Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Once Upon a Time I Knew How to Raise My Children

Last night I sat with my children and looked at their little faces, with quivering chins and red eyes and thought, "What have I lost? I use to know exactly how to raise children. I use to know how to do this thing. But I can't remember any more how it is that I was going to accomplish it all..."

Before I had children I was a teacher, mostly kindergarten. I knew exactly how to raise a child then. I could see exactly how my pupils parents were failing and I knew that when I had children I wouldn't make those same mistakes.

Then I had our first child.
My first clue that parenting wouldn't be quite so simple was about 48 hours into my parenting career. I remember saying to God, "God, I didn't sign up for this... for an insanely fussy baby. Every book I diligently read, doesn't seem to 'work' for her... I prepared, now where are the results I should expect?" It was my first clue that "good parenting in" doesn't mean "good kid" will pop out at the end of 18 years.

Number 2 sort of re-instilled my perception that if I was a "good mom" my children would be "good kids" too. Then I got pregnant when our 2nd was only 9 months old. I didn't foresee this event and really doubted I could "hold it all together". Three children under 3 didn't bode well for my ability to ensure they'd all act nice and reflect well upon me.

Then we adopted. I knew we'd do a grand job raising children through adoption because we were superior parents. We had a loving family and what more does an orphaned child need than that? Love in, great kids out... right? Sure it was hard at first, what I didn't expect was for it to be hard a year, 2 years, 3 years later. I've learned love, my love, isn't always enough.

Here we are, a few years later, with our 6th child ... I look at her and now know I never knew how to raise a child the right way.

I thought I did, but what I had back then, when I knew exactly how to raise a child, was just a bunch of man made, one-size-fits-all tips, tricks and tactics. They might work on the little things like how to stop your 4 year old from picking their nose and eating it or how to not be (complete) brats in Walmart, but they fail in any effectiveness at correcting my children's real struggles... basically their sin and brokenness.

This shouldn't surprise me so... because God had a far better method of dealing with His children's sin... and even that failed to be effectual and provide for their ever-present need for grace. God couldn't make his children obey any better than I can make mine obey. What a foolish woman I was to think I could do things God couldn't!

Since learning I can't change my children's behavior/sin I've processed what it is I'm called to do...

I am called to teach them and impart knowledge and truth (both practical and spiritual) to them.
I am called to love them and be consistent in my discipleship/discipline of them.
But more than that I am called to parent them not for my own glory, but to glorify God.

Many of my days as a mother are futilely lived trying to battle the chaos around me and in turn glorify myself. I battle the chaos in the environment around me, in the people around me and most often with in myself. I get up with the battle already starting to thud and rumble (or shall I say grumble). I set out to try new tactics and new methods... being kinder, being more firm, giving more grace, being more consistent... except when the "bomb" of the day goes off I always feel defeated. I always wonder what "I'm doing wrong" as if finding the perfect formula would make it all better.

Last night as our family sat around our lit tree, glowing and golden, with red eyes and quivering chins my husband helped us all sort ourselves out of the broken bits of our day. He said, "Children, mom and I are called to teach you, train you and instruct you in many things. We teach you how to read, and write and do math. We teach you how to work hard and love others. But... there is really only one thing we can teach you that will make any difference in your lives. We could teach you everything else and if we don't teach you this one thing, your life would still be in ruins and with out hope. The one thing is Christ alive. Christ alive, working and changing you. With out that you will always and forever struggle and be walking in darkness. The fact is, you can't be good, you can't do good, you have NO hope with out Christ alive in you."

At some point (and repeated over and over again as I re-learn this lesson) I came to the startling realization that this whole parenting gig had far less to do with my abilities and faithfulness of raising children "correctly", as it did with God raising me into a person who brings Him glory. 

The solution for my children's struggles is the solution to my struggles... Christ alive ... Christ alive in me and in them. We have no hope outside of Him. Our struggle reminds us that our life is best lived in Him.

Once upon a time I knew exactly how to raise children. What I didn't know was that raising my children would really be raising me to see the only One who can do this thing!

1 comment:

AJ said...

So good. I think God could've made us controlled robots who always obey, however for the sake of having a relationship of love with us, He allows us free will which gives us the choice to obey or not. That doesn't mean He failed, but only that He chose not to control our every movement and choice.

However, I am so grateful for Christ alive in us and that He desires a relationship with us!!!! How blessed we are that He came all the way to cover our sin so we can be right with Him.

Thanks for your blog. I enjoy reading.