Tagged with "Lea Ann Garfias"
The Hardest Part of Childrearing
Category: Parenting
Tags: Rocking Ordinary Lea Ann Garfias

The Hardest Part of Childrearing 

The hardest part about raising my four children is the apologizing. I swear, I hardly get my coffee poured in the morning before I have to apologize to one of them for a cross word or misunderstanding. Or for stepping on their toy and breaking it. Or for checking out a book on their library card and getting them a big fine. Or for accusing them of not cleaning their room when it was really a sibling that needed the scolding. Just while writing this chapter, I’ve had to apologize twice.  

It seems like I spend half the day correcting the wrong child and the other half of the day apologizing. Meanwhile, I’m juggling laundry from piles on the floor to machines to piles on beds, and shuffling stacks of homeschool papers from desk to desk, and running late to appointments. 

This does not, on the surface, appear to be the way to train the leaders of the next generation, but I’m here to tell you, my friend, that it is the only way to do just that. Stumbling and apologizing and trying again is the only way to parent. 

Everyone knows how to be the perfect mother until she has to sleep-train her infant or potty-train her toddler. Then, suddenly, the best laid plans and best-selling manuals fly out the door with weeping and wailing and soiled carpets. Those first two years of parenting teach us the age-old truth: you can have a perfect child, or you can have a real, human being child. You can’t have both. Since we do not choose to invest ourselves in robots, we are stuck with the regular human children.  

So we try teaching them to obey, and that’s so important, because it’s biblical, after all. And our grandparents are very pro-obedience, so there’s the family pressure. And we experience those raised eyebrows and clicking tongues at church, don’t forget. So we roll up our sleeves and set our progeny on the sofa for the big talk about what God and mommy expect from short people who share our last name. There’s even homework; I swear that by the age of two each of my own could repeat from memory “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” 

Right from the beginning, my own firstborn rose up in rebellion against what seemed to me like a perfectly reasonable request: just do what I tell you to do. I even gave bonus points if he would also smile and say, “I love you, Mommy” while he was doing it. Such a reasonable request. But before he was even two years old, he had the audacity to step right up to me, wave a tiny fist in the air, and declare, “I will not obey you today, Mommy.” 

At first I was pretty sure I had misunderstood him, but no, he repeated his declaration of war. Then he proceeded to demonstrate his intentions every way he could find. Sandwiches, soldiers, and shirts went flying through the air. Dishes and rules were broken daily, along with the peace of our small family. There was a new despot in the house, and he barely reached my knee. 

Either I was going to lose my religion, or he would give up his belief in tyranny. I resolved to never allow a toddler to overthrow the natural order of the family; but if I took his statement as a personal challenge, he even more so. The battle lines were drawn — in every room of the house. We fought over whether or not he would pick up his toys, whether or not he would put on pants, whether or not he would eat his sandwich, whether or not he would attend Sunday school, whether or not he would punch his friends. Basically, anything his parents told him to do, the answer was an unequivocal, “No. You can’t make me.” In those exact words. I daily regretted ever having taught him to speak. 

My husband and I were resolute. No temper tantrums, no flying toys, no shaking fists, no tearful pleas would dissuade us — we would continue being the parents whether or not he wanted to be a good child. Even though, quite frankly, we no longer wanted to be the parents at this juncture.  

How sorely that boy tested my conviction. Was obedience really that important? Was it unreasonable to expect a toddler to put his parents’ instructions ahead of his own desires? Or was I rearing a fresh, new juvenile delinquent? 

But you know what I discovered when I talked to my mommy friends? Most of them had the same struggle with their firstborn child. There was no reason, in those puny little psyches, that the taller people absolutely had to be in charge. Perhaps the adults could be overthrown with some well-placed Duplo, far-flung soggy diapers, and shear persistence.  

The adults had to be more persistent: persistent in boundaries, persistent in consequences, persistent in love, persistent in consistency. And persistent consistency is exhausting.  

My young terrorist was nearly successful in his rebellion, too. After a good two years of non-stop warfare over every single request his dad or I made, he finally exhausted himself. And soon after that, his sister started her own experiments with rebellion while her preschool-aged brother watched in smug amusement. Thankfully, the next two boys apparently learned from the mistakes of their older siblings and barely gave us a fight. At long last, the peasants were brought under subjection. We were, indeed and not only in name, the parents — large and in charge. 

I would never like to live through The Great Toddler Rebellion of ’01 again. I’m too tired now. Yet more parenting struggles rise before us: puberty, teen years, and the struggles for independence. I see no decade of Pax Parenting in my future.  

When I see another mom struggling to quell her own offspring’s uprising, I want to hand her a coffee and the Book of Psalms and remind her that it won’t last forever. It can’t — God promises we will reap if we faint not

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not (Galatians 6:7–9; KJV). 

We nearly faint with exhaustion, with worry, with discouragement during the tough parenting seasons. We bruise our knees with prayer and wrinkle our faces with tears and grey our hair with frustration over the spiritual battles waged every day.  

And what, exactly, are we praying and working and sowing and teaching and hoping to reap if not a life yielded to God’s control, a heart softened to the gentlest moving of the Spirit? 

The battle for obedience is, in fact, the battle for the child’s very soul. That is the extraordinary change we desire in this young, miniscule miscreant: the change from an ordinary baby, child, and teen to an extraordinary servant of God, yielded to Christ-like change in his own life and in the lives of those around him. A young one who grows in grace to influence those around him for God. A child obedient to his parents, so he will also submit to God. 

Thus, ordinary parenting requires extraordinary faith and grace.  First we sow faith, because we will not always see the harvest we plant. We don’t see it that day; we may not see it that year. We may diligently teach and enforce, train and explain for years before the soil turns fertile and the son turns afresh to Christ. We know not the date of the due season, so we faint not; we faith it up until God shows up in the young life.

 


This article is an excerpt from Lea Ann Garfias’s new book and small group study: Rocking Ordinary: Holding it Together with Extraordinary Grace.

Lea Ann writes to help women recognize the extraordinary impact they make with their seemingly ordinary lives. A homeschool grad and homeschooling mom of four, Lea Ann fuels her roles as author, professional violinist, choir director, and soccer mom with a whole lotta coffee. You can connect with Lea Ann at lagarfias.com or facebook.com/lagarfias

 

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