It happened on an eve in November of 2000. Did you hear it? Do you remember where you were? A temper tantrum of shock and awe rang out through the land. It was the first time I had firmly come up against the iron will of my firstborn child. And though I joke, it felt to me that night that everyone in the tri-state area heard the cries-and I hope, lived to tell about it.
It happened over a sippy cup. I can't even remember all of the particulars. But we were with my husband's close and extended family at Tony's Italian Restaurant. It was in a strip mall--overcrowded with a line waiting out the door because the food was so good. And there we sat with a toddler and an infant, pinned into a corner with our party of 20, when suddenly my son decided he wanted to drink from a big cup and not a sippy cup.
All I remember from that moment on was ridiculously loud crying, red-faced screaming, and kicking. I took my son out of the restaurant into an inlet awning of another nearby store to gain some privacy. I held him tight, trying to shush, correct, and restrain him all the same time. The line of people out the door was staring and tsking at me. I felt it. I was THAT mom. And I did not know what to do. I remember wanting to cry with him. I think I did. I was angry, embarrassed, and I felt like a failure in front of my husband's family and a whole crowd of strangers. I knew my son had a strong will, but I had not come up against it in such a public way before and I was left feeling very ill-equipped to handle it in that moment.
Many of our readers know I have 10 children (and an 11th on the way <3) so little did I know that would be the first of many temper tantrums I would need to deal with. But that one stuck with me. I went home a bit shattered. I was entirely devoted to this son. I loved him intently and was seeking to train him by God's word. I was left wondering how I had failed him so?
Gentle Parenting Cannot Atone for Sin
It was my husband who helped me understand something I had not see until then. It was not that my nurturing was altogether faulty. I was not the world's worst mother. It wasn't that I hadn't loved enough, or in that situation, trained and disciplined him enough. Rather, I learned in a big way that day that there was real sin in my child's heart. No amount of training or gentle parenting can atone for sin. It was the beginning of seeing not only more of my need for Christ's forgiveness, but how I needed to point my children to seeking Christ's forgiveness too. His perfect blood is the only thing that can atone for sin.
I made the mistake of being personally devastated by the sin. I want to be really careful here because I am not saying that "well, yes, of course kids will sin so it's not our fault when they do wrong." God calls parents to shape the lives of our children in a Godward manner by disciplining sin when it rears its head along with training, teaching, loving them through God's word. (2 Tim. 3:16)
What I am addressing in this post is that: 1. even with training, love and discipline, our children will sin and so will we. 2. how we respond to sin is what is our responsibility as parents.
Carrying A Sack of Sorries
So in the case of the tantrum I realized later that I was shattered because I was putting emphasis on the wrong thing. I was so disturbed by the sin that it left me feeling despair and dread. I had failed. What was wrong with me? Let's call it mom guilt: a wave of dread you might also recognize. Mom guilt commands alot of anxiety and drains purpose from a mom's calling. Fast forward to the years of parenting older kids--where sin patterns and history of failure grows--and you have alot more baggage and guilt a mom can carry around.
Do we see it as our responsibility to carry around a sack of sorries and guilt? God disciplines those he loves. It hurts for a time, but produces a harvest of righteousness. Does Mom Guilt produce a harvest of righteousness in you and your children? See Hebrews 12. God does not discipline by giving us a heap of Jacob-Marley-chains that we are sentenced to drag around daily.
My response to sin (not matter how deep-seated) needs to be discipline and correction, not retreat and despair. Dread accomplishes nothing. I am not called to be a worrier and guilt-monger for my children. I am called to be a woman of purpose and prayer on their behalf. And by the way, it is easy to say what I know is right, but so very hard to DO what I know is right. I have not mastered this by any stretch!
But how often does Satan, our accuser (Revelation 10:12), weigh us down with undue guilt and condemnation when instead we should be taking action when convicted of sin?
Sorting out Conviction from Condemnation
Perhaps it would be helpful when stuck in dread and despair to make a list. Detail every worry and every fear, every regret you have in mothering. Then take it to the cross. If you have been in sin (and be brutally honest with yourself), confess that sin. Ask for Christ's forgiveness. If you see how you have acquiesced to sin in your children's lives, face it and take appropriate action. Begin to pray regularly for God's grace and strength where you are weak to turn away from and discipline that sin. Ask him to give you clear directives-even today-in regards to how to take action. Don't make peace with it, discipline it--in yourself and in your children.
O what joy for those whose sins are forgiven. Whose sins are put out of sight.
Sort out on the list what is not for you to carry. General dread and regrets that are out of your control need to also be taken to the cross in prayer: asking God to heal what is out of your hands and to work where only He can work. And then rest in Him where those things are concerned. Don't pick that worry and dread back up again. If it haunts you, go to the Lord in prayer as often as you feel the guilt.
If this is too difficult to do alone, may I suggest seeking out a friend who is a bit more mature in their age or faith? Another pair of eyes can be so helpful in these instances.
Line upon Line...Repeat
A friend posted on Facebook this quote from Olympic Figure Skater Scott Hamilton. I saved it because it illustrates what I am hoping to encourage us in today:
“The first thing I teach skaters at my skating academy is how to get up — because we’re going to fall,” Hamilton says. “And that’s how I live my life: I’m going to fall down, I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to do all kinds of things that I’m going to wish didn’t happen. But it’s what’s next — it’s how you get up … The more times you get up, the stronger you are to face the next thing, which will happen — because that’s life. My faith in God was always lifting me to new heights I never could have reached on my own.“ Scott Hamilton
This concept encourages me so much in raising children. At times the discipline and training is intense but that is generally for a season. Largely, raising children is a daily renewal, a getting up after a fall. The goal is not to never fall. We know that is a worthy goal, but so impossible in this fallen world. Perhaps the goal is to get up well, to press on and collect yourself and go forward, line by line, godly precept upon godly precept.
“To whom will he teach knowledge,
and to whom will he explain the message?
Those who are weaned from the milk,
those taken from the breast?
For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little.”
It can be very freeing to work within the grace God has given for this day...today. Not carrying around regrets and dread from yesterday, nor borrowing trouble from tomorrow, but doing THIS day with the grace he has supplied: line upon line, precept upon precept. Then do it again when tomorrow becomes today. And repeat. This is how to build a life upon the ways of the Lord, isn't it? One grace-filled day at a time, gathering daily bread rather than carrying daily dread.
In Christ's love, erika