I recently chatted with another mom who has a child with similar characteristics to one of my children. Her words to me describing what she encounters each day sent me back into the world I lived in for three years. I remember those years being a challenge, but I had not thought of the specifics for quite a while. It was good to rehearse those so that I could see just how much progress we had made with this child.
Since that conversation I have been thinking a lot about the journey that I have been on with that child. There is a mound of history. I have so many unpleasant memories of times when he threw flaming, torrential fits. I remember the time I let him sleep in my bed one time and after that he got up multiple times every night for more than two months claiming to be scared and asking to sleep in my bed. I vowed never make that mistake again. I remember the times - the many, many times - he got so angry that he was not getting his way that he screamed angrily for more than an hour on his bed. So many memories and I just can't help but remember...
Really and truly, he is not a "bad kid" by any stretch, but lets just say that when ANY of my children are causing trouble, it is this child's name that is on the tip of my tongue. Its a force of habit, I tell you. It is unfortunate but true that the rocky history impacts nearly every interaction between the two of us. Often, either my dukes are up and ready for a fight, or I tip-toe away from potential conflict. Either way, I distance myself from him. I have forgiven but not forgotten his stubbornness, his angry fits, his manipulation.
The verses from Ephesians 6 make sense to me: "Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise: that it may go well for you, and that you will enjoy a long life on the earth." (emphasis mine)
The reality of life is that when you make poor choices, when you are difficult to get along with, when you allow your passions to rule you, there are quiet consequences. A quiet consequence here appears to be the distance between us and my frequent assumption that he is at fault. Stay with me please because I have yet to articulate what is on my heart this evening.
I go back to the recent conversation I had with this mother, and how it convicted me. In that conversation I encouraged this mom to attempt to really understand her difficult child. "Crouch down and try to see the world from his perspective," I said. "Sometimes what looks like disobedience is actually frustration due to the child's inability to fully communicate. Sometimes he is not mad that he can't have what he wants but instead he is merely angry because he never did get you to understand what it really was that he wanted." To be understood is a deep and pressing need. To meet (or attempt to meet) that need is a great gift we can give our children (or our spouse!).
Now my child has moved past the intense preschool years and can communicate better, can cope with life more effectively, and has tools to play better in that sandbox. I am so thankful that those years are in the past. But my memory pulls us back there. Our interactions continue to be colored.
How long is His memory? What does He ask of me? As a mature Christian parent I believe he asks me to put on the fruits of the spirit, especially when I conjure up the memories. I believe he asks me to offer up compassion. I believe He asks me to confess the memories I refuse to release. He asks me to renew my mind. Think differently about this child. Speak differently about and to this child. God's mercies are new every morning. EVERY MORNING.
His divine power has given us everything. Everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him... (2 Peter 1:3).
Last night my little guy woke up scared. Was he? Who knows. My flesh wanted to march him back to bed and get back to bed myself. But the Lord spoke very clearly to me and so I listened. I willingly "forgot" the memories and smiled at my boy, "Hi sweetie. You are scared? Come here." And we hugged. I lost a little more than an hour's sleep last night, but I met my boy's need to be understood with compassion. There is no amount of sleep that could replace that.