If you have known me for any length of time you know that I am a proud mom to two incredible, and vastly different, boys. My youngest is almost 4 and is a natural born leader, which is just a nice way of saying he is incredibly strong willed and I wonder most days who is leading who. His name is Jacob and I love that little albino something fierce. He is a miracle child who was healed of a third degree heart blockage that put him in the NICU when he was one day old. We were told it would probably kill him but God is faithful.
And then there is our oldest who is 7 and he was a total surprise. We had only been married 11 months when we found out that we were pregnant with him and I can still remember the shock I felt when that little stick had two blue lines. It was not in “my plan” as I had been on birth control the whole time. But alas, here he was, the golden child; kind hearted, extremely compassionate (especially towards the homeless community)… and a giant liar. We are working on that last part.
Almost a year ago now our youth group had plans to go to a paintball camp and we were going to let Michael go with them this time around. He was SO EXCITED that he barely slept for a week, which meant I barely slept for a week, and he reminded me EVERY DAY about how he was going. The night before their planned departure, however, things took a turn for the worst. His teacher had assigned reading for the week and Michael had been putting it off. He HATES reading. He had accumulated almost 80 pages of reading that needed to be done and I sent him into the room to focus on this “terrible thing I was asking him to do”. Ten minutes later Michael comes out exclaiming he was done. For a boy who hates reading there is no way that he could have read all 80 in ten minutes, but if by chance he had I was going to get money from that brain of his somehow!
Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I asked him about the book. He pointed to the pictures to tell me the story. Ah yes, I too like to pretend I know what is happening by looking at the pictures. And then I pointed to a word and asked what it was because he had “read” it. And he just started crying. So I sent him back into the room to read his 80 pages.
Ten minutes later he came back out. A little more irritated I just said, do you need something? And he just responded “I’m done”.
No child. No you are not done.
We did this rodeo for an hour and a half and he would not relent that he had read all 80 pages. Child please, it’s Dr. Seuss! You could have read it five times now if you had just went in there to do what you needed to do.
I struggled to find a punishment strong enough to help him understand that lying was absolutely NOT acceptable and finally decided after hundreds of attempts at him denying any wrongdoing that he could not go on the trip. Tears. Tears upon tears upon tears upon apologizing and more tears. It was so traumatic, for me, because I wanted him to be able to go too. I knew how much he wanted it, but as a mom I need him to understand that Shepherds do not lie.
He went back in the room and did his reading. And then he cleaned his room. Cleaned a few more rooms. And asked if he could help with dinner.
I kept telling him that I would love the help but it wouldn’t change if he could go or not because it was his punishment for lying but he just continued to work. At the end of the night I put him to bed and we prayed. I closed the door and I could hear him crying a bit more. I cried too.
I want to be a good mom and most days I struggle with pushing my own frustrations aside and focusing on what I am actually doing. What parenting is actually all about. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It requires love and grace and strength and follow through. It requires that I lay aside my personal emotions of a situation to clearly decipher how to correctly discipline a child that doesn’t want to own the consequences of their own actions for the benefit of their future self. And that’s what parenting is.
Parenting is building your child to be a better future version of themselves.
Parenting is saying things that your children most often do not want to hear, and that is why they so often stop listening. Selective hearing we call it; ignoring anything that doesn’t personally benefit or make them feel better. But don’t lose heart, mom and dad. You are not the only one who has been “hated” or told that you are “ruining their life”!
God has struggled with us in this same matter throughout the expanse of time. We don’t like to hear the consequences of our own making or anything for that matter that doesn’t make us feel good.
It is because of this that many will decide to listen to the voices that say nice fluffy things, even if they aren’t true. That God is all about love and nothing else. Despite the fact that over and over in the scriptures He is described as our loving Father who corrects and disciplines His children. Because this is the job of a parent. Loving and correcting and disciplining.
Not to make a point. Or push your parenting weight around. Or create little robot people without individual thoughts.
Parenting means saying that there are consequences to our sometimes very flippant and sometimes very selfish actions. Israel heard this same message over and over as the prophet Jeremiah would speak on behalf of God about their coming “doom”. He pleaded for their repentance but they instead listened to the countless false prophets of their day declaring prosperity and peace. (See Jeremiah 14:13-18) That sounds great, Israel, prosperity and peace. It really does. But not all that glitters is gold. And not all that feels right, is. After all, Jeremiah was telling the truth.
Judgement was coming, repentance was needed, and God still had a plan to save them- but they didn’t want to hear it.
Have you felt like this as a parent? That your intentions are for the benefit of your teenager but what you are saying is falling on deaf ears because there are countless voices promising them the mirage of an easier way? Michael is not even a pre-teen yet and even he is struggling with his friends pressuring him to find the short cuts in life. Lord… help me!!!
But they did not repent. The destruction came anyway. And at the end of the story as the Israelites were being led away from Jerusalem Jeremiah is found by a commander who remembered his words, God’s words, and unchained him. He finally realized the truth that he had proclaimed all along. That judgement was coming, repentance was needed, and God still wanted to save them. He tells Jeremiah, the Lord your God decreed this disaster for this place. And now the Lord has brought it about; He has done just as He said He would. All this happened because you people sinned against the Lord and did not obey Him. But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists. (Jeremiah 40:2-4)
Tired, worn out parent. Hang in there.
We are all struggling with our own rebellious hearts to find the easy way through life. And while discipline and correction are so desperately needed, remember that they are not always easy to hear. So of course there will be a struggle. Of course there will be voices promising an easier way. But God is faithful to His word.
He promised Israel in the midst of their disobedience that He still had a plan for them. “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). They were about to walk through seventy years of captivity, a consequence of their own disobedience, and yet God still told them to hold on to the hope of a good future He had for them.
Because that is our God. Like a good father who corrects and disciplines his children, God corrects and disciplines us with His purposes in mind for the future us. (And Israel’s future was a good one complete with a holy sacrifice that would grant us access to the very throne of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.) This is why I want my boys to know the importance of obedience… but I also want them to have a glimpse of the unmerited grace we were given. That we still are given.
So the morning after Michael had accepted the punishment of his lies, I pulled him aside and I told him that sometimes God gives us things we do not deserve and that even though he didn’t “earn” it he was going to still be able to go to paintball camp. He cried again, this time happy tears, and thanked me over and over and over for letting him go.
This is our redemption story. Understanding the coming judgement of our sins, having true repentance for what we have done (which in this one instance I truly found my son to have), and being granted the unmerited grace of God through His plan of saving us.
I may not get it right nine times out of ten, but this one time I did. He learned a valuable lesson that day that he still talks about even now.
So keep on keeping on, Mom and Dad. It will not be easy, but the woman your daughter will someday be needs you to stick it out.
Take a big breath, yours is an important job. Love them, discipline them, and correct them… even when they don’t want to hear it. They will be better for it and thank you in the end that you did.