This past Sunday I spoke to our church about parenting wisely. I talked about loving our children irrationally and setting limits and bringing our children up in discipline and instruction, discovering their strengths and encouraging them along the unique path God has for them. After church, several people said very kind words to me about the message — which was really encouraging because I had spent hours reading and praying and meditating and then, when I started writing, I felt like God was pouring into me and then I was pouring everything out onto my computer screen. It was exhausting and incredible, and I am amazed that pastors do that every single week. Every single week, all year long, for years on end. Amazing.
So on Sunday morning, I said all these things about parenting wisely. And I poured my heart out on that stage, saying so many things I know to be true about being a parent and bringing up our kids.
And then on Sunday night, I absolutely, completely, totally blew it. It’s like I took my whole message from Sunday morning and then I turned it all upside down and did the exact opposite with my own daughter on Sunday night. Not my finest hour. Ugh.
The thing is — relationships are hard. And relationships with our kids are really hard because our kids keep changing and growing. We figure out how to navigate one stage with one child and then, BLINK!, that stage is over. And you might think I’d master some stages because I have six kids, but they are all so darn different that going through a similar stage multiple times doesn’t seem to give me a leg up at all. Which seems totally unfair!
I get tired and frustrated. Sometimes I start grasping for control, and that ends up looking really ugly. Instead of lifting up and encouraging my kids, I do start beating down and trying to force them into a mold. I criticize. I raise my voice. I steal their joy and suffocate their spirits. And after another lecture, another venting about the thing that’s wrong with a child, I’m deflated and defeated, and the child is deflated and defeated. The child’s self-confidence is kaput. I feel like the worst mother on Planet Earth. We all feel horrible. And that’s how Sunday night went down in my living room. *deep sigh*
But God seems to be at His best when things seem to be the worst. This is the God who showed His prophet a vision of life being breathed into dry and dusty bones because that is the sort of thing our God does. He breathes new life into dry, dusty death. So I have noticed that – if I look up and humbly cooperate – in the aftermath of my worst parenting moments, new mercies appear. Forgiveness wraps us up. Grace lifts us up. Hope propels us on to try again, to not get stuck.
Relationships are hard. Being a parent is hard. Being a child is hard. Being an adolescent is really hard. We won’t always get it right. Sometimes, we’ll get it very, very wrong – even when we know better, we’ll do the complete opposite of what we know. I think the key is to keep getting up and trying again. To admit when we’re wrong, to apologize and pray for grace to do better next time. Maybe part of parenting wisely is not giving up.