Yesterday after I picked the kiddos up from school and we were driving home, Nathaniel asked if we could go to Sonic and I said no, not today. So, we all continued talking about our day and a few minutes later he asked again, " Mommy can we puhleeeeeeese go to Sonic??". Before I could open my mouth, my oldest says to him, quite authoritatively, " No, Bubby... we cannot go to Sonic". Now let me just tell ya this... to THIS mom... tone is everything. And I wasn't pleased with the tone she used with her brother. I said " Excuse me, are you the mommy?" I received a big sigh and possibly an eye roll, though its hard to know for sure since I was driving.
It should probably be said that this is an issue we have been having for quite awhile now. This is a repeat offense. I finally decided to call her bluff when I said , " You know what, Em.... You're the mom. From now until bedtime you are in charge.. You have to get their snack, help the with homework, make sure all of their chores get done, field all of their questions, comments and concerns, all while still managing to do your homework and chores and cook dinner. ...So what are you cooking?"
I have to say.... for a while I was beginning to think my little plot had backfired on me. My little booger of a 5 year old who LOVES to pester his sister, thought this was the greatest game ever. On a typical day, the little stinker resist her bossiness at every turn, even when she legitimately is trying to help him. But today... oh today he was the most compliant and pleasant 5 year old you could ever meet. He was helpful and funny and did whatever she asked of him. In return, she was patient and kind and thoughtful to him.... the kind of behavior that is usually reserved for special occasions, like Christmas morning and birthdays...
Dinner was cooked with some supervision from mom ( tomato soup, chicken nuggets and potato chips..not the healthiest, but at least she's resourceful), homework got done and the bedtime routine went off without a hitch. I was consoling myself with the fact that at least they were getting along and that this showed me it was possible for them to do so when they chose to. So, not a total loss, but I felt like the bigger point I was trying to make was being missed. She requested to continue being "the mom" the next morning, so I thought... gotcha ," That means you have to get them up in the morning. You have to set your alarm, wake them up, get them dressed". She says " CHALLENGE ACCEPTED" . I think what she actually said was... "ok". But I caught the gleam in her eyes....
This morning I am shaken awake by my son who is fully dressed at 6:30 and he says.. " we are making our lunch!" Apparently the wake up routine went down as effortlessly as the bedtime routine. Emma did say however that Jillian was kind of hard to wake up and that she kept whining and messing up Emma's bed that she had made up and that Nathaniel woke up ok but then was just laying there in the bed. So she bribed them both with stickers.... ad she said "and I'm going to give them to them.. I'm not just sayin that". Well ok then.
At this point I take my concerns to Nate and he agrees that he is seeing a leeeetle bit of arrogance on Emma's part. She's pretty proud of herself and she's done a good job... but it's been pretty easy so far.
So.. I say to her " hey, you need to be thinking about dinner tonight. we have haircuts from 4-5, voice lessons from 5:30-6 and then church at 7. Somewhere in that time frame we need to eat." She walks over to the menu I keep on the side of the fridge and says " oh... its says "out", so we are eating dinner out!" I reply with, " great! What are you buying us?". Annnnd game over! " Moooom! I have like $6!! I can't buy food for the whole family!!". " You're the one in charge", I say. "you need to think of something". At this point she is getting flustered and frustrated and panicking. So I take my window of opportunity.
" Emma, being the parent means that you take the responsibility along with the privilege, the good with the bad. You stick around when it is uncomfortable and you don't leave when it gets hard. You have managed to maintain this responsibility for 4 hours last night and an hour this morning. You have had unusually accommodating kids and a full nights sleep. Within 30 mins time this morning you managed to bribe two kids under your charge to do a menial everyday task...waking up. and yet, you didn't address the deeper issue. Rewards are great, but in order for them to have an impact that lasts they should be reserved for special things. If you reward a child for something as simple as getting up, you rob them of having a sense of self worth and instill in them a sense of entitlement. Waking up is part of life, everyone does it and if they don't, it's because they are dead ... The reward is.. you're alive. You have had one morning of a whiny kid... one morning.You found a way to get her up... but is it sustainable long term? What about when she gets bored of stickers, will you have something else to offer her? What are you doing to foster her sense of contributing to society and personal responsibility? Do you think that you could deal with that attitude from her every single morning and not blow your top every once in a while? Now multiply that by 3. One morning of the week, one or all of you are crabby and not wanting to wake up. And usually every morning out of the week, I am crabby and not wanting to wake up! It's not a good combination. You've maintained this for a combined total of 5 hours with a full night sleep in between. Now imagine being woken up to clean up puke, or because someone had a bad dream or they wet the bed. Could you keep your cheery disposition with all those circumstances? Not to mention, the second things are no longer in your favor, you're ready and willing to bail and let someone else pick up the tab. "
I went on to explain that being a parent is 24/7 job. And you are a parent until you die. It does not get easier because it is a job that pulls from you physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It means having your heart walk around on the outside of your body. Our whole lives are consumed with protecting that heart and nurturing it and fussing over it. We want to see it thrive and grow. As a parent, we face the challenge of having to think towards a place in the future, where your child is an adult contributing to society, while still maintaining realistic expectations here in the present. It's a balancing act that is forever in danger of tipping too far one way. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is risky business that is not meant for cowards. Every thing you do, even with the best of intentions, could be used as ammo at a later date. Yet, we soldier on. Because that's what a parent does. We don't walk away, we don't quit when it hurts, we don't lay down when it gets uncomfortable ... and believe me at some point EVERY PARENT contemplates walking away or at the very least thinks to themselves " WHAT have I done?".
BUT...and I explained this to Emma too.... God gives a special grace and anointing to parents, especially moms, that He doesn't give to everyone. Its not a grace for ALL kids...just for mine. It is because of this grace that I can stay and trudge on after sitting up all night in a hospital chair with dried puke and snot on me as I watch monitors glow on my sleeping infant. After cleaning ALL DAY and within 5 minutes of kids being home my house looks like an episode of "Hoarders". And if you are not the mom to THOSE kids, the grace is not there and you will surely snap. Sometimes, when you are the mom to THOSE kids, you still snap. But then you apologize and you make it right with them...and God's grace is sufficient. Its grace that sends us back into hostile territory, facing a kid who throws everything we have done back in our faces and rejects our love over and over. It's that love that has us relentlessly pursuing a relationship with our child even after numerous rejections.
I'm sure some of you are thinking, wow... she really took that seriously...maybe a little too seriously. And that's ok. If I REALLY was that concerned with what other people thought... I wouldn't be writing a blog. :P But really... As parents, Nate and I were seeing some things we wanted to bring to light in our daughter. As I said, this wasn't our first go around with her. She was able to hear what we said and I believe that it gave her something to think about. I hope so, anyway.
The REAL lesson though was for me ( big sigh.... isn't it ALWAYS). I am amazed at how God uses my kids to teach me and love on me... and rebuke me. The parallels I see with Emma and myself and God and myself are amazing. Only now, I am the child. In my limited understanding and short field of vision I think I have control, I think I understand how things work and are done. I walk around with an air of pride that can be pretty off-putting but I don't see it. So, God, my Father, allows me to continue on until I hit a wall or squirm uncomfortably and seek a way out of the mess I've made. Or worse, I lash out at the One who loves me most. I reject Him and His efforts to set me on the path He has for me.I am hostile and angry and throw a fit because I can't have what I want. Until I finally break and remember that He loves me. He gently sits me down and shows me my arrogance and how it's blinded me. I am so heartbroken and shamed over my own pride and thinking I could handle things. Then I remember, HE is the parent. There are things I can't do and I'm not capable of because I'm not anointed for that. There are things coming my way that I could NEVER forsee happening..but He does, because He is wiser and bigger and stronger. So in His LOVE for me, He allows me to encounter temporary unpleasantness or doesn't give me what I'm asking for because He sees an end result that I can't fathom. And because I understand that He loves me, I trust Him. I trust his heart for me. Sometimes, even if I don't start out trusting Him, I get there eventually. ;) His heart for me is good. His plans for me are good. Jeremiah 29:11 says " I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future".
So, you see... this desire we have as parents to see our kids prosper, The hope we have for their futures, This didn't originate with us. We think this way because we learned it from our Father.
Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.