Having just gotten home from a night out with friends, our teenage son stopped by our bedroom door to check in. We talked about his day and laughed over things he had experienced. Then he pulled out his phone and asked for my input on a video where a comedian mocks women and the difficulties associated with parenting. Of course parenting is hard; but this comedian presented the not-so-hard parts of parenting, like putting them to bed at 8:00 and having the evening to yourself. He had a few valid comments, but for the most part, he only presented a small part of the big job of parenting.
The Hard Part of Parenting: Worry
Yes, parenting is hard. As I’m watching five kiddos launch into adulthood, I believe parenting has only become more difficult. Well, wait a minute, maybe it’s not that parenting is more difficult, but rather, I worry more. Perhaps it’s worry that is the difficult part of parenting.
When one of our daughters was young, we nicknamed her Bulldog. She was extremely stubborn. When corrected, she would stare me down with a bold look of “I dare you to punish me.” This wasn’t just in her toddler years – this lasted until she was eleven. She wasn’t all bad; she had a great personality, worked hard, and got good grades. She helped around the house and was loving. But when she wanted her own way or was corrected, she was frightful to contend with.
I’m pretty conservative on the evangelical scale, but with this child, I turned to laying on hands and praying over her. I began to think there was more to possession than just stories in the New Testament.
Fast forward twenty years, and this gal is a pure delight. Yes, I worried over her for years, yet the Lord got a hold of her heart and her teen years were as pleasant as pie. As with her two sisters, I worried about each daughter. Each girl had her own pitfalls and challenges, but they are all adults now and thriving in ways I never dreamed. I couldn’t be more proud.
These days, I focus my worry on my boys. They are teenagers, and, I have to admit, I feel completely out of my league. Finding the balance between growing them up into men and being the gentle momma who is understanding has me wringing my hands. But now that I’m a bit down the road of parenting, I think I’ve learned a few things that can hopefully help my fellow worrisome parent.
I came to know the Lord when my children were very young. Through a relationship with Christ, I had an outlet for my worry. I spent time in prayer over my concerns for each child. I gained peace of mind through the time I had to think through what I was worried about. Often I just needed that quiet time to put things into perspective. In the heat of the moment or the hours or days to follow, it could easily feel like there was no solution and nothing I did as a parent was working.
During my quiet time of reflection, I dive into the Scriptures. It’s amazing to me how the Lord will bring to life just what I need to help me understand what to do in each situation. I spend time journaling and am empowered to meet the challenges the day will encounter.
Sometimes I have to laugh as I think about situations when the kids were young and I thought for sure I would either pull out my hair in frustration or curl up into a ball crying over my parenting failures. In the thick of any situation, my emotions take me to the lowest common denominator and I think there is no hope. I believe the lie that all of the hard work I have invested into this child has fallen on deaf ears and will account for nothing.
But that’s when it’s time to step away and allow time to work. It’s good for both parties involved. Sometimes I just have to remind myself that they are kids and they are learning how to navigate life just as I’m a parent trying to understand how to parent well. As long as I lovingly set the rules, spend time training them to what is expected, and enforce both rules and expectation, I have done my job; now they have to determine if they will follow along. As kids grow into teen years, it’s not that they want to defy so much as they want to understand before complying. Give them time. It will be good for the both of you.
When things cool off and the tension barometer sinks back to a standard range, this is the time to talk to your children.
Whether they are 8 or 18, when talking is left off, it’s hard for either parent or child to compartmentalize what happened and put it behind, going forward in life. As one who did not experience any talks with my mother, by the time I was 18, I had such a full bucket of confusion, anger, and frustration, that I bolted out the door. I truly believe that if I had just been able to understand the conflicts better, I would have both developed a relationship with my mother and been able to walk around with less on my shoulders.
Talking to your kids should begin with the two of you agreeing about where things broke down and expectations were not met. I typically communicate the situation through my perspective. Then I ask the child to help me understand how he or she saw it. This can be a little tough because there has been more than one occasion when my kids have conveyed their thoughts about me, and they stung. But it’s how they feel, it’s what they perceive, and it’s where you have to start.
My kids know that when we talk, I have many words to talk with. I tend to overthink situations, so I have to be careful not to make more of what is going on. Sometimes it’s just a simple misunderstanding that is easily fixed with an apology and a hug. Other times, my kids have had far out ideas that need a longer talk to work through the logic, or lack thereof. In either case, the goal is to build a relationship, help them understand I’m for their good, and impart wisdom they didn’t have before.