… Is my middle name.

It’s been a hard week.

My emotions have been on edge as my parenting style was rocked trying to figure out how to let Isaac be Isaac and not expect him to be me.  You can’t just change your parenting tactics overnight…

On top of that, we’ve been struggling to get (and stay) healthy for over a month after having the stomach bug, the super cold, and most recently pink eye (Come on!).

Then last Wednesday, my grandma (mom’s mom) got sick and on Thursday, she unexpectedly passed away. So Thursday through Monday, my life was filled with cleaning my house for guests, cleaning Mama’s house while everyone was in town, and trying to love my family well as we all grieved this huge loss.

With all the emotion, I felt like I was barely able to take care of myself, much less my children, and our relationship struggled because of that.

Yesterday I was feeling much more stable but that didn’t stop me from yelling at Isaac when he flat out refused to obey after about five minutes of asking him nicely.

I got control of myself pretty quickly and by the time he was able to control his behavior, I went to him and apologized for yelling.  I kissed his head and told him how much I loved him.  “Even when I’m screaming, I still love you.  Even when I’m mad at you I still love you.  Do you know that?” I asked.  He nodded. I took his face in my hands and looked him in his blue eyes and told him one more time, “Isaac, I love you.”

He nodded. I can tell him a million times that I love him, but I can’t make him love me back.  That’s something he’ll have to choose to do.

 

I was at a meeting at church last night when a counselor got up and talked to us about pain.  “Why do you think pain is so hard to deal with?” she asked.  “Because it hurts!” someone answered.  We talked for nearly 30 minutes about the importance of dealing with our pain when the counselor said something else that caught my attention.

“You need to know that God loves you in the good times and bad.  Even when you’re in pain, God still loves you.”

Suddenly, I was reminded of the conversation I had with Isaac and it occurred to me that in a way, God is parenting me, while I’m parenting my kids.  I’ve seen time and time again that He is teaching me the same lessons I want my kids to learn.

It was like in that moment, God took my face in his hands and mirrored my own words, “Even when you’re screaming, I love you.  Even when I’m mad at you, I love you…  Emily, I love you.”

I like to think of God most often as the big Grandpa in the sky.  One who loves me unconditionally and wants to spoil me rotten.  I realize that I may be in the minority of thinking of God this way, but I’m a cup half full kinda girl.  I don’t like to think of God as being capable of anger, though the Bible clearly says He is.

I wonder if God gets angry with me when day after day I refuse to control my temper and hurt my relationship with my kids in the process.  When I think about it now, it’s a worthy reason to get angry.

Or maybe He’s just disappointed in me.  I remember feeling the most guilt when my mom was disappointed in me.  It often happened when she’d ask someone to do the dishes for her after slaving over our dinner in the kitchen all afternoon.  My brother and sisters and I would start fighting over who’s turn it was to do the dishes.  Ten minutes later, my mom would sadly turn on the faucet and start doing the dishes herself.  That felt way worse than any punishment she could have given us.

Either way, I realized last night that my inability to keep my cool not only hurts my relationship with my kids (which you’d think was a big enough reason to get it together) but it also disappoints God.

Thankfully, I know He loves me anyway.

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I wrote the above post yesterday but something didn’t sit right with me.  I couldn’t post it.  So I slept on it and waited until today to finish it up.  I thought about it all morning, wondering if anyone else can relate to the little revelations I get from God.  Maybe this post was just for me.

Then, I checked my Bible app and read the verse of the day: 

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime!

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. 

                                                                                  -Psalm 30:5

That’s what I needed to hear. Did you need to hear it, too?

God, I’m sorry.  Every single time I am pushed to my limit I fail to do the right thing.  It’s a big deal.  I’m sorry for yelling at my kids.  I’m sorry for not having the patience they deserve.  You’ve got to help me.  I obviously can’t handle it by myself.  Please give me patience, and peace, and understanding when I just don’t have it.  Remind me how much I love my kids and want to strengthen our relationship, not tear it down.  Thank you for loving me anyway, in the good times and bad.  Thank you for your favor on me and my family.  Thank you for joy in the morning and cutting through my wandering thoughts to speak to me clearly.  Don’t let me forget how much you love me in every circumstance, but don’t let me forget that my actions here affect our relationship, too.  I trust you.  I know you are just AND good.  Thank you for being both.  Help me to be the same.

 

 

The Chart

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In order to promote responsibility in our house, Randall and I bought a chart to keep track of good behavior and completed chores.  It has some suggested chores and behaviors, as well as some blank magnets to write your own responsibilities.  It’s cute.   And every time Asher says the word “chart” I silently giggle a little.  (He has a problem with replacing the ch sound with an sh sound.  Someday I’ll be an adult…)

The boys earn smiley face magnets when they complete a chore or when they’ve had a day of good behavior.  When the boys share and play nicely all day, they get a magnet.  When they brush their teeth and pick up toys they get a magnet.  At the end of the week, if the boys have earned enough magnets, they get to choose their reward.  The first week, they earned a toy from Target’s dollar section.  The chart really seemed to be working.  The next week, they earned a trip to the zoo.  That was the last time the boys earned a reward.

The thing is, they are often nice to each other and they always clear the table and brush their teeth.  But they HATE picking up toys and making their beds.  There is no amount of motivation that will make them clean their rooms these days…

The other thing I have to admit is that the chart is for me, too.  Parenting is hard.  I will always be new to each phase of parenting and discipline.  I’m constantly learning and trying new things.  But for the past five years one thing hasn’t changed much.  I yell.  I yell a lot.  And when I’m trying not to yell, I just give them the evil eye.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to get the boys to brush their teeth before school.  Asher was doing a good job but Isaac was choosing this moment to throw a fit and not brush his teeth.  I rationalized with him.  “Isaac, we brush our teeth twice every day.  This is not a new thing.  The reason I ask you to brush your teeth is because it keeps them healthy.  We have to brush the food away so it doesn’t start eating away at your teeth, causing holes and pain in your teeth.”  It wasn’t working.

I tried a different tactic. “Isaac, just brush your teeth and be done with it.  You’re making us late for school.”  That was the wrong idea.  Then he started freaking out that he was going to be late for school!

So I tried my final measure.  I squinted my eyes and gave him my I’m-about-to-be-very-angry-with-you look and said in a forced whisper, “Then Brush Your Teeth!”  He continued to cry in hysterics and I lost it.

I slapped my own hand and yelled, “BRUSH YOUR TEETH!”  And then I saw the look on his face.  It was fear.  My son is scared of me.  That’s not a good feeling.  That’s never what I intended.  In those precious months when you’re expecting your first child, you pray a lot.  You ask for health and happiness.  You ask for guidance.  You never pray that your child will fear you.   It was an eye opening experience.

So I apologized.  That’s something a parent can’t be afraid to do.  I hugged him tight and apologized for yelling and told him I loved him and that we could drive to school and make it on time and helped him brush his teeth.

Then I went downstairs and filled out a blank magnet on the chart that said, “STOP YELLING.”  When Isaac got home from school, we talked about how sometimes I mess up and sometimes I disobey, too.  I showed the boys the new addition to the chart and told them that they would be allowed to give me a magnet if I stop yelling.

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You should be pleased to know that I have earned that magnet for three or so weeks now, every day (but two).  And the boys know, they can take away my magnet if I yell.  They are eager to do that.  Don’t worry.  They threaten to all the time.  Anytime I raise my voice to reach a kid’s ear that is far away, they ask if they can take away a magnet.  I don’t think those times count.

But I’m amazed at how easy it has been to make a conscious effort to change.  There are a few things in my life that have been my fatal flaws; temptations I’ve always struggled with and have never been able to make much progress against.  But I thank God that He helps me to overcome this one struggle.

 

May we never be too proud to ask forgiveness from our own kids.  May we always strive to learn and improve on our parenting skills.  God, may you always be my guide as I guide my kids.  Please protect them from the inevitable moments that I screw them up.  Teach me how to be a good mother and raise godly boys.  Amen.