Sometimes parenting is really hard.
This week has been one of those difficult weeks with my kids. My kids are great, and I know I am incredibly blessed. But, with everything we’ve been through, it’s understandable that we have our struggles.
Struggles with faith. Struggles with the past. Struggles with the future. Struggles with growing up. Struggles with staying on track. Struggles with obedience. Struggles with life.
And, struggles mean decisions have to be made, decisions that are my sole responsibility. Decisions that lie squarely on my shoulders. No one to turn to for advice. No one to back me up. No one to balance my weaknesses.
It’s. All. On. Me.
Just to give you a sample of our week:
One child (who shall remain nameless to protect the…guilty) has a bad habit of leaving the bedroom…filthy. Clothes strewn all over the floor. Wet towels left wherever they are dropped. Dirty clothes piled in the closet, not grasping the purpose of a washing machine. Food wrappers in the trash can where dogs can find them. Beds unmade. I think said child may actually grow up to be a hoarder!
Oh, we have had many, many, many conversations about the condition of this bedroom. Threats have been made. Everything has been pulled from the closet and left in the middle of the floor, leaving said child to clean it up. Said child would like to have the bedroom redecorated, and I’ve promised to spend the money AS SOON AS SAID CHILD CAN LEARN HOW TO KEEP THE ROOM CLEAN.
Nothing. Has. Worked.
Apparently said child isn’t as serious about redecorating the room as I am.
So, Saturday morning rolls around, and I make it VERY CLEAR that no one goes anywhere nor does anything until rooms are clean and laundry is done.
An hour or so later, I enter the room of said child who is on the bed watching TV. I again announce that no one goes anywhere nor does anything until rooms are clean and laundry is done.
This announcement is made multiple times throughout the day.
As evening rolls around, said child asks if he/she can spend the night with a friend.
“Is your room clean? Is your laundry done?” I ask.
“No,” said child answers, head dropping low, “but my friend can’t do it tomorrow.”
“I’m so very sorry,” I answer, feigning sadness over said child’s failure to do what was asked.
Yes, there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. There was teenage temper tantrum. There was foot stomping and pouting.
And there was no sleep over.
Do they ever learn?
Can I just say that discipline is NOT my strength? I love my kids, but I’m a push over and they know it. More often than anything, it’s just my forgetfulness in the midst of my crazy, hectic life. They ask, “Can I…?” and I answer yes before I stop to check their rooms.
I know I did the right thing, but why does it hurt so badly to discipline? Why do I feel guilty when I’ve given ample opportunities for them to follow through with obedience? Why is it so difficult to make my kids experience pain for their bad choices?
But the long weekend wasn’t over.
Another one of my children asked to go cycling with friends on Monday since they didn’t have school.
Now, you must understand that my child’s friends are avid bicyclists. We are talking 500 mile bike tours across the country. I expect to see one friend winning the Tour de France in the future! He’s that serious about his cycling!
And I would love for my child to spend his days cycling, enjoying the fresh air, getting the exercise. BUT WE DO NOT LIVE IN AN AREA THAT IS CONDUCIVE TO SAFELY RIDING BIKES.
After quickly answering, “Sure, you can go riding,” I backed up just a little.
“Where are you riding?” I asked.
“To Chickasha,” said child answered.
Now, please understand that Chickasha is a town approximately 30 miles away from our home. Most of the roads around us are narrow, no shoulders, and dangerous enough in a car.
But to be on a bike? With no shoulder? With drivers distracted by their phones? Just three teens on bikes traveling 60 miles round trip?
I stayed awake all night, wrestling with the decision. I mapped out their route, looking at Google maps satellite imaging to check the roads. I prayed…and prayed…and prayed some more.
When morning rolled around, I began to bounce the situation off those close to me, those whose parenting I respect, those my CHILDREN respect. Everyone came back with the same answer: it’s just too dangerous, too big of a risk.
I decided I had to be tough mom. I had to tell said child there would be no 60 mile cycling trip with friends.
Oh, the pain and disappointment! Oh, the sadness in the eyes! Oh, the anger boiling under the surface! Oh, the sulking that lasted an ENTIRE day!
As I drove to work after telling said child no, I cried. I cried because I was exhausted from wrestling with the decision. I cried because the burden of making every decision alone is heavy. I cried because I knew my child was severely disappointed.
The tears stained my face. The prayers wafted to heaven. The sadness overwhelmed me.
“Now you know how I feel,” I heard the gentle whisper of my Father.
Yes, when my Father must discipline me, it hurts His heart. It hurts His heart to cause me pain, to cause us pain. It hurts His heart to see us in anguish. It hurts His heart to see our sadness, our disappointment.
But He knows discipline is necessary to mold us into His image, to grow us and mature us. He knows it’s necessary to help us become all He wants us to be. He knows every good parent disciplines his child…out of love.
And sometimes, good parents have to say no to a fun activity because the child doesn’t understand the inherent risks. Children may only see the positives, but a wise parent looks beyond the joy and sees the hidden dangers lurking behind the shadows. A good parent sometimes simply must say no.
Just as I had to say no to my child’s cycling trip, sometimes God answers our prayers with a solid no because he sees the hidden dangers. It’s not because He’s trying to withhold something good from us. Rather, it’s because He wants to protect us, to give us something even better.
Same with our failure to clean our room (in other words, obey our Father’s instructions). He knows we are sometimes lazy or fail to listen. He knows we sometimes rebel by choice. He knows we aren’t always good at obeying. AND HE MUST DISCIPLINE SO WE LEARN TO BE OBEDIENT TO HIS VOICE. His voice, His commands, are always for our good, even when we don’t understand. He wants to grow us into mature Christians, molded into His image. He can’t do that if we fail to obey. So He disciplines.
Just as I disciplined my child because I know it’s what best, He disciplines us because of His great love for us. It’s not pleasant. It’s not fun. And, He doesn’t enjoy it any more than we do. As a matter of fact, He weeps with us, over us, just as I wept over my children this week. Parenting stubborn children is hard work.
I really am thankful my Father loves me enough to discipline me. I’m thankful He looks down the road and sees the inherent dangers and loves me enough to protect me. I’m thankful He watches over me, even when I am a difficult child. What a joy to have a Father who loves me so!
I pray you, too, can look at the discipline the Father sends to your life and understand it is out of His great love. I hope you can understand that when he tells you no, it’s because He’s looking down the road and seeing the dangers lurking for you. I pray you can grasp the goodness of the Father.
Now, I hope you will excuse me while I go make my children clean their rooms…