Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Learning to Flex
I think one of the hardest things about parenting is coming to grips with the fact that your children are different. The old cliche, what worked for one won't work for another, is really apparent once you start having more children. Some parents, like us, get their easy baby first and then are shocked when the second one comes. Others have it the complete opposite. Whatever it is, you have to learn to flex and draw on more strategies. As difficult as it is sometimes, it's how God encourages us to grow.
This is never more clear to me than when I go to a baby shower for a first time mom. It never fails that all of the moms of one child that attend, tell the soon to be mom what she MUST have in order to survive. And they also have really strong opinions about what works. I know. I've been there. Babywise worked with my first child like a charm and we were sold on that style of baby rearing until...UNTIL Caleb came and chucked that entire system out the window. So I'm not trying to knock first time moms here. I was one of them. But over time, through lots of beating my head against the wall, I've come to understand that my methods with one just may not work with another and I've had to let go of the guilt and just flex.
So now when I'm in that same situation at a shower, I just smile, sit back and listen to the opinions fly, laugh to myself and tell the new mom I'll pray for her. Because really, that's all I'll be able to offer. I don't know her child nor do I personally know what style of parenting will work for her as a mom. Only she'll be able to figure that out. So prayer will be much needed...that a meal maybe, a few baby clothes and a bag of diapers.
But babyhood isn't all there is. There is, as you know, 18 years ahead and every child comes with a different set of assumptions, needs and personalities. Babyhood is one small drop in the bucket. Each stage requires new wisdom, patience and straight up laughter. There will be similarities with each child but, every time a child goes through the same stage a sibling has already been through, it could look entirely different.
I'm currently living this lesson right now. It's my third time through the two year old stage and little Joshua is entirely different than any of his brothers. Some days I just pray that I can get him to three years old (a much better age in my opinion) other days, I feel like we're doing all right. He is probably our least strong-willed child but his spirit, oh his spirit is a double dose and it is so incredibly exhausting. He's like a little ping pong ball darting everywhere, yet you're never quite sure where he's going to land. Trying to predict what he's going to do next is impossible so, you hang on for dear life and try your best to teach him to obey the first time he's asked. Without that, you're really up a creek.
But I've been really convicted lately because I've been finding myself slipping into the attitude of, "Why can't you just sit down and do a puzzle like your brothers would at your age?" Or "Why do you always need to be tearing something out?" Basically, Joshua always needs to be busy and I don't feel I have the time to deal with it. His big brothers were never that way...at least not to the extent that he is. I feel totally ill-equipped and unprepared to deal with it. You'd think I would have ideas on how to manage him better but really, I simply don't.
Last week I asked a friend from church, who recently had her fifth, tips on how she managed a little boy (her third as well) who reminds me of mine but just a bit older. She just laughed and didn't have much to say. She tried to be helpful but, remember what I said earlier about the advice thing? Yeah she knows as well that prayer will help, others' advice probably won't. I'm sure when she thinks of it, she prays for me. That's how these things work.
So I've come to the conclusion that I have to get myself out of my box once again and flex. Joshua is my child. He's mine. He's my responsibility. Even though I don't want to deal with him or his craziness at times, I must. And I must figure out how to reach him too. He deserves such attention. When I don't want to flex my expectations, I'm being horribly selfish. Sometimes I feel like I'm flexing so much that I'm going to turn into silly puddy. But maybe that's okay. Didn't God say, "I am the potter, you are the clay?"
Maybe He's got me right where He wants me.