Tuesday, September 25, 2007

We are going to get through this

About seven or eight years into parenting I started to get tired. I couldn’t figure out why, when I had a baby and a toddler, people thought it was okay to stay home and take care of them. But when I had a six year old, a seven year old, AND a baby and a toddler, I had twice as much responsibility, and yet I was expected to handle it all in stride as though I had no little ones! Was there no rest for the weary?

In addition, about that time, I began to realize some things about myself and about my kids. The first thing was that I was never going to be able to achieve my goal of 100% consistency with love, affection, discipline, or attention. I sort of figured this with one or two, but by three, four, and later, with five, I knew I was hopelessly outnumbered (My favorite line is still: “How many kids?” They answer, “Five!” Then I say, “How many Mommies?” “One!” “Then you will have to wait patiently for me!”). I began to see some character issues repeatedly reappearing that I did not like, in spite of using the right “techniques.” I realized some of them had personality quirks that were annoying.

Yes, the parenting honeymoon had most definitely worn off.

By the time Allie (now 14), our oldest, was ten and at the zenith of her strong-willedness, I was treading water and drowning fast. There was a lot of strife in the house, and I was angry and upset a lot. After one particularly trying episode in which I had lost it with Allie, I was in tears, she was in tears, and I felt like I was a failure. Not only were her character issues getting no better, I was watching myself making a huge mess of my relationship with my daughter.

Through the tears, I held her and said, “Allie, I blew it. I am so sorry. I wish I could say I was always going to handle things right with you, but the fact is, I am going to make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes will hurt you. There is only one person who is perfect – God – and I am going to have to answer to Him some day for the way I raised you. Even though I don’t always do a good job, I am going to try my best to train you to know and to do what is right, and through it all, to point you to put your trust in God. He is the only One who will not disappoint you. We are going to get through this. It may not look like it, but no matter what, I want you to know I love you, I will always be here for you, and I will never, ever give up on you.”

Of course, Allie made no comment to my little speech, and, still discouraged, I wondered if she was even listening. Over the next few years, I’ve had "opportunity" to repeat it many times, not just with her, but with each of our kids. Maybe it didn't change anything for her, but it strengthened my own resolve to hang in there with her. I believe it was the beginning of a new, authentic (I did not say "spark-free") relationship with Allie.

Wouldn’t you know, just Sunday night, Allie and I had a “discussion” that became a bit heated (she is still strong willed, even though God has done wonders to temper her powerful personality!). I’m sure I said some things I shouldn’t have, and I knew I didn’t handle it in the most loving way. Later that night, I was very tired from our long weekend, but I knew I needed to go and tuck her in anyway.

Now in the calm stillness of the dark room, I told her I was glad we were able to talk about things, even if the conflict makes us uncomfortable sometimes. I would rather have her tell me what’s on her mind than have her hide her feelings and tell me everything’s fine.

She reached across the bed, squeezed my hand, and said confidently, “I know, Mom. I'm glad we can talk, too. We’re going to get through this. We really will.”

I felt tears sting my eyes when I heard my own words come back to me. So she was listening!

It may not always look like it, but yes, I believe we will, too.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

32 comments:

Terry said...

Thank you for being so honest. I have a 13 year old and sometimes I have a hard time relating to her as well. Like you, I have had to learn to be willing to apologize and admit when I've made a mistake. I've found that it can make all the difference.

Melody said...

I believe that is so true. I can not count how many times I have had to tell my 15 year old son. I am a human being, I am not perfect and I will not handle every situation the way it should be handled. However, your speech is much better. Do you mind if I borrow it?

Keri Ann said...

This is so encouraging to me! I have already had so many of those "I blew it!" moments with my 3-year-old. She happens to be my little "mini-me" in personality, which I think tends to breed even more conflict than if she was more like, say, my easygoing husband!

I'm hopeful that by admitting to her when I've been wrong, and asking for her forgiveness, we'll some day be able to have conversations like the ones you can now have with Allie. Thank you for painting that picture of hope for all of us with little ones!

AIMEE said...

I have four children ages 9 and under and I definitely feel the chaos right now... it's hard having 2 elementary age children and 2 young ones...some days I wonder if we'll make it! Now I have a new mantra "we are going to get through this!"

The Chirgwin Family said...

Being vulnerable and honest with our kids is SO good! I too have blown it so many times, and have had to apologize with my little ones. (4, 6 years old and under)Those late night conversations in bed, with the lights out, laying next to one another are the BEST. It seems the heart is more easily shared then.

Sherri@NoiseOverload said...

Lead on sister! It's great to be reminded not to neglect the night time discussions. That's when I am the most tired and my flesh wants to say, "Mommy time is over. Just go to bed." I hear myself say that more often than I'd like to admit. But when I do "die to self", I have life-giving, relationship building conversations.

Carla said...

SO what I needed to hear today! My strong willed girlybug and I will make it too!

Grafted Branch @ Restoring the Years said...

You know you've got their hearts in the moments like that at the end of your post. Isn't it so very humbling? It is for me. "Who is raising whom?" I often ask myself.

I'm glad you shared this. Blessings to you and yours...

rachel z said...

This post was just what I needed for today. I'm a ways behind you but am just at the beginning of my parenting journey with a preschooler and a toddler. I really appreciate reading your thoughts and experiences.

50 toes said...

I have that 10 year old right now. She is my oldest, I have an 8yr old, 5yr old and I am pregnant. I feel like I am totally screwing this whole thing up, I love her to death but it seems that we cannot coexist, HELP!!!

Thanks for your your post, it is an encouragement to me.

-Charlotte

Susanne said...

What an encouraging post, Katherine. Being vulnerable and honest with our kids is so important. I can't count the times I've blown it. But to be able to admit that to my kids has opened doors with them.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

I am so "far" from the teenage years, but have found myself completely overwhelmed as well. i have had to apologize to my children for my imperfections as well.

I think it is beautiful that your message "got through" and you were being heard in the midst of difficulty! How encouraging! They are listening and watching.

Thanks for your vulnerability with us to share this.

Jen said...

I hope Madison and I are as close as you and Allie are at her age. Madison and I struggle at times.....I probably lose my patience at times....but I pray everyday for my kids.....

Mama Bear said...

Great post today. Very encouraging. :)

fAiThFuL cHiCk said...

...and I have tears in my eyes just reading this. Thanks for always being so authentic. I am learning so much from you.

Blessings,
faithful chick

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Tears are stinging my eyes too. Really nicely put (and handled--by both of you).

Julie@HighFive! said...

How encouraging! I have found that probably one of the best things I can do, is say something similiar to my 11 yo son, when we've had a particularly hard time. Everytime I humble myself with him, he responds almost instantly, and the walls go down. It's a wonderful reminder...and you give me hope for the teen years...which I dread a little bit.

And I have to tell you, the verses you post are always so helpful to me. I just love them!

holy chaos said...

Boy, have I been there!

I have 6 children and a couple really try me.

I have a daughter who is 12 and I remember when I used to hold her as a little girl and so wish I still could. I love her so much, but thses "tween" years are hard.

Deidre said...

One thing I need to remember is that I would rather my girls talk to me about things (no matter how heated) inside of hold things inside. I get this mixed up sometimes when I 'keep' my oldest (5) from saying anything to me because I don't want her response to be disrespectful. I, then, see her pouring her heart out to her grandmother or a friend of mine - yikes! This isn't what I want at all. I'm looking for balance.

Thanks for your post, Katherine. As always, you let me know that it's okay when we blow it sometimes. God understands and loves us. Our children benefit from our admission that we've blown it, but we love them as well.

Deidre said...

That should be 'instead of hold things inside'....sorry!

Beck said...

I'm at the "Wow, I'm tired" stage of parenting, the time when they start seeming like flawed people and not so much like adorable children. I needed to read this today, Katherine. Beautifully written and necessary.

Jeremy@Life of an Ant said...

That was moving. Thank you for sharing that. I am not yet a parent but we are planning on starting within a year. I sometimes wonder if I will make a good father. Reading post likes these only give me hope that I don't have to be a perfect parent to be a successful one. I think you are doing a great job and obviously something stuck with her that keeps light at the end of the tunnel.

TheLuckyOne said...

Katherine, Thank you so very much for this great parenting story and moment. We have a lot we can gleen from you. You are doing an awesome job. God Bless you and your family.

the wifey said...

coming from someone who was the strong-willed, oldest child who made it rather difficult for her mother, i really love what you said to your daughter. what a way to let honesty rule while still being a leader for her.

julie said...

This post made me a little weepy. I love it when our kids give us the kind of reward you got from your daughter. Such a special moment.

Shannon@Idylwild said...

I'm so thankful that you posted this - I really needed it today. We're facing some of those character issues and personality quirks and I'm in over my head. But God sends me the encouragement I need to keep swimming (or at least flailing my arms) and your blog is often the source of that encouragement. Thank you.

Real Life in South Carolina said...

Hi. I just found you through The Lucky Wifey. I too am a mom of five children. My oldest is 14, my youngest is 1, and I can relate to exactly what you are going through! Thank you for sharing your experiences as a Christian parent.

I remember a time when I was a teenager and my mom confessed to me that SHE messed up and apologized. I was so shocked. That confession and apology ministered to me so much, because I no longer felt like the only one messing up all the time. I began listening to her advice and wisdom more openly after that. I just turned 30 and my mom and I are very close today.

Meg said...

I think I'll be coming to you in TEN years when my daughter becomes a teen. I love the passion my daughter has, but it certainly comes with struggles. It's good to remind them and ourselves of our brokenness, and ask for forgiveness. Audrey is learning this lesson already, because I've had my share of failure in addressing her. Thank you for being so open and honest. It's so refreshing.

Rachel Anne said...

What a beautiful moment. You are doing a great job and Allie is very blessed to have you for a mom. Thanks for the reminder to just be honest when we blow it, and to let each other know you are on the same team, regardless.

Dini said...

You have so much wisdom to share. I loved reading this. My kids are 6, 5 and 2 so I will try to remember this for the days to come. Thank you!

Ladybug said...

Your posts are so honest and comforting to us moms out there who are praying just to make it through one more day without ripping our hair out!! lol

Gina Conroy said...

Beautiful post. It sounds so much like me and my oldest. I should just memorize your speech. You said it so wonderfully.