“And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” – Luke 11:46
The phrase, Because I said so pretty much sums up my natural parenting style. I’m authoritative by nature and repentant by grace.
I had a situation with my son today that showed me just how far I have to go in the parenting journey. He had worked on an English assignment in which he was supposed to write a paragraph. He finished up his assignment and when I went to check it I found that he had not written a paragraph at all, but had put bullet points instead of an actual paragraph. On one hand, I completely understand this as I prefer lists and bullet points. However, that wasn’t the point of the lesson. As I began showing him how it needed to be done and trying to help him correct this problem, he became angry and belligerent. This was a major overreaction on his part and it infuriated me. After all, I was trying to help him. What reason was there to be angry and throw a fit?
This kind of reaction has become commonplace in our home with this particular child. To say I do not understand him in these moments would be a huge understatement. Everything about it seems irrational and I don’t respond well to irrational. The situation continued to escalate and I lost my cool and yelled at him for being completely out of his mind. No, I didn’t actually tell him he was out of his mind, but that is what I was thinking.
Normally, in a situation like this I would first separate myself so we could both cool off or I would not have much of a desire to see this thing through. I may be so overwhelmed by the lack of rationale that I would just forget it all together and try to move on without resolution because I just don’t feel like doing ‘hard’. However, knowing I shouldn’t just let it go, I would most of the time impart a little wisdom (or not) and proceed to take a favorite toy away or ground him from playing with his friends.
Instead, this day I chose to hang in there. Not because I wanted to, but because I was really hoping to get the madness on video to send to his counselor. I wanted her to see this Empowered to Connect thing isn’t working for us. As I began working through the principles we’ve learned, the situation began changing. It was still not easy, and I still did not do it perfect, but in the end I was able to connect with my son and get to the root of his anger, which I discovered is a feeling of inadequacy mixed with a perfectionist bent. A lethal combination. This entire situation took 30 minutes to resolve. We have these types of meltdowns often from this particular child. We’re learning that most of these outbursts of anger are rooted in circumstances he had to deal with as an infant. To say that parenting a child or children from hard places is difficult would be a gross understatement. It is time-consuming and emotionally draining, and honestly, it just isn’t fun.
Later, I was reading about Jesus eating with the tax collectors, the marginalized, the prostitutes…the very cast outs of His day. While I usually look at these stories through the lens of ministry outside our home, today it hit me square in the face the ministry we are doing inside our home with our children and our family. I have always identified with the Pharisee, but I have never seen it in this way as related to parenting. I’m the parent after all. Shouldn’t they show me respect? Shouldn’t they obey? Shouldn’t they do all this without me having to do anything? Just simply because I’m their parent? That would make sense to me. After all, the Bible does say honor your father and mother.
The Pharisee’s aim is to keep the sinners at bay. He wants them to act right before they are invited in. The Pharisee acts in pride and status. He marginalizes those in need of relationship. That’s what I do to my son when I hand out a punishment without taking the time to connect with him. I expect him to respond to me in an honorable way because I said so and I’m the mom, but Jesus doesn’t do that with me. Jesus connects with me regardless. He invites me in when I’m running. He doesn’t expect me to get my act together before he reaches out in love toward me, he reaches out in love and that love leads me to reach back toward him.
I will never be a perfect parent, but I pray the Lord empowers me to reach out in love toward my children, even when they are irrational and out of their minds.