Parenting is hard. That's not something most people tell you before you have children...or even when you're pregnant. And quite frankly, I think for most people, it never crosses your mind that it will be because it didn't seem that hard for your parents. I mean, after all, most of us were pretty good kids most of the time, right? Only, they also don't tell you that the "ease" of parenting is not based on the "goodness" of the child. Parenting is hard because it takes time, consistency, hard choices, love, patience, grace...and oh, so many other things!
We've had a rough two days here with Ethan and his constantly choosing to disobey. Now, I realize he's only three so nothing he's choosing to do or not do is life or death or that horrible, but it's still a choice and he's making a bad one. And even more than that, it's pretty out of character for him. I'll admit, while he (or Sophie) hasn't really latched onto the "do it with a good attitude/happy heart" portion of obedience, he (usually) does really well with the "do what you're told, when you're told" portion...well, until the last two days, anyway. Not sure what in the world has gotten into him, but I feel like all I have done the last two days is discipline him. I feel so bad about it, while at the same time knowing it's just what he needs. Oh, why does it have to be so hard. Why can't I just take a day off and let them both do just what they want?!?!
But, I think recently, the hardest part of parenting for me has been choosing what to let into their lives and choosing what to leave out. It hasn't been hard because I don't know what to choose, it's been hard because I don't want others upset with me or looking down on me or thinking I am looking down on them for choosing something different than they would choose. About two weeks ago, I made a startling discovery: I have to be about 3 times as vigilant with what they watch than I ever thought. Now, we don't have cable at our house, but we do have Netflix, and while I do my best to limit the amount of it they watch each day, they do get to watch it. While I am fixing dinner, they are typically watching it unsupervised (unless Kevin happens to be home). Not to brag, but my kids are pretty good about following the rules of things they know they are not allowed to watch, so I don't really worry about it. One day they ran across a picture of Woody Woodpecker and asked if they could watch the show. I told them they could watch an episode and thought nothing of it. Well, they watched about 3 or 4 episodes over the next few days and I slowly began to notice a change in Ethan's behavior. My normally sweet, although at times rambunctious, boy was suddenly becoming quite violent and hitting people all the time. I was stumped as to why this was suddenly happening...that is until I happened to catch less than 5 minutes of a Woody Woodpecker episode. All the behaviors I was seeing in Ethan were in those few minutes I saw on the screen. He was copying everything he was seeing in that show. Needless to say, the show is no longer allowed in our house and, while the violence has tamed a bit, it is not completely gone. We must now be must more diligent in choosing what our kids watch and knowing exactly what is in it before allowing them to see it.
Yes, it's a pain, but aren't their little lives and minds worth more than the trouble? It is so hard knowing what to leave out of their lives. I don't want them to be sheltered and know nothing of the world around them, but I so want them to be in the world not of the world. How do you teach that? How do you instill that in a child who sees everyone around them behaving differently, watching different things, owning all the latest things? When have you gone too far or overboard with what you will or will not allow your child to see, wear, go, etc? When have you crossed the line from being a good parent looking out for the physical and spiritual well-being of your child to being legalistic? I don't want my kids to be "sheltered", but I want them to know there is a better path than what they will find the world leading them down. I also don't want them believing something just because I told them that's the way it was...I want them to know it and believe it because they have searched it out and God has revealed Truth to them.
It is exciting to see that when it happens. God has really been working on sweet Sophie's heart, lately, and it is so encouraging and humbling to see. Several times she has come to us in tears of repentance over something she has done that we would have gone our whole lives never knowing had happened if she hadn't told us. The other night, in tears, she said, "I just don't know what's making me feel like I have to tell everything, but I just have to tell you the truth." What a great moment it was as Kevin explained to her that God often uses the Holy Spirit to show us sin in our lives. She still has a ways to go before she really "gets it" (well, don't we all?), but there is nothing more amazing or humbling than to be involved in that part of your child's life. All of the discipline, scripture memory, Bible stories, Bible projects, etc. are all to lead up to those moments and those moments make all that time and effort and "hard-ness" (is that a word?) worth it.
So, those out there expecting your first child or still waiting for children, being a parent is hard. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. There are few other things that will drive you to your knees than your children. There are fewer things that will drive you crazy more than your children. There are few other things that will make you feel at the end of your rope than your children. But, there are also few other things that will reveal to you God's love, character, grace, and mercy than your children. Hold them close. Love them at all times. Make those hard choices. Look to God at all times for the answers. Take it one day at a time (for tomorrow has enough trouble of it's own) and lean on Him for all that you need. I don't have all the answers and I still end at least one day a week in tears, ready to give up, go back to work and send my kids down the street to school...but those things would be disobedience to God's calling on my life (and my family's), so I must rely on Him to get me through. If He called me to motherhood, wifedom (not sure that's a word, either), homeschooling, etc, He will give me the strength and the skill for the task. I must believe that and rely on that. Lord, lead and guide me as I serve my family. Show me day by day what it is you would have me say and do so that I can turn my family to You at all times and in all things. Show me the things (shows, movies, toys, gadgets, books, etc) that I need to keep out of our house in order for our family to be able to honor and glorify You. Lord, please show our family how You would have us to live out being "IN the world, but not OF the world."