There are some days in the life of the parents that just bring you to your knees.
Literally–you’re on your knees looking for that stupid toy under the couch for the fourteenth time that day or you’re praying for some much needed wisdom, patience, and guidance for the next day.
Some days bring you to your proverbial knees. You’re done. You’re drained. You’re weary.
A couple years ago, I wasn’t really sure if our house would ever be the same.
Every night there was an all out battle to get a certain second-born child to stay. in. his. bed.
Tears. Yelling. Crying. Balled-up fists.
And the kid was upset, too!
So, we have made a LOT of progress from where we were just a couple years ago with the strong-willed determined second-born child in this house.
We still have our battles. Our days. And the days where you have been reduced down to crying your eyes out to your best friend named “KitKatBar” in the corner while mumbling incoherent phrases and dripping snot all over yourself.
I keep telling my husband it’s not THAT bad.
I joke, I joke–I’m the one curled up in the fetal position with KitKat.
BFF’s. Forever and ever. She’s awesome.
I wasn’t a strong-willed child. Sure, I threw out some zingers like, “That’s not how you spell that,” to my parents. They replied with, “Look it up in the dictionary.”
So, I did.
And then I declared that the dictionary was
Or the time I told my Dad I wanted MacGyver to be my dad. (For the youngsters playing along, MacGyver was this guy who could get himself out of ANY situation with a toothpick, a piece of shrimp, and a coconut. Great show. Youtube that.)
Or the time I was having one of those “WOE IS ME!” days as a teenager and crying over nothing in my room when I got so upset at my dad trying to cheer me up that I shoved him (COMPLETELY out of character for me), and due to the fact that he was off-balance to begin with due to leaning down, he kind of staggered back and hit the wall. (On my list of “Things In Life I Absolutely LOATHE Myself For, that falls in the top 3. It’s actually in the #1 spot.)
Those are really the only times in my life I was a bit of a defiant child.
Normally, my style is more, “What? I’m wrong? Oh, okay–don’t be mad! So sorry about that! Never happen again! LOOK! SOMETHING SHINY!”
You know–”aggressive” and “I mean business.”
No, really–I wasn’t a difficult child. I rarely got in trouble. I just didn’t GET why kids would EVER want to make their parents mad.
To me, it seemed ridiculous.
And a waste of time.
But I have been blessed with a choleric child.
The child who digs his heels in, demands to be right, and is all about WINNING.
Sports? Sure. Go team. Let’s win.
But life? I WILL SLAUGHTER YOU ALL! MUAH-HAHAHAHAHA!
Last week, while in the midst of a daily heated tug-of-war about something (anything–name ANYTHING), D yelled, “I WANT A BETTER MOM!” and stomped back to his room.
Oh. my. goodness.
I’ve always heard of THOSE kids who say things like, “I HATE YOU!” to their parents.
But that’s THOSE kids.
Not my kids–what kind of a failure am I as a mother?!
But “I want a better Mom!” was shouted.
And my heart broke.
And I may or may not have sobbed in the bathroom for ten minutes afterward, wondering where I had gone so horribly wrong with my apparent lack of parenting skills. And wondering why the heck KitKat was AWOL. She knows better.
Later, he came out of his room, and–on his own–apologized to me.
I accepted his apology and told him that never ever would I want a better D. I just wanted him because I loved him. I did want him to LISTEN better and OBEY better, but I never wanted a better kid. I just wanted him.
Flash forward to yesterday when we were in a tug-of-war over something (anything–name ANYTHING), and he yelled, “I WANT TO MOVE TO A DIFFERENT HOUSE! WITH A BETTER MOM! AND A BETTER DAD!”
Oh…well, I guess now I could quit taking it so personally since he decided to throw Dad in the mix as well now.
So, I did what I have been doing for the past, oh, two months or so and prayed before I answered him.
And as much as I love praying for perseverance, I have really just been resorting to praying for wisdom.
Wisdom to parent all of my children, but wisdom especially in these types of situations so I don’t ruin my kid or break his spirit.
Just give me wisdom, Lord. Please. Wisdom to know how to deal with him in the best way. St. Anne! PRAY FOR ME!
After a few moments, I said, “So, you want to move to a different house?”
“YES!” he shouted.
“Where would you go?” I asked, trying my best to use my kindest indoor voice.
“I don’t know. But somewhere. Better.”
“I see. Well, I just want to let you know that even if you decided to move to a different house–which would REALLY make us sad here–the parents in that house are going to expect you to obey, too. They will expect you to be respectful. It’s just the job kids are given. Your jobs are to take plates to the table at meals, clear plates away at meals, get the mail, and obey your parents. We gave you the first couple of jobs, but God gave you the job of obeying.”
He sniffed and wiped his nose across his sleeve.
“And another thing,” I said, gently. ”Did you know that God picked us out to be your parents? And He knew we were going to live in this house? It’s all part of His plan. So, if you start talking about how you want different parents, it’s kind of like telling God His plan wasn’t good enough–or that He made a mistake. Can God make mistakes?”
“No,” he said, sniffling.
“No, He can’t. His plan is perfect–it can’t ever be wrong. So, next time you start thinking about wanting different parents, just remember that you would be going against God’s plan. He picked us out for you special. We’re part of His plan. And YOU are part of His plan–He picked YOU out special just for us.”
“And no matter what happens–no matter what you say or what you do–I would never want another D. Just you. But just because you get angry–which you have the right to do–you don’t have the right to say hurtful things to others. Once you say something hurtful–once it comes out of your mouth–you can’t rewind and do it over again. You can’t take back the hurtful words. Would you like it if I told you I wanted a better son?”
He dissolved into tears.
“NO!” he wailed.
“Exactly. It would hurt you to hear that, wouldn’t it?” I asked.
“So, remember that the next time you get mad. You’re allowed to get mad. What you DO with that anger, though, is what matters. I think we should say a prayer and ask that we both can remember to use nice voices and nice words when we get upset. Let’s ask St. Peter, St. John the Baptist, St. Phillip Neri, and St. Francis de Sales for a little help, okay?” (They all had kind of fiery or choleric personalities, some with hotter tempers than others.)
He nodded, wiping snot away from his nose again.
He collapsed into my arms while we said prayers, and I found myself making the Sign of the Cross over the both of us in the meantime, which, I thought, was powerful.
Afterward, he apologized for saying what he did, I told him “You’re forgiven,” and we went about our day.
Another day, another battle in the books. Pass the wine.
I remembered back to my dad telling me years ago that he felt hurt when I told him I wanted MacGyver to be my dad.
I remember laughing and saying, “What are you talking about?! I was, what, four?! I had no idea what I was saying, and I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I think I just meant I thought it was cool he could do crazy things with a ball of yarn and a feather, you know?”
So, I know I shouldn’t let what my 4 year-old says right then–in the heat of the moment–hurt me as much as it does, but I now know exactly how my dad felt all those years ago.
In the meantime, while we ride out this small storm– that we will hopefully look back on in twenty years and think, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad!”–I have to remember that if it’s bringing me down to my knees, I might as well pray.
Pray for my kids. Pray for us as parents. Pray for our family.
Because that choleric personality, that “I will not compromise on what I believe is right. Or what I know is Truth,”–it comes in handy.
For police officers.
He’ll get there. We’ll get there together.
Thankfully, there are a lot of moments throughout the day where I can see his heart shining through.
Sharing his dessert with his little brother, holding a moth as gently as possible, hugging me around the neck with all of the strength in his body, crying when he sees someone else upset. The kid is compassionate, generous, funny–he’s beautiful.
St. Peter, ora pro nobis.
St. John the Baptist, ora pro nobis.
St. Phillip Neri, ora pro nobis.
St. Francis de Sales, ora pro nobis.