My kids had a good day. There is something about when they have a good day that makes my mama heart soar. Every day when I go to pick them up I hold my breath as I wait for my boys to walk out those school doors. I search their faces, their body language, the way they walk up to me… are they smiling? Are they skipping or chatting it up with friends? Or are their eyes downcast, shoulders slumped and faces emanating defeat? Oh how my heart hurts when I see that the day beat them down. I know it’s part of growing up. I know it’s part of childhood and that growth often involves pain, but I prefer the victory days. Today was a victory day. And I thank God because we needed a win. Proud smiles. Smiley faces on worksheets. Art projects to display. Funny friendship stories to tell. It was sweet. And I am holding onto it because I know tomorrow could be very different. Tomorrow could be a day of tears, fights with friends, a trip to the principal’s office, and work that was “impossible to finish, mom.” Tomorrow could be an “I hate school” day.
How do we ride these ups and downs with our children? Seeing as my husband and I have made the decision to send our children into the Wild West of public school, there is so much in their days I cannot control. And that is life they need to learn to deal with, even when it’s hard and it hurts. But that doesn’t make it any easier when I have a little boy falling apart in front of me and I have to find a way to put the pieces back together.
There’s that saying “When mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.” Well, this equally applies to my children. (And my husband for that matter.) For better for worse we are a family machine and when one gear is off kilter we all get a little wonky. In my humanness, this wonkiness comes out in cranky interactions, snippy comments, yelling and exasperated sighs. What is really needed is an extra dose of grace — a firm hand of truth and limits balanced with a generous empathetic expression of love and understanding. On those hard days, I try to convey to my boys that I get it, I really do. This school thing is hard. This growing up thing is no piece of cake.
But at the same time, when they misbehave at school, don’t do the work, or treat a friend badly – there will be consequences. Sometimes I am too easy on them because I hate to see them hurt. But I know they have to hurt to grow. After all, it is my responsibility that they don’t turn into self-centered, entitled little monsters. I have to remind myself this when I want to rescue them from the hurt or soften the blows. Frustration over your work does not give you the right to throw a chair or spit water in the classroom. (Um, yeah, those two things happened – and that aforementioned water may or may not have been spit in the direction of a teacher – I never quite got the full story on that one. Honestly, I’m not sure I want to know.) You will end up in the principal’s office, spend the rest of the day in your room, and lose all screens at home for two weeks. (Screen suspension should be indefinite for such an offense but, really, I bear the brunt of that punishment and I just cannot handle, for sanity sake, any longer. I know, I’m horribly weak). If you don’t do your work at school, you miss out on fun stuff other kids get to do. If you don’t share with your friends, they won’t stay friends very long. That’s life kiddo. Learn it now in the small stuff so you won’t royally screw up the big stuff later.
Look at those precious, adorable faces. Oh, how I hope I am not royally screwing this all up because this whole being responsible for another human beings development certainly qualifies as “big stuff.” I’m pretty sure all parents fear screwing up their kids. And, if you don’t, you should probably enter therapy as you are either suffering from delusions of grandeur or a serious case of denial (and, yes, that is my personal clinical psychologist’s opinion – for free – you’re welcome).
The best parenting tool I have is a reliance on the God who knit these amazing little boys together in my womb. Thank goodness my kids do have a Perfect Parent and it’s not me. Why God Almighty entrusted me with these precious beings is beyond me, but I do know ultimately He is watching over our good days and bad and can use the worst of days for good. If I turn to Him and ask for wisdom, He will and does give it freely and generously. There aren’t enough parenting books in the world to substitute for His Word and prayer. Seems cliché, at times, and in my frustration I want another quicker, easier and more clear cut answer.
But that’s not the way He works as He is a God of relationship and, as in any relationship, it requires devoted time and effort to really know His ways. Crazily enough, every time I do it His way and start my day with prayer, actually open my Bible, pray through the hard moments, pray with my kiddos, surround myself with positive messages like praise and worship music on in the background or an Adventures in Odyssey CD as I chauffer the kids to activities and appointments … all this parenting stuff is easier and my mama heart more peaceful. In turn, that peace is contagious. This leads to more victory days for my kids and we are able to turn around the bad days quicker and with less drama.
Oh, how I hope today is a victory day for you and your family. But if it is not – if it’s one of those chair throwing, principal’s office kind of day – I pray you turn to the One who can redeem all mistakes (our’s and our children’s). You aren’t doing this parenting thing alone. Your Father is waiting for you to invite Him into your day and your parenting. What if He’s the answer you’ve been looking for all along? Put down that parenting book for a moment and start with a simple prayer… you never know where it may lead you or your family.