Monday was one of those days.
There were a handful of stressful situations throughout the day involving my kids. Individually minor and forgettable, but merge them all into a short time span and stress, pressure, second guessing and frustration ensues.
What makes handling these matters complicated is the communication side of things and varying ways we need to address errors in judgments or missteps in my household.
With Carson, his disabilities require a different tact. We communicate simply and make everything a learning lesson. Consequences are imposed, and we move ahead. We hope the message resonates and the next day is a better day.
With Beckett, the struggle is balancing our own expectations with what we know is a complicated time in his life. As a 13-year-old boy, puberty is in full effect. As he says, “puberty is raging and kicking my butt.” Over the last year, I have learned micromanaging him is a recipe for disaster for his parents as well as him. It doesn’t work to overanalyze and ride him. All it does is alienate.
It’s his nature to do things his way. He’s tough to parent because he’s stubbornly independent. I have used several examples in my life to try and teach him how to manage situations. I have showed him how I poorly handled something in my past and why I erred. He does not learn through conversations, however. It’s a shame, but he needs to figure things out on his own through his own experiences. It’s an unfortunate reality. I think it’s a parent’s role to guide and help as needed, but he is intent on doing life his way. It’s upsetting to me because I think it’s foolish not to listen and learn.
It’s all mental warfare these days. He has a great heart, but there have many instances of late when I think he is intentionally making the wrong choice. It’s like he’s trying to find the problems in the minefield. Maybe I wouldn’t even know about most of these situations if we were not helicopter parents.
Most difficult at times to accept is my teen’s unquenchable desire to get away from his parents. It’s a real challenge for me. I now read advice pieces on giving the appropriate distance to your kids as a result. I realize it’s important for their maturation, but the constant dynamic of rushing to get away versus needing me when it’s convenient or helpful for him is a struggle. There are times when I boil over with frustration and lose my cool. It usually involves lack of proper attention to school, a disrespectful tone and the unruly state of his bedroom.
I try to keep the proper perspective by celebrating the positives and addressing the negatives as they come. Every day is a new day, and each one is different from the last. I think a key piece of advice I got from a friend was consistency is the best ally when raising kids. In a world of changes and inconsistencies, it’s best to be your kids’ center or norm. I remember this conversation well and it’s become particularly apt during the middle school years.
I came across a post on a parenting page written by Susannah B. Lewis, who I do not know, but it was shared wildly. It hit home so I thought I would share it here.
Last night my husband told me, “The Bible says don’t provoke your children to anger. You’ve got to back off of her.”
I reflected on that for a good long while. Why am I giving her such a hard time? Nitpicking? Constantly on her about something? Why am I making everything a battle?
Thing is, she’s a great kid. She’s an A student, a go-getter, straight-laced. Her drive and determination leave me in awe. She’s obedient, she makes good decisions, she’s kind.
So what is the reason I keep coming at her this way? In hysterics because her room is a mess or she made me wait 10 minutes for her after practice? Why am I so angry all the time?
And then it hit me.
I don’t want to let her go.
I’m trying to keep control. Her independence scares me. Her social calendar is full and I’m not on it. Grounding her over her messy room keeps her home with me. Yelling about petty things keeps her under my thumb. It keeps me in charge.
My anger is a product of fear.
I told her last night, “I’ve never done this before. I’ve never raised a teenager. I’m learning as we go.”
And she gives me grace. Time and again. When I fly off the handle in an attempt to keep her under my wing. To keep her little. To keep her in my sight and in my reins.
In two years, her room will be empty. She’ll be away at college and the very thought makes me nauseated. I have a literal physical reaction at the notion of her not being in her bed upstairs when I go to sleep at night.
But it isn’t about me. It’s about her and the young woman God created her to be. He has good plans for the future. And I can’t get in the way.
I have to back off. Before she backs away from me.
Lord, help us to humbly and gracefully loosen our grip on these precious children you’ve entrusted in our care since their birth.
And entrust them, fully, unto You.
In other words, our kids will ultimately write their own stories. The journey is theirs to lead with us providing unconditional support. I underestimated how difficult this truth would be, however.