When I feel defeated in my parenting…

I recently went on a band field trip with my 7th grade daughter. I was looking forward to supporting her and spending the day with her. Middle school girls, however, are complex creatures. There’s a whole lot going on in that 12-year old body, with thoughts and feelings that she doesn’t understand. I knew my daughter wasn’t thrilled that I was going with her, but it wasn’t until I was stuck on the bus with her that I realized how much she really didn’t want me there. Her actions clearly said that she was not comfortable with my presence. She just wasn’t herself. She was distant and impolite, not just to me, but to another mother and daughter as well. My child was a stranger, and as a parent I just felt defeated.

I felt like everything she had been taught was gone. The child that I generally have a great relationship with was gone. She had been replaced by this person who didn’t act the way she’d been taught to act. She had been replaced by someone who didn’t want anything to do with me.

After the trip I cried and prayed, and by the time my daughter came home from school I was almost ready to talk to her. She walked in the door and started chatting just like her usual self. And just like that she was back – the child that I know. She didn’t understand why I was crying. “What’s wrong, Mom?” she asked.

What’s wrong is that I feel like a failure. I don’t understand how my daughter could push me away all day and then think everything is fine. I just want our usual relationship back. I’m tired and overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do, and I feel defeated.

Choosing to Love

And then I remember how much I love this child.

I look at her and remember how God has loved me through my own growing and changing. He loved me even when I didn’t understand what I was doing. He showed me grace even when my actions said  “I don’t want You here.”

I choose to love my daughter the way that God has loved me. I put aside my hurt and disappointment…and I forgive.

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 6:14-15

I remind my daughter of who God created her to be. I remind her of what her actions should be. Settling for less is not an option, and I will not give up on her. I love her too much.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

I let her know that while her actions disappointed me, I still love her and always will. For that is exactly what God has done for me. He has shown His love to me again and again, even when I ignored Him and pushed Him away.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

 The Perfect Example

My children will never be perfect, and I will never be a perfect parent. It’s not my job to be perfect. It’s my job to love and guide my children even when they don’t want my presence and guidance. My job is to constantly remind them of who God created them to be – with the same grace and patience that’s been shown to me.

When I feel defeated as a parent, I will not give up. I will follow the perfect example set by my heavenly Father.

I will love my children anyway.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

Not why I gave her the phone

This weekend I rode in the car with my oldest daughter for about twenty minutes in silence. It felt like I was completely alone. That child was glued to her phone the whole time. I could have asked her to put it down, and she would have with no argument. In situations like this I usually do remind her that the person she is with is more important that whatever is on her phone.  However, this time I was curious to see what would happen if I didn’t say anything.

She never even looked up. In my optimism I thought that if we rode and I said nothing, that would give her a chance to talk about anything that might be on her mind. I was looking for conversation – but received silence instead.

The irony, of course, is that I’m the one who gave her the phone. She has the phone to be able to communicate with her parents when we’re not with her. She had it with her that day because we had been running, and she uses an app that helps her log her runs. It comes in handy, but the very thing that I gave her because I love her and want to be able to communicate with her was currently having the opposite result. The two of us riding in silence was not my plan. That is not why I gave her the phone.

So we drove along side by side, with my daughter absorbed in the phone that I gave her, and me just waiting for her to put it down and talk to me.

My own blessings

I thought of my own heavenly Father who has given me so much, and I wonder if He sees me often distracted by His blessings and thinks That’s not why I gave you that. I didn’t give you that so you could ignore Me.

God gives me the choice as to how I use His blessings, just as I did with my daughter. I can use them with God’s purpose in mind, or I can use them for my own enjoyment and ignore the very one who gave them to me.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8

If I find that something is keeping me from my relationship with God, I can be sure that either it did not come from God, or that I am not using it the way He intended. God wants us to be near Him, communicating with Him. He wanted that so much that He sent Jesus to die for us – just so we could be near Him.

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  Ephesians 2:13

God has blessed me with so much. It is easy to become so absorbed in enjoying His blessings that I begin to think of them as mine. Those blessings are not mine any more than that phone is my daughter’s. I need to remember the source and the purpose of all that God has given me. God wants us to enjoy His blessings, but He also wants us to remember Him. He wants us to talk to Him. More than that, He wants us to abide in Him.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. John 15:4

We can choose to abide in Jesus. We can choose to use God’s blessings for His purpose instead of letting them distract us from Him.

Putting down the phone

Let’s not ride through life too distracted to see God. He sits there right beside us just waiting for us to remember Him. He sits waiting patiently for us to put down our phones, turn our faces to Him, converse with Him, and abide in His presence. 

Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 1 John 2:28

Beautiful Misspelled Words

AE drawing age 6These sweet pictures hang in my office. I look at the messages that my youngest daughter wrote to me a few years ago and I smile. She wrote on one of them “I hope you have a good tiam at wrook tonnite.” I love it. I love the misspelled words written by her little hands.

I love them because I know the intent behind them. It doesn’t matter that they are misspelled. That’s not what I see. Instead I see the love that she has for me, and her desire to express that love. While it may not be perfect, it’s beautiful to me.

I take such comfort in knowing that my Heavenly Father views my expressions of love for Him in the same way. I am His daughter.

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. Romans 8:16

As such, I take comfort in knowing that He doesn’t expect me to be perfect. He loves me the way I love my daughter. My attempts to show my love to Him may have mistakes, but that’s not what He sees. He sees my intent and my love, and He thinks that it’s beautiful.

Sometimes I can be hard on myself as I look back on my past efforts. I think “Oh, I would do that so differently now. I can’t believe I did that.” Well, that’s just as silly as my daughter looking back and feeling bad about misspelling those words.  

Princess Autumn and Queen Mom

Princess Autumn and Queen Mom

Thinking about her pictures makes me a little more patient with myself – and with others. There are things that just take time and maturity to learn. They can’t be rushed.

Now, at age 8, my daughter knows how to spell all of those words correctly. She’s at a different point in her life, a point when I can expect a little more of her.

As Christians, we should be growing and learning as well.

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11
Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. 1 Corinthians 14:20

Parents expect more of their children as they grow, and God expects more of His children as well. That doesn’t take away from those early efforts, though. (I’m talking to myself here.) Don’t feel bad about those misspelled words. Don’t worry about what others think of them. Your efforts are beautiful in your Father’s eyes.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 1 John 3:1-2