Parenting Challenges Can Bring Unexpected Blessings

Parenting challenges can come with unexpected blessings. When Paul and I married in 2000, we decided to have kids right away. I had spent eleven years as a single parent and looked forward to having a partner to help raise my children.

When Katherine came to us in August of the following year, we were overjoyed and eager to spend time with our daughter. By the second night at home all I wished for was sleeping more than two hours at a shot. Katherine would scream—not cry—scream until I thought she was going to pass out.

Paul and I plodded along trying to maintain some sense of normalcy in our lives. I prayed occasionally for more patience, but in all honesty what I truly wanted was for Katherine to get over whatever stage she was in. Time would show, however, this was no stage. We had a strong-willed child.

As Katherine grew, so did her strong will. Small battles became bigger battles as she fought for control over every aspect of her life. My husband and I would share knowing glances across the supper table as the nightly ritual of food throwing began. I talked to her pediatrician about it more than once. He suggested reading materials, which I never bothered with because I barely had time to shower never mind read a three-hundred page book. I prayed a little more. I asked God for more patience and understanding. I begged him to give me one day that didn’t include a time out.

But the defiance continued.

I spent more time scolding Katherine than I did enjoying her company. I felt like a failure. Pushed beyond my limits, by the time my husband came home from work I was physically and emotionally exhausted. It strained our marriage. I prayed when I wasn’t too tired.

During the third year of my tap dance through World War III, I discovered Dr. James Dobson’s The New Strong-Willed Child. I laughed and cried as I read some of the personal accounts from parents who sounded as overwhelmed as I. The most important chapter for me was on how to tame the child’s will without breaking her spirit. In reading these pages, I realized I would need more help from the Almighty than an occasional prayer would offer, because by the time I reached the point where I was willing to read Dobson’s book, I felt so angry and resentful over my child’s behavior that I was more interested in breaking her will at any and all costs.

So began my daily discussions with the Lord. I asked for guidance on how he wanted me to use what I had read to shape Katherine’s will. I begged him to take away the anger, frustration and resentment I felt toward my daughter so we could have a meaningful relationship. Sometimes Katherine and I would pray together at bedtime, asking Jesus to give us a good day—one where she listened better and I was more patient.

The litany of difficult days became sprinkled with easier days; even some truly great days where her loving kindness shone brightly.

As I diligently prayed, God sent me occasional messages to keep me focused on my goal. I would read or hear something about the importance of recognizing and appreciating your child for being the person God created. As I came to realize that Katherine’s strong will was a gift from our Creator, I felt my resentment melt away. I found myself angry and frustrated a little less and I didn’t consider myself to be such a failure.

Months later a revelation occurred. I wish it were subtle as his work, but it was more like someone slapping me offside the head—because of Katherine’s strong-willed nature, I became a more devoted Christian. God had been gently telling me he wanted me to bring my burdens to him. In my humanity, I thought I could solve the problem myself; but it was impossible for me to see my daughter’s strong will as a gift without his help.

After the discovery, I decided to add one more prayer to my daily devotion. I thank the Lord for making Katherine who she is. Without her it may have been even longer before I engaged God in conversation on a regular basis. And for that, I must admit I consider her strong will to be an unexpected blessing.

Helping a sister out

With the addition of my third child, I could see that God had a new plan for my life.  That meant leaving my part time job as an engineer and joining the ranks of the other stay at home moms.  Now 2 years into the journey I can say that I couldn’t imagine it any other way.  Though I am blessed (most days) :) to be SAHM, what they don’t tell you is that this also means the majority of the day while your kids are awake and your spouse is at work, you are also a single parent.  When you have little ones who aren’t in school (like mine), that means no matter how small or large the tasks at hand are, my little sidekicks are always near.

When I was working I regularly ran errands at lunch.  Dry cleaning pick ups, prescription refills, picking up a few things at the store – oh how I long for those random minutes wandering alone in Target now!!!  I had pretty much reconciled myself to the fact that 15 minute errands would take an extra hour and that even at the dentist I would have a child in my lap.  That was until I started tapping into the resource that is all my other amazing stay at home mom friends.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others”  Philippians 2:4

As I reflect on my community of other SAHM I can certainly see Paul’s words resonating loud and clear.  Looking back at this week it is apparent to me how selflessly my friends have been looking out for my interests as well as their own as I have tried to do the same.  For example, the last 5 days looked a little something like this….

Day 1:  on our own

Day 2:  a friend takes my daughter to and from school

Day 3:  a friend takes my daughter to school and I watch her son so she can volunteer for an hour

Day 4:  I watch another friend’s son so she can get a haircut, then I picked up another friend’s child from school

Day 5:  a friend watches my oldest while I take my youngest to the doctors, then I pick up 2 friend’s children from school

It was an orchestrated effort to say the least, but one that allowed us to be better women, mothers and friends to each other.  Being a SAHM is a challenge, particularly when you are balancing the needs of school age, preschool and infant children.  I am so grateful for all those women in my life who “look not only to their own interests, but also the interests of others”!

 

www.hollyskeltonbooks.com                     www.thelittleheartsproject.blogspot.com

 

 

Warrior Angels

“Why aren’t there more children’s books for boys?” Parents ask me this frequently. My answer, “I don’t know.” But it’s a great question especially for Christian children’s literature.

One Saturday night our five-year-old son couldn’t fall asleep. He wasn’t hungry or thirsty so we knew something bothered him. He confessed, monsters were in the house. So we did what every parent would do ̶ the monster chase. We shooed monsters out from under the bed and from inside the closets and behind all his curtains and chased them outside. No more monsters! Certainly, after such a successful monster chase he’d finally settle down, but fear still gripped his heart.

“What if they get back into our house?” he asked pitifully.

At that point, only God’s peace would calm his spirit, but how could we make a fearful boy understand God’s protection? If his imagination conceived horrifying monsters, couldn’t he imagine God’s fearsome warrior angels, too? Reassuring him the Bible was full of stories of God’s mighty angels sent to fight for and protect God’s people like Daniel in the lions’ den (Daniel 6:22), we explained how God still sends His guardian angels to protect us when we’re afraid, too (Psalm 34:7).

So we prayed, “God please send your mighty, warrior angels with fiery swords to protect our home. Place two at the front door and two at the back door so no one will harm us. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.” God’s comfort came (and I’m sure his angels, too).

The next morning, the Sunday comics opened to Pat Brady’s Rose is Rose. It pictured Pasquale (Rose’s preschool son) sitting on the doctor’s examining table with his cherub-looking guardian angel hovering above him. Fearful Pasquale said to his guardian angel, “Do you mind? The doctor’s coming in soon.” The angel transformed from a cute cherub to a mighty sword-slinging warrior angel until the room barely contained his fierce stature. Pasquale breathes a sigh of relief, “Thanks!” And his guardian angel replied, “No problem. Most doctors prefer me this way.” Twenty years later, Rose is Rose still adorns our refrigerator.

Children need their imaginations matched to biblical truths. Often, Bible curriculum wrongly portrays angels as simply cherub-like or emasculated versions of the truth. If children’s imaginations (especially boys) can contrive frightening monster images, then won’t knowing God’s angels are a fearsome match bring more comfort than a simplistic and false, fairy-like images?

Reading with children

One of my treasured memories as a child was when my mother or father read to me. It wasn’t that they read so often. But those few times were so special that they still stand out in my memory almost 60 years later. I am certain that if my parents had only realized at the time how special those times were, they would have read to my brothers and sister and me more often.

I can still hear Mama reading the opening lines of Tom Sawyer, “Tom, Tom, come home Tom,” as if it were yesterday. Mama didn’t just read those words, she sounded like she was Aunt Polly and she was calling Tom from the back door. Mama put life into those words as she read them.

Mem Fox is one of my favorite children’s authors who, in addition to her numerous award-winning picture books, has written a book entitled Reading Magic: Why reading aloud to our children will change their lives forever. In Reading Magic, she shares the importance of reading with expression to children. She also shares these techniques on her website at http://www.memfox.com/reading-magic-intro. Browse around on her website as you can also listen to her read several of her picture books.

As a beginning school teacher and later as an elementary school librarian I followed Mama’s reading example, and doing so learned to love children’s literature. Several years ago I recorded two of the poems Mama read to me as a child: “The Raggedy Man,” and “Little Orphant Annie,” and added them to the Librivox website. You can listen to my recordings of these two poems along with several other poems and stories by clicking here: Grandma Janice’s Poems and Stories.

It isn’t absolutely necessary to read perfectly, however. The fact that you take the time to read with your child will mean more to your child than they may let on. Many children crave one-on-one time with their parents. So read with the best expression you can muster, read often, and you may surprise yourself at how well you can read as you continue to share storybooks with your children.

 

123RF Stock Photo

Ears to Hear

Blitzen and his famous ears

 

One of the things I like best about my dog, Blitzen, is his ears. While sometimes they stay in a floppy, carefree position, more often they sit perched atop his head like two radar waiting for a signal. He can twist and turn them in different directions, even leaving one angled forward while the other pans to the left or right.

When I open the door to let him in from the outside, even if he’s on the other side of the house, his sensitive ears have detected the sound long before I have a chance to call out his name, and within seconds he comes bounding to my side. I love the way he’s so attuned to me – it’s as if no matter what he’s doing he’s always listening and waiting for me to come calling. And when he knows I’m looking for him, he doesn’t miss a beat, but rather races to be near me and to discover what it is I want from him.

 

I can’t help but think that our relationship with God should be the same way. Psalm 123:2 puts it this way:

We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy,

just as servants keep their eyes on their master,

as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.

Just like Blitzen is always watching and waiting on me, I want to be always watching and waiting on the Lord. I want to keep my eyes and ears focused on Him, so that if He wants to ask something of me that I’m prepared to receive it. If I take my eyes and ears off of Him for even a second, I could miss out on what it is He wants me to do for Him. And if I’m not prepared when He calls, if I’m too busy doing my own thing, then I’m not a very good servant.

* * *

How attuned are you to the voice of God? When the Lord calls your name, do your ears perk up, eager to hear what He has to say? Or has the din of the world gotten so loud that you can no longer hear or respond to His still small voice?

If you’re like me, and you realize that your spiritual hearing and attentiveness could use improvement, please join me in this prayer:

Lord, help each of us who call on Your name to be attentive to You. Help us to fix our eyes upon You and to make our ears sensitive to even the slightest utterance from Your lips. Remind us that our greatest joy comes from waiting upon and serving You, not ourselves. Amen.