I have been struggling in the parenting department lately. My oldest--once so sweet and quiet--is now loud and rude. Mostly to me. She's still kind and funny. But when we interact, she demands my immediate compliance with all her requests, and loudly. Like, I'm getting yelled at for a significant portion of my day.
When my husband walks in the door from work, I'm done. I'm worn down. I'm through. I know that's a normal feeling, even when your kids aren't rude. I hadn't realized how much her attitude wears me down until we had one perfectly delightful day. No yelling. No tears...It was glorious. I felt energized. I felt hopeful. I felt like I could actually do this parenting thing.
But in the several days since the glory day, it has still been hard and I still feel like I am failing.
Permit me a foray into a distinction that may not seem like a big deal. My mind has been turning these two phrases: Am I parenting my kids well? Or am I loving them well? At first blush, there is no contradiction between loving my kids and parenting them well. But for me, parenting is wrapped up much more in performance--theirs and mine--while loving them is completely wrapped up in how I lean into the heart of God to draw strength and mercy to give to myself and my kids.
These are some distinctions that I am learning in my own brain. (These are not universal...just what has occurred to me as I've compared my motives and goals.)
Parenting my kids focuses on the desired outcome.
Loving my kids focuses on patience and grace in the moment, knowing that seeds of love and mercy will affect the outcome.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that he will also reap.
Galatians 6:7 ESV
Parenting my kids is about behavior, compliance.
Loving my kids is about teaching them heart-level obedience, not the appearance of obedience.
If you love me, you will keep my commands.
John 14:15 ESV
Parenting my kids tends to be about me and how well I am doing.
Loving my kids recognizes that I am laying down my life for my kids, drawing strength and love from the Holy Spirit to continue to go, day in and day out, as I shepherd them, as I speak kindness and peace, as I speak the truth in love, as I give discipline where it is needed and grace where God asks me to. Loving my kids means I can let go of expectations and take it a day at a time, leaning on God for wisdom in how to love each of them well. It becomes less about performance and more about the development of their characters and their image of God the Father. I am being challenged to shift my perspective for my sake and for my kids' sake. It's hard, but I have the feeling that it's worth it.
So when my oldest shouts and demands--contrary to the way I have taught her to interact with others, particularly her parents--I can take a deep breath and remember how God has taken so much from me. I can see her as my sister in faith, and instead of lording my authority over her, this moves me to compassion. I see myself in her--in need of correction but also in need of patience and kindness in this correction. I see her as a little flower starting to bud, to be treated with tenderness and firmness, until she blooms fully into the lily she is destined to be.
Rather, let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).
Ephesians 4:15 AMP