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