Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My heart sings

I haven't really written about this topic here before--sometimes it's hardest with the things closest to us, don't you think?

Eric and I have been really challenged in the past nearly two years since becoming parents. Nathan was a very fussy baby from the start, and it really rocked our expectations--and our sanity. He was not very cuddly, and often cried long and loud for reasons we could not determine. It was a really draining time for us, and as a stay-at-home mom, it was particularly hard on me. Sure, we had some great moments as a family, and thanks be to God, Nathan has always been a good sleeper. But there were many times that Eric and I would feel our patience dwindling to fumes, and we wondered what we were doing and how we'd get through.

Earlier this year, I mentioned I was focusing on the word HOPE. Some of that had to do with our then-upcoming transitions of looking for a house and anticipating my husband's job switch. But some of it had to do with the fact that we were really struggling in parenting Nathan. He can be such a charming little boy, but he also has a temper that can flare with little warning, and we've had many difficult battles in regards to his disobedience and tantrums.

Thankfully, Nathan has been very perceptive and communicative, even from a young age. These "skills" are helpful as we've been talking to him a lot lately about his attitude and actions. Eric wanted to teach Nathan a biblical paraphrase: "Obey your parents." It's been amazing how that verse is taking root in this little guy's heart. Without explaining the word "parents," Eric asked Nathan who his parents were. Not missing a beat, Nathan said "Daddy." And when Eric asked who else, Nathan replied, "Mommy."

We use the word "obey" in lots of situations--when he does what we've asked and when he doesn't--as well as to prompt him before a situation that may elicit a negative response. It is clear to us that he understands what we are saying when we remind him to "obey your parents." This is such a gift to us, since we really needed a spark of encouragement as we train Nathan up in the Lord.

Lately, we've had some really neat moments together--moments that make my heart sing. Last weekend, we took a bike ride to a corn field, where our church plans to do some building over the course of the next few years. The location itself was really cool, and it was a nice fall afternoon. Eric and Nathan had so much fun running in and out of the corn stalks, and it made me so happy to observe them truly enjoying each other. I was happy to walk on the edge of the field, seeing this beautiful moment unfold (especially without having to bushwhack through the stalks myself!)

Another highlight happened last week. On a whim, I decided to take Nathan to our local pumpkin patch, as the weather was predicted (correctly!) to turn crummy the next day. We had a fun trip there, feeding and petting lots of different animals. However, when it was time to leave, Nathan threw an absolute fit. Once he was in the car, he refused to climb into his seat, making another issue. As I fastened his buckles, he continued whining and then in frustration, he hit me on the arm. I reprimanded him firmly, and told him I was very sad that he had hit Mommy, and that he had also disobeyed in not coming to the car when I asked.

On the drive home, I told him that Daddy would also be very sad when I told him what had happened. Nathan broke the silence by saying, unprompted,"No hit Mommy. Obey your parents." I was floored--though I am obviously not glad he responded initially the way he did, I felt very excited that he was able to have this second response. I told him that he was right, that he needs to obey his parents, and that it hurt Mommy that he had hit me. He then tearfully said, "I'm sorry, Mommy" and repeated that he should not hit and that he should obey his parents. It was a teachable moment for us both. Sometimes disciplining can be so discouraging. You talk and respond and it's hard to know if it's sinking in and making a real difference. So when a beautiful response like this happens, it's all the more sweet. Thank You, Lord, for this encouragement, and for drawing us ever closer to You.

Post-script: This was kind of scary for me to post, because it feels very vulnerable to share about our parenting experience thus far. In writing this entry, I wanted to process some of my own thoughts and feelings, to thank the Lord for giving us strength and hope, and maybe even to encourage another mom out there who struggles in nurturing a particularly strongwilled child.

And one more thing--I must share with you my current "repeat" song--these words speak to my heart and, in turn, allow my heart to speak. If you have a few minutes, I urge you to click over here and listen. It's a breathtakingly beautiful prayer . . .

photo credit: Flickr


thehomespunheart said...

Very good post, Carrie - I'm so thankful with you that you've had some glimmers of hope lately. It reminds me that God's Word will not return void - when we invest God's Word in our hearts and the hearts of our children - there WILL be a harvest to God's glory.
Love you -

Anonymous said...

Yeah for Nathan and yeah for you two having perseverance! I'm excited to see the things you prayed for Nathan while he was being knit inside you coming into fruition. I pray His peace and encouragement to you!


Christopher said...

Hi Carrie,
As a father of a 3 year old boy I can certainly relate. You should also know that many of us are going through the same trials and tribulations so you are NOT alone in this. Thank you for sharing so openly. We must always remember that while trying at times children are a blessing from God, and he will never give us more than we can handle. As much as we teach our children, the lord teaches us through them.


mom said...

Dearest Carrie, thank you for sharing this update on your parenting journey. It has been most gratifying to see you and Eric rise to the challenges that parenting has brought you, and I'm thankful you have encouragement along the way! Nathan is a precious, charming, intelligent boy -- and you and Eric are doing a great job as his parents! I am proud of all of you! Love to all, Mom

Vanessa said...

Hi Carrie,

Thanks for sharing this - I'm sure you'll encourage more people then you know.

I also really enjoy that song :)

- Vanessa

Christy@MercyEveryMorning said...

Carrie, we went through this with one of our children, and I often wondered if our efforts in godly parenting would ever bear fruit. Sometimes I would get so discouraged! But the Lord is faithful, and I realized somewhere in the process it was probably even more about changing *me* than it was about her. God used this trial to make me more like Him...of course, there's still a loooooong way to go. :)

One other thing we found in our journey through this was that our child had some severe food allergies. Some of her most favorite foods could really set her off. I don't know if this is a problem with your son, but it's worth considering.

By the way, our daughter is now a teenager, and God has shaped her heart and spirit beautifully. She'll always be somewhat of a strong-willed personality type, but God can use that as a blessing against peer temptations and in whatever great plans He has for her life, too! :)

I love the song you posted! Haven't heard that one before, but fell in love with her Gratitude song last year when I heard it for the first time.

Oh yeah...one more thing, and I'm sorry this is getting so long...have you read the book Hints on Child Training, by H. Clay Trumbull? It really blessed me in the midst of that trial.


Tracy said...

Thank you for sharing Carrie. I appreciate you opening up like this- it's so hard to do! I'm thankful that God has shown you these blessings in your hard times...it's good to be reminded that He is with you!

gail said...

oh carrie! i'm so sorry you have kept this in and feel so vulnerable sharing. hopefully all these comments have shown you that you are not alone, and you are doing a great job! its so great that you can see the positive and have HOPE for the future.

angie said...

I can relate so well, Carrie. My son is on the autistic sprectrum and has really challenged us as parents. But, as another commentor said, my son has also changed us for the better. I'm reminded of how much of a challenge I must be as the daughter of my Heavenly Father!
May God continue to bless you with fruits of your labor.

Wendi said...

Thanks for having the courage to share. It is very hard to share the not so grand moments. I can relate as we have entered the "terrible twos." My sweet, well behaved little girl can turn into a willful spitfire and push my patients to the end in no time.

I am glad that you are seeing the hints that all of your hard work is paying off. Hang in there!

Hayley said...

Oh boy....if I had a nickel for every discouraging moment of motherhood, I'd be a billionare!!!
I appreciate you sharing, and I'm glad things seem to be looking up. As for my Menu planning, I just write out my menus on Sunday afternoon, and try to stick to it throughout the week. I make my grocery list by specials in the weekly ads, and coupons I've collected. I now go grocery shopping once a week, whereas before I would go once a month, and several "small" trips (which turned out to be big) in between. I do feel that we are saving much more than we had been before, and for that I am grateful. I enjoy planning, and my family knows each evening what we are having for supper. If they don't like it, they are allowed an apple or orange, and that's it. :) That's my philosophy.

Amanda said...

I'm so happy for the exciting learning moment for you and Nathan. It really is amazing to see the changes happening in our kids when they understand what we are teaching them. Praise the Lord for your hope and His help.

Angela - Life w/ Two Busy Boys said...

Great post. I think it's encouraging to other moms to hear that we aren't alone cause we are all going through similar struggles. Or at least I hope I'm not alone. :) Have you seen the chart Wise Words for mom. http://www.amazon.com/Wise-Words-Moms-Ginger-Plowman/dp/0966378660/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225216827&sr=8-2 It reflects putting verses to use for different situations. Thanks again for your post.

Frances said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Carrie - I always kind of wondered why you don't write about Nathan more often, but now I understand. It's beautiful and encouraging to see how this challenge has made you very aware of and grateful for all the little blessings/triumphs God gives you and your child. Savor them!

I had never heard that song before - it's wonderful!

Amy said...

What a great post, Carrie! You are such an amazing mother!

PS- No offense AT ALL taken to the typo thing. I was so tired from my trips that I am glad you only caught one :) ((hugs))

Linds said...

Thanks for sharing Carrie-

It is encouragement to know that we are not the only ones who struggle. Parenting is difficult, isn't it?

What a great job you're doing though in helpin Nathan hides God's word in his heart!

Jenny S said...

Your doing a great job. Going to the Lord and scriptures are a great way to figure out what to do. I needed that reminder. After all these children are gifts from God. Who better to guide us in our efforts to raise them, than God. He knows them and guide us. I thank you for sharing so bravely what many of us would like to openly talk about but are afraid to open up about.

heidi said...

My heart goes out to you & I'm so glad you ventured to share this. I just said a prayer for you and am sending a (((hug))).

Reading your post gave me a flashback to my own firstborn. He was/is strong-willed and I often felt like the only mom with such a trying child when he was little. I think it is harder when it is your first child! It seemed many of our friends at the time had one or two sweet, compliant little girls...which made me feel even worse as a parent whose child was a handful. Now that time as passed many of those friends have gone on to have more children and have had strong-willed ones themselves and suddenly understand much better! :)

I remember coming home from playgroups and crying because my child was not what a Christian mom hopes for. I often just did not know what to do with him. We prayed, read books, took parenting classes at church, etc...God has been faithful to help us!! One of the most encouraging things God did for me was through the word of another woman further along the journey with a stong-willed child at just the right time.

When my son was 27 months old his first sister was born. That was a hard transition for him and I really had to watch that he didn't harm the baby! I am not trying to be discouraging since I know you are pregnant, but I do encourage you to be watchful. It's a new challenge to be consistent with discipline and tend to a newborn.

Some good news - my son is 10 now and it's been amazing how God has grown his heart little by little (he is definitely still strong-willed but channels it better in constructive ways-at least most of the time). He has 3 sisters and has really grown in obedience and kindness... It has honestly been a long, slow, often trying process which we're not done with, but I can smile about it much more now.

Hold on to those moments of hope that God gives you! I can tell you're a great mom! :)

Ewokgirl said...

This is really a lovely post. It's nice when bloggers are real about life and not just painting their families as the picture of perfection. I imagine it's a great encouragement to other parents to see that you deal with tantrums, too.

Really, though, the loveliest thing about this was the encouragement you've received in this parenting journey through your son's response to your teaching. That is a truly beautiful thing.

Ginger said...

Carrie, I am so glad you are seeing a change in Nathan. I can empathize with you as I have a strong-willed 14 year-old. He also was a very difficult baby.

Christy said...

Carrie I too have a very strong willed child. At the beginning of this year I was very discouraged until a friend of mine pointed something out to me. God created my child with a strong will to use for His glory. I really found comfort in her statement. It helped me realize that my son is this way for a reason (not just to make my life difficult). I learned that I need to embrace every aspect of his personality and through much prayer and guidace from the Lord help him to use his traits to glorify the Lord.

Amy A. said...

Thank you for that encouragement.

Kendra said...

Carrie - thanks for sharing all of this. Those moments you shared were so sweet, too. Although I can't wait for our little girl to enter the world, I'm also starting to feel scared about what that means! Parenting often seems quite overwhelming, but it's good to hear experiences of others who have tredged the path before! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi Carrie:

Thanks for openly sharing your heart. I knew you had been struggling and I pray every morning for you & Eric to have HOPE and wisdom from the Lord in raising your children. I can see He is answering that prayer in a beautiful way. You & Eric are doing a GREAT job. It is a difficult journey, but God can use even our mistakes to shape and mold our children into what HE wants them to be. Look how He took my very feeble efforts & used them to produce 3 WONDERFUL Godly young women. I give Him all the praise & glory. I know He will do the same for you & Eric. Keep up the good work!

I love you, Grandma

Kara K said...

Carrie - great post. Thanks for being real.


Amy said...

Oh, sister, you are not alone! I just posted a review of a great parenting devotional book on my blog. The book is Devotions for Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas. It is the BEST parenting book I've read to date. The review is on my blog if you'd like to take a look.

You're a good mommy!

Leanne said...

I do think the key to parenting a strong willed is to look for the good moments and the good responses and to control the anger that sometimes starts to feel overwhelming to us.
I have a child who hits me frequently... it can be so discouraging... yet his fruit of repentance can be so soothing... I guess in a way that's how our Savior feels...our sin hurts so much but our fruits of repentance make him delight with joy!
Thank you for sharing...I quit sharing a lot of my parenting struggles because they seemed to attract way too much commentary! I'm glad people have been positive to you!

Carrie said...

Carrie - Thank you for sharing your heart. I cannot imagine how challenging parenting can be at times. I am not yet a mom, but it's so wonderful to read how God can work through real struggles. I believe that you are doing a wonderful job with your son and that with the Godly parenting that you are doing you WILL see fruit! THank you for sharing these tender moments with us!

Carrie @ Heart of a Servant

Jamie said...

Hi Carrie,
I've been out of the blog loop this week and was just catching up on your posts. Thanks for sharing! I can relate to how you feel and am encouraged to hear how Nathan responded to you! We too are going through a phase of disobedience with hitting and tantrums. We are also using a similar phrase in regards to obedience being directed from God, and I am praying for some results. It is mentally exhausting to be consistent. It is so much easier just to give in or ignore the behavior...but I know God will honor our diligence if we persevere. Thanks for your thoughts! Let us know what you think about the book that was mentioned. I'm always looking for encouragement in this matter!

3boysmama said...

Parenting is such a hard journey, and thanks for sharing some of the difficult times. I think since Nathan is your first-born that it is particularly trying because you have nothing to compare it to except other mothers. (and we know how that goes!) I have three boys, and my 2nd one (Joel) is my strong-willed one. Although the third one is only 11 months, so we shall see! Joel was also an early talker so that has made it easier, you're right! I think what has made it easier on me is having a first born completley different (but with other equally challenging issues). Joel is only 3 so I don't have much advice but that I hear you sister! I too have had the complete fits, meltdowns and car seat resisting. Often fits are over the most small things like him not getting out of the car the way he wanted to. (ie walking out then realizing that he had wanted to jump out) Sigh. Thanks so much for sharing!