Being an adult is being one's own parent - unknown
I'm a great one for authenticity in relationships. Let your yeah be yay and your nay be nay! Be consistent! I'm quick to judge what looks like double-mindedness: kindness one day, apparently cruel the next. Where's the real you? my cynical mind cries. Until I had kids, that is...
The gift of parenthood illuminated the fraud that I was. I wasn't only different from moment to moment, but with every child! I could be empathetic counselor, spiritual guide, friend and confidant, disciplinarian, warrior mommy, mean mommy, disturbingly mean mommy, angry and unkind plus mean mommy, ... all within the space of 15 minutes. I had fallen off my own pedestal and I couldn't get up.
The road forward has been one through self-acceptance, self-compassion and vulnerability (Guys, it's after 10 pm. You know I don't do well with questions after 10. Please?). The madness of life with therapists, school issues, home support people, homeschooling classes, chores, illnesses and a myriad of other sudden occurrences, demands an equivalent pattern of quiet and contemplation, something that is quite meager in my life. Quiet creates space for me to notice my myriad of selves. Safe space, with God, to examine Faith as she is showing up in these different slices of time, and to examine the vulnerable underbelly of her reactions. I heard once that 50% of your life is to be lived and 50% is to be spent in reflection of what is lived. I'm coming to realize that Jesus is the perfect reflection partner.
In those moments, as I sit, observing the 8 versions of myself that appeared the past 10 minutes, I also imagine Jesus sitting beside me. In those moments, I imagine a dialogue. I would lean towards him, and say, 'what do you think?'. He might then say, 'what happened from there to there?' pointing to two versions of myself. The dialogue unfolds to gently shape the two versions of Faith, see her strengths, understand her wounds and triggers, acknowledge the challenge in the experience and her struggle to just measure up, and remind her that she is loved and forgiven already. Portions of stony heart get a gentle touch from His hand and the miracle of resurrection continues.
parenting multiple personalities
Figuring out how to parent a child who is radically different from other children has been excruciatingly hard work. Realizing that all my children are radically different from other children felt incredibly pressuring in the face of feeble parenting skills. Acknowledging that this 'typical' child that I felt prepared to parent was as real as the unicorn, was humbling. Everyday, at least 8 versions of each child shows up. The children each have their own mixture of strengths, winds, triggers and weaknesses. Whether due to developmental challenge, social and cultural mis-matches or character flaws, they struggle to measure up every day. To my sorrow, I own that I contribute to that struggle.
Jesus teaches ...
So I'm pulling some parenting tips from my few quiet contemplations with Jesus.
No matter how many personalities I've morphed into, for the most part, Jesus response to me is a quiet, 'What was that about?'. This was so beautiful illustrated in the story with Jesus on the road to Emmaus with the two disciples. He followed them, joined the conversation, asked why they were dejected and listened. There's time. No precipices here.
What do WE do about this?
Since we have the time, since there are no disasters, I have time to turn to Jesus, in acknowledgement of the Royal We, and really pause. And ask. And pause again. I am always with you.
My extreme emotions and reactions about many daily life situations come from fear. Fear that what I'm doing isn't working, that my kids won't develop the way God wants (or maybe the way I want...) and live the life they were made to live. In my quiet moments, the gentle whisper is Trust me. You can't always see what I'm doing. Love is your job. Change is mine. Love is patient and kind and keeps no account of wrong...
Sometimes I rush through to solution and fixing, working way above my pay grade, and zoom past the opportunity to acknowledge the difficulty of the challenge. Compassion means being moved by the situation that others face. Helping my children be compassionate towards themselves starts with my compassionate embrace of the struggle. This struggle, the struggle of not co-ordinating your body well, or with being kind to your sister of with remembering your chores or paying attention in certain situations, is just the struggle to be human. I understand that struggle.
The Scriptures teach it. Science demonstrates it. For good or ill, what we believe guides our attitudes and actions. I've been allowing the apparent overwhelming evidence from my children's actions to inform my beliefs about their lives. So, of course, my attitude and behavior in hard times show these beliefs. When I slow things down, I remember what Jesus does with me. He reminds me who I am. He continues to reframe my beliefs about me. if I listen, He reframes my beliefs about my children. And I can help reframe their beliefs about themselves by telling them what He's said. You have the mind of Christ. Christ's power lives in you and will empower your body to do the things that are hard for you right now.
Sometimes I'll miss all this. Sometimes I'll remember the 10 minutes before when I did fly off the handle. Confession and repentance in the moment helps me to turn over a new leaf and start afresh. This takes such humility, often more than I have... but as I write this, I'm acknowledging my need to confess my weakness, not only to Jesus, but to my children. I'm sorry. Today I was sharp and impatient and said things that were not helpful and loving to you. Please forgive me.
It's a Marathon (or I won't be able to see if it's working right now)
How many times have I turned around years later and realized the J. has moved through some milestone that I had worked on for so long that working on it had become automatic? Many. Sometimes, I shift my attention form something, to focus on the new big bad and ugly, and when I re-orient, it's gone. We can't keep digging up the plant looking for the roots. Leave it alone and keep on keeping on.
I get to do this!
If I've been able to pause long enough to hear God and be present with the kids, instead of flying off the handle, I'm usually filled with awe and gratitude. Parenting is a calling from God to shape human life. I get to live out Christ Incarnate in my family and to be a conduit for grace and power, facilitating His transformational presence in my children's lives! It's a HUGE calling.
And in the mundane moments, threatened with challenging emotions and flawed parenting, I'm grateful that He understands, listens, loves, embraces and walks with me every step of the way. He does all the heavy lifting, regardless of diagnoses, character flaws and multiple dysfunctional parenting behaviors. Christ in you, the hope of Glory (Col. 1:27).