Thursday, March 25, 2010

Note to self

Motherhood seems to be made up of hills and valleys, a path that is always on curve.  I'm never able to see what's ahead or coming up next.  This is my observation in the 5 and half years that I have been a mother.  There is so much joy that being a momma brings, it's just unexplainable and so fulfilling.  At the same time, it's the hardest thing I have done, I mean this role is selfless.  Some days, I get up in the morning, look myself in the mirror, and with a screaming baby or a demanding child in the background I say, "Die Self, go ahead and die."

Just because motherhood requires so much selflessness, certainly doesn't mean that I am always selfless.  I often just cave and let my selfishness rule.  Like last night when Jenna woke up crying.  I went to her and gave her the paci she'd lost in the night. {that we really need to lose forever!}  I think a huge part of the reason she woke up is because Bethany has been extra afraid of the dark and now has a night light, that used to be in the bathroom, lighting up their room.  Bethany looked to be sound asleep so I unplugged the nightlight on my way out of their room.  Not so fast, Bethany wasn't going to have any part of that and proceeded to wail, causing Jenna to start wailing all over again.
I was tired, already irritated to have been awakened and not in the mood to deal with this.  I explained why the nightlight had to go off, but Bethany wasn't going to listen.  My anger rose, I plugged the light back in and meanly informed her that we would talk about this in the morning.  After two trips into their room, dealing with two crying girls, I was not happy and certainly not selfless. 
I know that there is nothing anyone could have said to me about motherhood that would have changed my mind about having children, and now that I have children I wouldn't change it if I could.  In so many ways, it's all I ever wanted to be, and I remind myself daily how thankful I am to be a mom to three blessings.  There is no harder job, but certainly no other title in life would make me this happy.

The Lord uses my children to reveal sin my own heart that needs dealt with. As a new mother, I thought if I could just get through those first months of sleepless nights and around the clock feedings, I'd have it all mostly together.  I was always expecting my child to improve once they grew out of a certain stage, the teething stage, the potty training stage, the hitting stage on and on.  But as you know if you have a child of your own, the stages just keep coming.  Progress is very slow, and never perfect.
In ways the seasons of parenthood get easier and in ways they become more difficult.  You can't really compare the torture tactic of sleep deprivation, the feeling of isolation and the crazy hormones of new motherhood, with the battle of the wills with a 2 year old, the potty trainer who takes months to ditch the diapers, or dealing with the tam-trams a 4 year old throws daily all because of clothing.  They are all hard and difficult in their own way and each child is different so each new stage will seem like the first with proceeding children.  I am to the point now, where I realize that I am only 5 years in, so the ball has just started rolling.  Like my children I have experienced growth and made some progress, but am far from perfect.  I believe wholeheartedly that God uses my children daily to speak to me, convict me and grow me in Him.

So lately, as my children are growing out of baby and toddlerhood, I am still embarking on fresh new territory.  Bethany and Joseph are at good ages where we can now talk about issues and feelings.  Things are still difficult and I struggle with how to address the heart issues rather than the behaviors.  The two of them are very close, almost inseparable most of the time.  That being said, we have a recurring battle where one hits the other in anger when they won't do as the one told them.  It's a control issue for the most part, the one tries to beat the other into submission.  We have been dealing with this same thing for quite some time and tried many different disciplines to stop this behavior.  We've spanked, used time out, taken away precious items and even allowed the perpetrated child to hit the perpetrator back.
After a recent offense that was resulted in the aggressor hurting the other more seriously than they expected, I pulled out the Bible and showed them scriptures on anger and having self-control.  I so wanted to change the heart, to remove the deep issue and for them to see their sin as such.  The consequence was not my challenge, for days I thought and prayed about how to get to the heart, to get them to realize what was wrong.

Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God."  Proverbs 22:15 says "Folly is bound in the heart of a child."  I recently overheard a mom telling her friends that the reason her child wouldn't share is because a child wouldn't share with him.  We all have felt this way.  I am so proud of my children and when they do something that is a poor reflection on me I want to place the blame somewhere.  
When Bethany was just under two, she began hitting other children in the nursery every Sunday.  Other parents who hadn't arrived at this place in the game judgmentally looked down on her and us.  One Sunday, the nursery worker jokingly made the comment that Joe must watch WWE and that's why she acted so.  Joe and I were SO embarrassed and frustrated that repeatedly week after week, our child was the bad one.  Given her young age is was hard to fix the problem, she couldn't communicate to us very well.  We certainly didn't communicate back to her very well either.  We lashed out our anger on her, our displeasure was mainly because she made us look bad!! 
God taught Joe and I both some much needed lessons during that phase.  We learned that we were much too proud of our daughter, taking credit for her good behavior.  Communicating our love for her, to her on how she behaved.  The truth of the matter is, our love is not based on her acts, our love is based on the fact that she is our daughter.  We also learned that we cannot use anger as a method of discipline.  Our motives for correction was mainly about saving face, our own, looking like we had it all together, not about training our child out of love.
We should try to protect our children from bad examples or influences, but our children act out, hit, hoard toys, lie and rebel because that is their nature, not because some other wicked child taught them to act that way!  Our children are wicked and so are we.  Mark 7:21-23 says, "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "  Our hearts have to be weeded and I for one, know that the roots of my flesh run deep.  As I try to disciple and instruct my children they are a mirror of my own nature.  We can not blame our own behavior on some one else and neither should we excuse our children's offenses.  

I ordered Ginger Plowman's book "Don't Make Me Count to Three!" several weeks ago.  I'd read a blog review of the book and it looked good so I purchased it.  Honestly I thought the book had more to do with being consistent with disciplining your children, than getting to the heart issues of our children.  
After this past episode with my two oldest I so wanted to fix the heart and not just the behavior.  God certainly has impeccable timing, I sat outside as the kids played in the sunshine yesterday and made my way to Chapter 3.  This book is exactly what I am needing for this season of motherhood.
I'd like to share a pretty significant piece from her book that really struck me:

What Lies Within

The Bible teaches that behavior is not the basic issue.  The basic issue is always what is going on in the heart. . .
Luke 6:45 says, "The good a man brings out of the good stored up in his heart and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."  The heart is the control center of life.  Behavior is simply what alerts you to your child's need for correction.  But don't make the mistake so many parents make and allow your desire for changed behavior to replace your desire for a changed heart.  If you reach the heart, the behavior will take care of itself.  Keep in mind that it is possible for your child to change his irritating behavior to that which is acceptable without an actual heart change taking place. . .

Ted Tripp says,
A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable; it is condemnable.  Is it not the same hypocrisy that Jesus condemned the Pharisees?  In Matthew 15, Jesus denounces the Pharisees who honored Him with their lips while their hearts were far from him.  Jesus censures them as people who wash the outside of the cup while the inside is still unclean.

When we focus on our children's outside behavior and neglect what is on the inside, we will cause our children to become manipulators. . .

Since the serious crime was committed against the other sibling, the behavior improved slightly but has still been present.  The punishment that is currently being fulfilled is the perpetrator is the servant of the other for one week.  Whatever their sibling wants or needs, their wish is a command.  From making their bed every morning and nap, to clearing their plate from the table and doing any other chores that are required.  I do believe offenses deserve consequences, but consequences never change the heart.  Only God can change hearts.
This is where I'm at in the journey, learning about disciplining in love and taking the time to deal with the heart.  If you can relate or are further down the road than me, I'd love to hear your experiences.


Colton's Mommy said...

I can definitely relate to certain aspects of your story. My 15 month old son is in a biting phase. He isn't doing it out of anger or frustration however. He will come up and hug you or give you a kiss and will nip your shoulder. I am at my wits end on how to correct this problem. We have tried time out, but I just don't think he understands what he is being reprimanded for. Everyday I tell myself it is just a phase and it soon shall pass, but I find it harder and harder to have to deal with it day after day.

Sweats, Nikes, and No Make-up said...

No experiences as of yet, but I'm sure I'll be leaning on you when the time comes! Have you read Ted Tripp's "Instructing a Child's Heart"? It was our Wed. night Bible study we went to last summer/ can borrow my copy if you want once you've finished the one you're currently reading.

Our Crazy Crew said...

Very well said. I saw my little mirrors at a young age, too, and realized I had to get to the heart issue. My desire is not to make them cry in remorse, but often it is the structure of the whole face that changes and often it is followed by tears of true remorse. And I could/can always tell the difference between feeling bad that they were caught vs. really deep down sorry. It made me sit up and look at myself and allow God to make real, honest changes in me. They are 9 and 10 now with lots of years left under my instruction. I always believed if I could break thru that two and three year old selfishness and teach to the heart from God's perspective that it would be smooth sailing. It never gets easier, just different issues you rarely feel prepared or grown up enough to handle. I believe it is His way of keeping us humble, growing, and seeking Him daily. Keep up the good work, girl. And next time you look in the mirror, remind yourself..."they are worth all this emotional energy!"

Dragonfly said...

I have to say that after just wading through many sites where the commenters make Ginger seem like a child-beating advocate I was so glad to find your page. I have been reading "Don't Make me Count to Three" for awhile now and have found it very helpful in teaching my children. It is clear to me that she focuses on loving your children and guiding them with scripture. A year ago my husband and I had a few family members talk with us about our children being disrespectful. We didn't really see it at the time, but they were right! After reading the first bit of the book I realized that we needed to spend more time teaching them the right way to behave, instead of waiting for them to fail to correct them. After all how frustrating would it be if someone wanted to teach you how to do something else but would not tell you how to do it, instead watching for you to mess up and saying "No, not like that!" It sounds like you are doing your best to raise your children and love them like God wants you too - keep it up and ask God to fill in where you may fall short (and we ALL fall short!).

Bonnie said...

Wow, what a terrific post...sorry I had not read it sooner!! I am REALLY trying to ignore the computer and be more IN the moment with the kids.

I am having a morning like no other, waking to a crying fussy toddler at 4:30 and wet beds. At least one is still sleeping and my husband is still at work but will be home shortly to sleep the day away.


I am slowly learning as well that God is using my children to refine me. I never thought of it that way until I read and did a bible study on Grace Based Parenting...i learned soooo much.

And I just learned so much in your post.

You are an amazing writer. I was nodding and shushing children while I read it.

We are having issues with our oldest...breaking rules at home and school mostly. I agree that it's the heart we need to work on and we do talk about "being a follower when you know things are going sour and such" but maybe I should be concentrating more on that word sin...hmm....

Thanks for your comment on my blog the other day. I truly enjoy reading your blog and even though time may not allow to comment I am always present.

Becky said...

Really wonderful post! Thanks for sharing your heart. I have three children (4,3, and 9 months). I was nodding my head several times while reading this. I am constantly evaluating and re-evaluating my parenting, wondering if I'm being effective.