They say its the most rewarding job of your life. They remind you they don’t stay small forever. They whisper don’t wish the years away because they’ll be gone before you know it.
And yet they don’t tell you that its the most heart wrenching, headache inducing, life changing challenge that you will ever face.
I loved to love when I was a child. An avid stuffed toy collector and baby doll carrier, I would spend hours lavishing love, care and attention on to my little audience, and longed for the day when I could care for a child of my own. Fast forward twenty years or so and there I was in the delivery room, a tired, red faced girl of 26, holding a slippery baby boy who loudly protested his arrival in to the world. As he was placed in my arms it was like my world tilted on its axis. My perspective shifted, my eyes widened and my heart enlarged. This little boy was going to grow to be a great man, and I had been given the immense responsibility of raising him.
As we grew together we faced more than our fair share of challenges, and my fair faced little baby proved to be as strong willed as he was sweet. It seemed the more I lavished him with love the more he would test me and push me, and when his little brother arrived his outrage at sharing his mother was clearly evident. I felt challenged in every way by the torrent that came from my eldest, who obviously felt so unwanted, disregarded or pushed aside in some way despite my constant reassurance. I read book after book, attended multiple classes and sought advice from teachers, and although they gave many welcomed methods and approaches in parenting, my little pocket rocket still challenges me to this day.
Only very recently I listened to a brilliant clip about how to handle teenagers. I have always joked that having had a threenager perhaps I would get away with a well behaved teen, but nevertheless, I had time to kill while scrolling Facebook one day so I decided to watch the clip. The script went a little something like this:
Raising teenagers is a lot like riding on a rollercoaster. As a rider on a rollercoaster, you can’t wait for the ride to begin, you are excited and nervous all at the same time. As you sit in your seat and the barrier comes down and locks in to place, what is the first thing you do? Test the barrier.
Boom. The answer to my parenting struggles over the past six years right there.
Your child is testing the barrier, the safety mechanism in their lives. They are about to embark on the craziest journey with twists, turn and loop the loops, and they want to know that the barrier isn’t going to fail and release them in to the unknown. And so they push, pull, poke, prod and rattle that barrier until they are satisfied that it is going to hold them in place.
When they test your boundaries and push your buttons,
your child wants to know that he or she is safe.
I know that this isn’t always the case, of course, and there will be many times when they simply want to go against the grain for arguments sake. BUT I urge you, as I urge myself, that when they start pushing, pulling, poking and prodding you, please take a minute to step back and look at your child. Think twice before taking offence, before raising your voice or inflicting punishment, and remember that maybe, just maybe they are pushing back on their safety barrier to check that you won’t move. They need to know that you won’t be shaken by their tantrums, you won’t be pushed over the edge by their whining, you won’t resort to flaring your temper when they flair theirs.
But how can you remain calm in the face of such anger? Because your Heavenly Father can.
He knows what it is like to watch His sons and daughters go against His will for their lives, ignore His advice and choose the guidance of others over His, and all this in spite of the unconditional love He offers out to them over and over and over again. God loves. The Bible says He is love, and we are created in His image, so He knows emotion. God gave us free will so that we could choose to love Him back and not simply be robots programmed to do what He wants. God knows what it is like to be hurt by words that wound, and to see His beloved children make bad decision after bad decision, choosing to go their own way and not the way He had planned. He knows how hard it is when a child just won’t listen, when they answer back or worse, when they choose to ignore.
But God never changes. He never moves an inch, He never compromises on His values or His instruction, on who He is or who He has called His children to be. Yet He loves them completely any way.
And He never stops loving them.
Now age 6 and 3, my boys are growing closer and closer by the day. Their personalities are forming and they make me cry with laughter and burst with pride as I watch them grow in to young men. They continue to challenge me, they can reduce me to tears after a particularly trying day, or they can spontaneously shower me with kisses and cuddles, filling my heart with such joy like I have never known.
Parenting is not easy, it is certainly not for the fainthearted, but it is God breathed and God ordained, and I for one am so blessed to be on this journey.