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.