Being a mom has changed my life, obviously, but some of the new experiences catch me by complete surprise. I am surprised that I can get angry at a 2-year-old…and that my 2-year-old would choose to be mean to other little kids. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised…
The other day, we had a play date at a fast food playground with an old friend of mine, a mom of a little boy about the same age as Pen Elaine. Well, Pen Elaine is very outgoing and typically is not shy about playing on a public playground, but my friend’s little boy is a bit more hesitant and careful at first. They had been nice to each other, but the little boy was shy about climbing on the playground very much. As he is slowly going over to climb up the jungle gym, Pen Elaine decides to loudly inform this little boy that he can’t go down the slide…to which he turns around, crying, back to his mom. You can imagine that I was just a bit mortified. Here I was, thinking what a good job I’m doing raising my little girl to be kind to others, providing her with a 2-parent home and making my full-time job to raise and train her, and she excludes this little boy from the playground in a mean way…a shy little boy who had finally warmed up to play. In the meantime, I put her in time out, make her apologize and offer assistance, talk to her about how that would make her feel, etc., but I’m not sure if I’m getting through or not. Since, not too long after that, the little boy has started playing again, when out of the blue, Pen Elaine pushes him down, as she passes him on her way down the jungle gym steps and he’s on his way up. My child had yelled and pushed in a matter of like 20 minutes…so much for thinking I had anything special to offer as a parent. All of a sudden, it looked as if my sweet friend had an angel for a child, and I was raising a bully! Of course, my friend was completely gracious and understanding, and we agreed that Pen Elaine was tired, etc., which I’m sure was true, but I wondered what I was doing wrong.
I so easily fall into the guilt trap of feeling responsible for every one of my child’s choices. I feel the guilt for my child’s bad behaviors, while the weight of my own failings is heavy enough without taking on someone else’s actions. Clearly, every time I’ve gotten caught up in the moment of my kid acting out and acted crazy myself or responded with words too harsh or too loud, every time my heart was in the wrong state of mind, must be what Pen Elaine is picking up and emulating, instead of seeing Christ in me and emulating all that is good and perfect…
Then, God broke through my fog and reminded me that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23. We are all born broken and sinful, with no way to save ourselves from the messes that we create.
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I am a self-analyzer, always trying to figure myself out, and so I am wondering what this looks like – this influence of the Spirit on our sinful natures versus the influence of my example in my child’s life. You see, I’m trying to figure out how my imperfect example of Christ’s love, my sweet moments and my frenzied moments, pair up with my little human’s bent toward selfishness and impatience, and I leave out God in the equation. I get so accustomed to controlling how my kids and I spend every moment of the day, that I fall under the illusion that I am in control of my little one’s life and her choices and her behavior. I have to be in prayer to remember that God is the only One who can touch her heart and her soul, and I am just a vessel or tool for His work. I get the privilege of being used where He is already moving, and I have to trust His hand in presenting her the perfect example and unfailing love in her life. When I’m living in God’s will, by His Spirit, I can display the fruit of the Spirit to her (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…), but when I’m making my own bad choices, I have to seek forgiveness and redemption and trust that God is greater than all my failed moments or missed opportunities.
Pen Elaine is in her phase of high emotions and low control. Something as seemingly trivial as wanting a certain type of fruit snacks (“gummies”) can start her down an emotional whirlwind to frantic kicking, crying, screaming, tantrum. Once she gets worked up, the hormones washing around her brain leave her powerless to pull herself out of her physiological state…without help. I was once helpless in sin, too, until God pulled me out through the power of the gospel. I became a believer in Jesus Christ at a young age, which means I don’t have too many memories of life before having the Holy Spirit to help me. However, seeing my sweet little girl have moments of desperation about fruit snacks reminds me how we all begin – very lost and very in need of help. Even though she has her share of making bad choices, she wants to do good, she wants to be a helper, she wants to be nice to her friends, but she falls short.
I don’t have to be entangled in anger anymore, I can pray and rely on God to free me from sinning in anger. Sometimes (as in all the time), I simply need to hand over my cares and fears and moments of frustration or confusion and entrust them to God’s care and provision. He can calm my spirit and show me the way to life, beauty, and peace. Between sleepless nights, surging hormones, and two little ones with emotional roller coasters during the day, I have to be spending some of my “free” time reading God’s Word and in constant prayer to choose to live by the Spirit instead of my own humanity on a daily, moment by moment basis. One day, I pray my little girl will also choose to believe in Jesus Christ and the saving power of His blood, so that the Holy Spirit will dwell in her heart, and she will be free to live out her calling to a full life.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
A good friend recently reminded me of this promise, 2 Peter 1:3,
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
I am learning so much on this adventure of mothering, and I love my front row seat to Pen Elaine and her humanity and her beauty in how she was created in God’s image, with a thoughtful, passionate, tenacious, helpful soul that has only just begun to blossom.