anything to wear.”
“Your bureau is full of clothes. Pick something.”
“I can’t. They’re clean and I’m not.” Pause. “Do you have any of my clothes hanging in your closet?” (It’s where I hang the wet clothes to dry.)
I jammed my hands onto my hips. “Let me get this straight. You refuse to wear clean clothes out of your drawer because you’re dirty, yet you want to wear clean clothes that might be hanging in my closet?”
These are just two snapshots of dozens of scenarios I deal with every day from daughter #2, who insists on arguing over almost anything, whether tangible, intangible, or choice of words. Heaven forbid I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went when trying to defend my position (and if I don’t use the exact same phrasing, then “you never said that!”). This is a child who will insist the sky is green and the grass is blue just for the sake of argument.
I’m mentally exhausted.
If I didn’t know I was in my right mind, I’d think I were going insane.
(My apologies to her grandparents reading this post. Just love on her all the more, please.)
For some reason, God in His infinite wisdom chose to pair up this mother with that daughter. Not only does He believe I’m the best mom for her–and that mothering her will iron out some wrinkles in her character–but He knows that having her as my daughter is the only way to iron out some wrinkles in my character. Because if it weren’t for daughter #2, I wouldn’t have realized I have such a problem with impatience. And anger.
See, scenarios like the above typically go on too long and end in a power struggle. And on really bad days, you’ll want to retreat along with daughter #1 into another room. Though it may seem like I’m being glib about this behavior from both myself and daughter #2, I’m not. I’m not proud of my actions and reactions. A yelling, angry mom is not the motherhood I envisioned when I was a child, myself.
But I share it with you because I suspect I’m not alone in this. I’m guessing many parents share my inner conflict. We think we’re decent people—kind, considerate, easy-going, polite—until we have children. Until we come up against a strong-willed mini-me who doesn’t want to obey and instead demands to do things his/her own way. Then out come our fangs, our insides curl and boil with heat, and we start doling out punishments and consequences as our voices rise in volume until it’s not one child throwing a fit…it’s two!
Lately, it’s gotten worse in this household, since my and my hubby’s tolerance threshold for her behavior is at an all-time low, and daughter #2 does not like that. So she’s pushing back. And it. Is. So. Exhausting.
Yet even this has a positive side when examined in the calmer hours of the day. In the Bible, James writes, “Consider it pure joy…when you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Really? Count it as joy?
Yes, because trials—if we respond to them correctly—are supposed to draw us closer to God. It’s in our distress we cry out for His strength, His patience, His wisdom. We are reminded yet again we can’t go it alone; we need the Holy Spirit to intervene and pull us along when we can’t make our feet move on our own. My walk with the Lord will be stronger tomorrow for the strong-willed child He’s placed in my life today. And if I press into Him now, then years later my patience will be mightier because I will have had so many opportunities to practice it, and my anger will not run as hot.
If I press into Him.
Lord, may I continue to press into You.
I’ve often prayed that He would help me love my kids the way He loves them, but recently one of my girlfriends recommended a more specific twist: to pray that God would help me love those qualities about my children that drive me crazy. Because He has plans for these kiddos and their unique quirks that I know nothing about. Daughter #2’s first and middle names combined mean “defender of the faith,” and the same defiance that rears its head against my parental authority is probably just the thing she’s going to need to wield in the future against a society that’s becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christians.
Now if I can just make her realize it’s not me she needs to defend against! 😉
Lest I leave you with an unbalanced view of this precious child of God, however, here’s an incomplete list of her awesomeness:
She’s hysterically funny.
She’s extremely intelligent.
When she’s determined, nothing can stop her.
She can be compassionate, loving, and considerate.
She loves little kids.
She loves the Lord.
She’s got a fertile imagination. It’s quite possible I got the writing talent just so I could pass those genes on to her.
She can draw amazing pictures with her tattoo pens.
She enjoys school (don’t think I could manage mornings if she hated to go).
She’s a loyal friend.
She’s overflowing with possibility.
When she’s in a happy mood, she’s an absolute joy to be around, and she loves to make people smile.
Thank you, Jesus, for my children. Give me wisdom and patience to parent them. Grow me, even as You grow them. Amen.