It was a late night, not unusual around here. I finally got Hobbes to sleep around nine by rocking him, and then I had to lay in Calvin's bed holding his hand until even later. It seems so peaceful now, deceptively so, after a day of tantrums and hair pulling and hysterical outbursts. This is the time of day when I usually relax, eat some chocolate, go off duty from this mommying thing. But tonight, as I lay with Calvin, I felt the weight of it all, and I needed to write.
Sometimes it is so frightening, this parenting thing. It seems so easy when they are babies. Feed, burp, change, rock, sleep, start again. When did it get so hard? Suddenly there are characters to shape and souls to nurture and minds to engage. Deep down I know that this is a privilege, and that truly it is not all up to me. But right now I am just overwhelmed.
First there is Calvin, so unbelievably smart and verbal. He was saying "butterfly" by his first birthday and spent the Spring when he was 19 months correcting our botany lessons. When his grandpa pointed out the "pretty white flowers" in the backyard, he corrected him: "No Grampa, those are dogwood trees." I am not kidding you here. He was quoting the opening stanza of Paul Revere's Ride at 18 months. Just keeping his mind stimulated could be a full time job if I weren't convinced that it's better to just let him be a kid.
But sometimes it is so frightening. I can handle teaching him poetry. But how do I teach him to control his emotions? He feels things so deeply, and he wants so badly to have a second chance when he messes up. Today I offered to let the boys watch a video while I started dinner, but when he threw a fit about which video, I sent him to his room for a timeout instead, telling him he could come out when he calmed down. "But Mommy, I need help calming down, it is so hard sometimes!" We spent thirty minutes of his hugging and fighting and screaming and crying as he tried to get over this slight disappointment and begged to be given another chance to "be good next time." These outbursts are not uncommon, and I rarely feel that I come out of them having parented well.
How do I parent with grace and compassion? How do I teach my son that there are consequences for his behavior that happen despite his sincere repentance? How do I show him that my forgiveness and the correction that he needs can coexist? How do I show him that God's love and forgiveness does not mean that all things are made right instantly? How do I teach him to handle his emotions so that they don't get the best of him? Sometimes it is so frightening.
Then there is Hobbes, resilient second child, sweet and stubborn to the core. He is so smiley and happy-go-lucky most of the time. But when things don't go his way, he digs in his heels and shows all his honestly-inherited stubbornness. The stand-offs get so tiring. But he is so like me, and I know that I have to deal with this now so that it can be corralled into good use when he is older. But how do I do it when I so often don't have the strength to fight another battle of the wills? How do I teach him to use his determination constructively? How do I even know which battles to pick? Sometimes it is so frightening.
So frightening, what these wonderful, funny, smart, stubborn, sensitive boys could become if left without the redemptive and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. And there is my answer, I know. It is not all up to me. God has given me these children, and He is perfectly capable of using my flawed parenting skills to make them into the people he wishes them to be.
But sometimes it is so frightening, what He asks of me. For parenting is really more about my sanctification than that of my boys. It is this laying down of my rights, my ideas of how things should go, my confidence in my own abilities, and it is coming every day to the place where my vulnerability can meet His grace. But I am too smart for my own good, overly emotional, and stubborn to the core. I want too often to do this on my own. This is one battle I cannot fight. I have to give in. He is the creator of the universe, after all. But sometimes it is so frightening.