What was supposed to be an incredibly fun day for my crew, has turned out to be exactly the opposite. It’s not been a fun afternoon in the Duffer household.
I have one child who is absolutely furious at me and has lost all privileges for two weeks due to blatant and hateful disrespect towards my parental authority. One child is out helping someone move a refrigerator–he’s not in trouble. Another child managed to put off a school project until today; said project is due tomorrow. And the fourth child just called me from work telling me she is going to Suffolk for the night to watch the Superbowl, when our entire family was looking forward to having her here at home with us for the game.
Parenting is not for cowards.
But admittedly, my parenting today has been less than stellar. In fact, I would say that it falls in the category of complete failure.
I love being a mom. I didn’t used to, at all. But God has changed my soul and has given me a love for my crew that I never knew existed. But I am certainly not going to ever win the “Mom of the Year Award”. At all. My kids even tease me about this–all in fun of course, but we each know it is very, very true.
Can I let you in on a little secret? Single parenting is challenging. There is no one to tag team with. There is no one to share the chauffeuring with. There is no one to back you up on the disciplining. There is no one else to go get a blasted gallon of milk when it is needed. No one else to help when sickness hits the house. And no one to pray with over the kids.
I had to do something today that I rarely have to do. I had to lock myself in my room to calm my anger down. I am hardly ever, ever angry. No, I did not yell at my disrespectful child today–but I wanted to. I talked reasonably, firmly and authoritatively to this child, but what I wanted to do was yell and throw something. Thus I put myself in Time Out.
And as I felt my blood slowly stop boiling, I replayed the afternoon. Where did this behavior come from? Not just the extremely hateful behavior (I have never heard words like this from any of my children), but also the extreme procrastination in school work and the disappointing of the entire family by not coming home as planned? Exhaustion overtook my thought-ravaged mind, and I slept for 30 minutes.
When I awoke, much calmer, I reached for my Bible, thinking that surely I would find an answer in there. I read every verse on parenting that I could find: all the verses on disciplining your children, all the verses of teaching them God’s statutes and scripture, verses about not exasperating them, the verses that show that they are a gift from God. I even read the dreaded Proverbs 31–which I generally avoid reading at all costs. But nothing gave me clear directions. Nothing seemed to give me what I was seeking for. All the verses were excellent and I needed to be reminded of them, but they didn’t touch the heartache and failure that I had in my soul.
So I then turned to the Psalms, those chapters that seem to be able to express so often what I do not have words for to express. And I realized that yes, I need the scripture guidance to discipline my children, to love them, to guide and instruct them; but more than that I need God’s help to parent. Period. I need his grace and mercy to do this job that, for some reason way beyond me, He has entrusted me with. Me, a failure. Me, last place for “Mom of the Year”. Me, who fumbles through this single parenting thing with about as much grace as a moose in a china factory. This is what I need from my God, in order to parent:
I need his steadfast love and faithfulness. I need Him to preserve me. I need His strength to get up and do this again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.
It’s kind of like the Super Bowl. Yeah, yeah, hang in there with me. I know I’m not a sports person and this is probably a dumb illustration.
I’m the quarterback. God has given me the ball–the responsibility of parenting these four children that He has blessed me with. There are obstacles in the way—big ones. I’ve got to get past them. God’s given me blockers to help–friends, church, the kid’s school and teachers-who all have a job to do in the lives of my children. But the responsibility is mine to get to the end goal. Sometimes I try to pass that ball off to someone else for awhile, and it gets batted down or intercepted, which can lead to disaster. Other times I fumble the ball on my own. Sometimes I get completely sacked, like today. But down by down, yard by yard, the goal is to move my crew forward–towards adulthood, towards God. The Superbowl is huge. Life and parenting is even more huge. I need God to preserve me as in Psalm 40:11 above, so that I am able to glorify Him in my parenting.
Ok, bad illustration, I know. But it fits with the day. And as I’ve been writing this, there has been a transformation in the house. The extremely disrespectful child is busy working on the task she had been given, even coming out of her room to tentatively make a joke with me in an attempt to say “We’re ok, right?” The procrastinating student is frantically and finally pulling together his project. The son helping with the refrigerator should be home soon, and the daughter who is headed to Suffolk called us back and told us she was sorry to have backed out on being with us tonight and that she missed us and promised a night with just her next weekend for movie and a pizza.
And in 45 minutes we will all gather together to eat snacks and watch the Superbowl in a house divided between the two teams. (I don’t care who wins, I just want to be the antagonist so as to add some excitement and rivalry) We’ll end this day together, laughing and grateful to be together.
And tomorrow morning, once again, I’ll wake up early and pray for each child, and beg God for the mercy and strength to parent one more day. Because there is no way I can do this on my own.