Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What Kids Are/ What Moms Are Not

Mothering is hard. Kids are demanding little creatures who can drive you nuts and wrap you around their fingers simultaneously. They're delightful, often disgusting, and always precious. So why is raising them so hard? Why is this whole mothering gig such a roller coaster of joy and guilt, importance and inadequacy? 

I think that a part of the problem is that we forget what kids are and what we're not. This post gives a few examples of what I mean, but I'm sure that you can think of more.

  • Kids are Moral Responders/ Moms Are Not Sovereign

    Kids are not, in fact, "tabula rasa" (blank slates) when they are born, leaving us free and able to write them however we please. They're human beings (sinners) with weaknesses and personalities and desires that will be expressed. Some newborns give you warning cries when they're getting hungry and others go straight into full-on starvation cries the second that they sense hunger setting in. The parenting methods that worked with one kid may not work with the next. The guidance that directs one child into maturity may be completely rejected by the next kiddo.

    It is possible to handle a situation as perfectly as humanly possible and your kids still react badly. You may have done everything possible to prevent a temper tantrum in the grocery store, but your child has the responsibility and ability to choose to accept it or to reject your guidance and throw a royal fit anyway. In such a case, we are responsible for providing godly discipline that redirects them to obedience, but that doesn't mean that we failed. Our children's sin is not necessarily a failure on our part. It may just be their sin. Your child's failure is an opportunity for discipline and grace; it isn't necessarily your failure.
  • Kids are Body and Spirit/ Moms Are Not Omniscient

    Children aren't just spiritual creatures. They have bodies with fluctuating blood sugar, hormones, and pain. Sometimes this gets swept under the rug in Christian circles. If everything is sin, then every bad action can be disciplined and we can make everything "right" instantly. But what if your child is trying to communicate something other than rebellion through his or her actions? What if a child is trying to tell you that something in their little body just doesn't feel right? You can't discipline blood sugar back into regulation. You can't discipline sensory processing disorders away by forcing your child to eat the dinner you planned.

    How do you know what the problem is?


    Ask your children, certainly, but also ask your doctor. Behavior and biology are related (p.m.s. for instance). You were never expected to have all the answers. Don't assume that the pediatrician is going to instantly suggest a pill to which you are opposed, and don't assume that the pill isn't a good option for your child, either. Let a doctor help you weed through which issues are physical and which are spiritual. You may disagree with him/her, but I bet you'll be one step closer to the answers you need. Sure, you can ask other moms for guidance, but be careful. Kids are custom-made, and no two are alike.
  • Kids Are Living in a Dangerous World/ Moms Are Not Omnipotent

    A few years ago, there was a terrible Super Bowl commercial produced by an insurance company that discussed household accidents. It talked about how many children die from electric shock each year, drown in bathtubs each year, die from falling down stairs each year, etc. Then it made the point that since all of these things could be prevented, there was no reason for any of those children to die, essentially blaming parents for household tragedies, which was a great comfort to bereaved parents, I'm sure.

    I can't even tell you how ticked off I was by that commercial. Edwin didn't quite understand my level of outrage, but I couldn't help but think of the mother whose child drowned because she had to check on another child who was crying downstairs or the mother whose child simply fell down the stairs while she was doing laundry.

    Just because something is "preventable", that doesn't mean that you can actually prevent it and function in this world. Sure, if you dedicated all of your energy to preventing children from falling down stairs, you could, but would they learn how to walk up and down stairs? If you dedicated all of your energy to making sure that your child's teeth are perfectly clean, they may not get cavities, but would they learn to take responsibility for their own bodies?

    We're not just protecting our children from danger. We certainly need to protect our children from dangers they are ill-prepared to handle, but we are also helping our children develop into mature adults. That means that we have to let them face dangers and suffer consequences. We have to prepare them to meet those dangers at age appropriate times, and then we need to be prepared to help them evaluate and move forward when they fail, because they're going to fail.

    At the end of the day, the greatest threat to our children is not the world out there, but the sin in their own hearts. If they don't learn to lean on Christ when faced with the dangers of the world, how will they learn to lean on Him when they face the darkness in themselves?
  • Kids Are Disciples/ Moms Are Not Perfect

    Sometimes I think about things I did in my first year of parenting, and I cringe. I wish that I could go back and tell myself to pay attention to the opportunities around me. I wish that I could warn myself of decisions that I would regret later.

    Parents teach their kids many, many things, but I can't think of one thing more important than teaching our children how to repent and receive grace. One day, my kids are going to have cringe-worthy moments of their own, and I don't want them to get stuck playing those moments over and over as they lie awake at night. I want them to go to Christ and find freedom in His forgiveness. I want them to learn from their bad choices and make better ones. I cannot set a standard for myself that I would never set for my children.

    If perfection is your goal, you've already blown it, am I right? Not only is perfection unattainable, it's a dangerous goal. Perfectionism leads to competition and criticism because when we see our own failures, the only remedy is to condemn someone else's. It turns our children into achievements to be shown off instead of people to be discipled. It distracts us from the law of grace and places our focus on our own works, pulling us away from the cross and the salvation it brings. Perfectionism, at its worst, is idolatry, and it's contagious.
The great news is that everything we are not, God is. Everything we cannot do, God can. Everything that points to our weakness points also to His strength. Our highest calling as mothers (and dads, too) is to depend on Him and not on ourselves.

And with that thought, I wish you a very happy Mother's Day.