“Look at my EYES!!” Oldest has a cookie over each eye. There’s a fine layer of cookie dust over his whole face. His WHOLE face. I shake my head again as he chomps cookies like Cookie Monster. I have already griped about messy eating 4 times during the meal. I sigh and push his chair close to the table, trying to prevent at least some of the cookie grit from falling to the floor.
The con artist has finished just enough cereal (shee-yo) to earn himself 4 sweet-tarts for dessert. He drops his shee-yo bowl on the floor while taking it to the sink (good boy) races around the kitchen a few times while he swallows candy, and asks for more cereal.
It’s the witching hour at our place. Supper to bedtime.
Bitsy arches her back and screams in total fury as I change her. Why do you hate changing, getting dressed? We used to have such sweet tickle games. She protests when I carry her to her bedroom, but stills and rubs sleepy eyes as I sing. Til I put her in bed. Then she howls. I pray for my little spitfire, for God to grant me the coming wisdom that I know I’ll need.
The con artist bounces around the kitchen like a pinball. Throws his clothes in 4 different rooms to be retrieved and put on. Begs and whines for more candy (can’t con me, boy, I birthed you. I’m immune). Has to be told 5 times to get in his room for prayers. Tries to get big brother in trouble during prayers. Talks during prayers.
The big one, with his giant feet and long fingers (he’s getting so big) fights and protests EVERYTHING, the whole way to bed. I remain calm. I hold my voice steady. I remain objective. I watch his face, his whole body contort in frustration and grasp for fragments of control as I quietly reprimand the arguing. Too easy on him? Will a tougher mom make a difference today, when he’s like this?
I pray for God to reveal the balance between not breaking his energetic little spirit and not raising a feral child. The answer is here somewhere, I have to trust. Choose your battles, Morgan. You cannot win them all tonight. Defiance is one thing. Disobedience is something. Hitting little brother is DEFINITELY something to address, but eating with a fork, not fingers? Food in the mouth, not on the floor? Please eat all your food, yes all 5 bites? Bathwater IN the tub? Blankets and throw pillows ON the couch, not yanked and thrown across the living room? Underwear on right-side out? Please don’t put your cookies on your eyes? Walking, not running? Clean face? Toys all put away?
I let (most) of the minor battles go on nights like this. When he’s overly tired, all-over emotional, and acts as if anything other than playing a video game is pure torture. Focus on respect, on honoring parents. God give me wisdom, ’cause there’s so much I don’t know.
…. also, some energy, God. Just a smidge more, please, for evenings like this. Thanks.
And I find great comfort in His great grace when He gives me this reminder.
I am not defined as a good or bad parent in this moment.
And then this..
He is not defined as a good or bad child in this moment.
This evening, this selection of battles, right or wrong, whether too grace-full or too strict, is not the final answer in who he will become. In who I will become.
Simple, obvious, but it is SO EASY to start comparing my kid to other kids. My parenting style to others’. I spend considerable time and prayer thinking about how to be a godly parent, to raise my complicated children children in a godly manner. It is wise and prudent, Biblical even, to take advice from other godly people.
But so difficult not to compare! Slippery slope. But by the grace of God, tonight, He kept my mind from sliding down there.
Another comfort tonight. My children are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” On purpose. Just the way that they are. And God has a plan for their lives, too. I am just one piece in their story, which is woven and arranged by the Great God of the universe, who is sovereign over all.
Tonight’s crumbs left on the floor, that I didn’t make Oldest clean up after himself, will not prevent him from ever learning about consequences. Or cleaning. There will be other opportunities.
And sending him to bed before making him tidy up the bathroom does not make me a failure as a parent. Neither does leaving the kitchen (and bathroom) untidy. Sitting on the back patio, listening to God speak to me through His word, prayer, and the sound of the neighbors’ sprinklers is a much more valuable exercise.
(Here I realize I forgot to eat supper. I digress.)
God works on and through us, with our sticky faces and balled up fists. God works on us and through us, with our messy kitchens and achy shoulders.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corin. 12:9
People have life verses? That’s my parenting verse, y’all.
It’s 9 o’clock. Witching hour is over, the house is quiet.
Time for my supper.