My husband and I wanted to have our children very close in age, which we did. Bella is almost four years old, Leland is almost two, and Hudson is just four months. What we did not realize though, was all the work that comes with this type of a family. When one toddler is whining for something, the other sees this and begins to whine too. When one is hungry and asks for a snack, the other suddenly decides he’s starving. At the same time, the baby is crying for a fresh diaper. We recently started experiencing the classic sibling rivalry in our house. Things like “he hit me!” and “mine!” are shouted about every two minutes all day long. With all these things and plenty more going on, it’s hard to take a step back and see the joy in my motherhood. This is a difficult season that nothing could have prepared me for.
One thing I didn’t see coming, was a terrible habit. It just popped its ugly head out of my heart one day, totally sudden and unexpected. Turns out, it’s a generational curse in my family line, which is no excuse, but a reason for it happening and having such a strong hold on me. Yelling. As in, screaming. At my kids. I have a limit- a pretty low limit-and when one of my children pushes me past it (actually, when I allow them to push me past it), I snap, and scary mommy comes raging through with her voice raised high. It’s a terrible habit, it’s embedded in me, and I have needed Jesus to heal it for quite some time.
My sweet husband, Brian, recently came to me and pointed out, with love and grace, that my yelling has gotten much worse over the last few months. Our family has had a tough year, to say the least. I have allowed the stress to get to me and taken it out on my precious babies. So I walked my sorry self to the throne of grace, took a seat on the floor, and laid the issue out before the feet of my Savior. As I confessed my sin to Him, it was like He got up, took my hand, and began to walk with me. I felt Him lead me through some memories and show me some dark spots in my heart. One thing He clearly showed me was something I didn’t think had anything to do with my yelling at my kids. Expectations. My expectations are the main root and cause of hitting my limit so quickly and shouting.
I expect my children to be close to perfect. I expect them to only disobey every once in awhile, and only when I’m in the mood to give patient, godly discipline. I expect them to play beautifully with one another when placed in a room full of toys, and always for at least an hour at a time. I expect them to eat all of their dinner every single night, and to always be thrilled to brush their teeth. The truth is, I expect way too much of them and it’s ridiculous. I would never have realized all these expectations before. They were just there, embedded in my brain, totally unintentional. But they were ruling (and ruining) my life, my children’s childhoods, my motherhood, and our home. My expectations were keeping me from living purposefully as a mother.
God showed me that I must let go of my expectations for my children, all of them! I cannot expect them to grow up to be what I want them to be or think they’ll be. I cannot expect them to behave and act the way I’d like them to day to day or even in certain circumstances. Why? Because they’re just like me- human, imperfect, and in need of God’s grace, and mine. It is my responsibility to teach them right from wrong, train them up in the ways of the Lord, and love on them every day, but I cannot expect perfection from them.
One verse God brought to me in this is Matthew 7:1-2. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
I’d never heard that verse used in regards to parenting, but why shouldn’t it be taken in that context? Judging is exactly what I was doing to my children- judging them against my expectations for them.
God is teaching me to give the grace that I wish to receive. I am learning to rely on His mercy in order to have patience with my kids, and to spend time with Him in the morning before the day starts. By doing this, I am not only beginning my day in the best way possibly, I am more able to see my children through their Creator’s eyes the rest of the day. I see their need to be patiently taught and trained, to be gently guided the right way. It isn’t easy, and it’s a sacrifice, but it’s the way God is calling me to parent and it’s His purpose for me as a mother. When I remember this, dwell on it, and allow it to invade the angry parts of my heart, I am renewed and awakened. The anger fizzles away, the yelling stops, and hope takes its place.