Sunday, June 7, 2015

Arguments and Aprons

Friday, although it dawned cloudy and gray,  actually turned out to be rain-less and partly sunny, which I'm not sure anyone was expecting. (This is precisely why I do not watch the weather, because it rarely turns out like they say it will. "Just don't look," I tell my husband, lover of the hour-by-hour forecast. "Then everything is a surprise!" Sidebar: I love how we use the pronoun "they" for the common community, and therefore can blame any mistakes or air any grievances with this common society of "theys" without actually having to call anybody out by name or position. So then "look what they've done, they've paved this street all wrong" or "they promised me biscuits with my fried chicken and they didn't put the biscuits in the box" becomes a very neutral statement and no one individual has to take the blame. Until you're Sepp Blatter. Then they becomes he and everybody is in a lot of trouble.)

The whole point of talking about the day's weather was to tell you that I spent some time at the pool, although no one will ever be able to tell from the new freckles I'm sporting, as they all just start to blend together. Not enough to make a pseudo-tan, though, because that would be asking too much.

Because it is now officially summer break, I allowed myself to sleep in Friday, even though that choice made for a somewhat harried morning trying to get three children (my two plus a friend) who did not want to spend their morning watching a room full of ladies stretch and sweat and bend in ways that look uncomfortable--and admittedly slightly awkward--up and going.

Wednesday was a bad day. It didn't start off as bad, really, but it ended on such a negative note that I got up on Thursday morning with caustic bitterness still in my mouth.

Fighting--or maybe I should say arguing, since fighting sounds violent and uncontrollable--is not something I do well. I veer somewhere toward passive-aggressive, then ditch myself right around the "Danger, 5 miles ahead" sign with lashing out and defensiveness. It is like second nature to me to build walls in an attempt at self-protection, but defensiveness usually doesn't bend with forgiveness and grace and ultimately walls a person in rather than offering protection. In my imaginations, I am a brilliant and technical raconteur, but in reality I have not chosen the right equipment to argue with, making my arguments uncertain and somewhat immature. (Part of the problem is memory, which is key in an argument, am I right?)

No one wants to be caught in an argument with a rabid twelve-year-old, yet this is the position I found myself in on Wednesday afternoon, which will forever be stamped in my memory under the term RUINOUS, not only because it ruined my day but because I was accused of ruining said 12YO's entire life. Which is pretty heavy stuff, being accusing of ruining a person's whole entire life. Not to mention all their friendships, which was thrown in after you are ruining my life for effect and good measure.

Let me just say that there are things that ruin lives, and my refusal to tolerate sassy backtalk and rude behavior isn't ruining any lives over here, but to some, this dictatorial aspect of our relationship was me just being difficult, leading to an impressive, if not insulting and uncivil, slew of backtalk coming from my daughter's mouth.

The problem is a) I don't always know exactly how to deal with this and b) I don't always know exactly how to deal with this. (Pop her in the mouth, I've been told, it'll work wonders. I have not tried this method so I cannot tell you with certainty it will actually work wonders.) Husbands, when your wife calls you in the middle of the afternoon in tears because she is at her wits end and has just sent your only daughter outside in the drizzly rain to hopefully walk off whatever demon has gotten into her, you know it is NOT. GOOD. (Maybe you want to come home right away. Maybe you don't want to come home at all.)

Which is precisely what I did, sending her out in the rain to walk it off, with the directive that she not return for at least thirty minutes, but only after she spent some time cleaning the windows, vacuuming the floors, scrubbing the baseboards, and wiping up the kitchen floors. Hands and knees only. Because, here's the truth: I did NOT know what to do when the unacceptable behavior just kept coming and coming. Like a volcano. Slowly erupting, spewing toxic ash into the already tense air.

It was only by the grace of God did I recall a story I had heard about a woman (could it have been Billy Graham's mother???) who used to pull her apron up over her head so she could pray. I imagine she used this technique when she, like me, was completely just D-O-N-E. I don't typically wear an apron, but I was willing to try sans anything to pull over my head, because it was either that or completely lose it, but I lived with a woman who could completely lose it, and it was scary and unpredictable. So there I was, Wednesday afternoon, walking around the house, refuting the last verbal attack, and mumbling to myself. Or to God, as it were, but it totally looked like I was talking to myself. (Kind of like those people you pull up next to at a red light and it looks like they're talking to themselves, when, silly you, they're really just talking on their phone through their car.)

Anyways, when a parent is at a loss, asking God to fill in is exactly what we need to do, because it is then that we go from trying to figure it all out on our own to relying on His strength and wisdom.

I think I was expecting some sort of revelation, some sort of groveling at my feet, an intense apology, a "I feel so bad I will never, ever, ever act like this again"...something.

I'm just going to say it. It didn't happen.

BUT. Just because God doesn't make expectations happen exactly as we have planned doesn't mean that He is not working. "If you want to see God laugh, tell Him your plan," I once heard.

There are many things I feel ill-equipped for. Writing this blog is one of them. Being a good leader is another. (I'm an excellent follower, though. The crowd likes me.) And being a good parent? Knowing that the heavy weight of parenting falls on my shoulders sometimes makes me want to go hide, because truly--I don't know what I'm doing. 

All the parenting advice I've heard lately swirled through my head in short aphorisms, the truth of the words offering both comfort from their wisdom and alarm from their warnings : what you allow you teach. Life isn't fair. Show them, don't just tell them. It takes a village to raise a child. A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child.

If you've never been hated by your child, 
you have never been a parent. 
{bette davis}

But it wasn't until this morning, when on the short drive home from church A asked me to switch CDs (yes, my car still has a CD player in it!) and I put in a Priscilla Shirer devotional CD (so I could show her that her whims and desires shouldn't and will not be met precisely as she demands) that I realized an important reality: my children, as frustrating as they are sometimes, have been entrusted to me. Me. Not someone else. Me. And since they have been entrusted to me, I have a responsibility to raise them in the best way I know how, which is not the easiest or the most stress-free. I am not ill-equipped, but I have been looking inward instead of upward, and for me, inward is simply not enough. I need more than what my limited knowledge and narrow band of skills can bring to the table.

I need God.

When we look at circumstances from our own vantage point, they often seem too big, too overwhelming, and way too vast for us to even wrap our minds around how we will overcome. But when we look to God, the vantage point is totally different. It's not that I couldn't do something and now I can, but rather I recognize that "with God all things are possible" (matthew 19:26). And suddenly my posture changes from one of defeat to one of victory as I yield my strong will and my plans and my desires to Him.

We all have plans for our kids, I think. Whether we want them to get perfect SAT scores or get into the best schools, become the most popular kid in school or athlete of the year, marry their soulmate or give us grandchildren, we all have an idea of how we think their lives should turn out, don't we? And sometimes I operate from this "I think you should _______" point-of-view, which is faulty at best, because my vantage point is so limited.

I am thankful that He offers a life boat because otherwise I would be drowning. It doesn't always come in the form I expected, but He always shows up. And on those rough days when I feel like waving my white flag, and the future feels uncertain and maybe even a little bit bleak, I know He is standing right beside me, giving me the strength and wisdom I need to get through every day.

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