On Spring Break I read "If You Only Knew" by Jamie Ivy. I'd Highly recommend it. She talks a lot about the story in the bible of the woman at the well, and how Jesus forgave her. It had me thinking a ton about how I forgive others in my life, and my great need for forgiveness. And that of my children.
The Friday night before Easter, our family went to church together and then came home to go to a glow in the dark Easter egg hunt. Our sweet neighbor had organized it the year before, so our kids knew how exciting those things are. Lukey was a little too excited and made a VERY BAD choice just before the egg hunt began. Mike and I had given him directions, but being the impulsive 5 year old boy that he can sometimes be, he wanted to just go with his own plan and disobeyed us.
We knew he was going to be devastated, but we decided he'd have to go to his room and miss the egg hunt and party. To be perfectly honest, I was furious with him. Mike sent him to his room so that we could regroup. Once I calmed down, it BROKE MY HEART to make him stay home. He was sad. So sad. Bawling crying, basically howling and begging for mercy and forgiveness and "another chance" but the punishment had to happen. We were at the neighbor's house, which is 5 houses and a street away and could hear him screaming from his bedroom window. (Whoever said BOYS couldn't be a tad dramatic obviously never raised a BOY!) It could have possibly made me even more sad than him. I HATE DEALING OUT TOUGH CONSEQUENCES. It is definitely NOT my strong suit in parenting.
Once the punishment happened, I knew I had to get right back to loving him. I don't want him to think of himself as "the boy who doesn't listen." I want him to know that he is loved beyond belief, even when he doesn't listen. I don't want him to carry around that label "the boy who doesn't listen" and live up to it.
I used to think, the madder I am, the tougher the punishment, the longer I can stay angry, the better. Surely they will see how angry they make me and choose differently, right?
I think we live up to other people's expectations of us. Our kids will be what we tell them they are. I want to continuously remind my kids of the good I see in them and let them know how much JOY they bring me. "I love the way you help keep your sister safe near the water....I love when you don't complain about unloading the dishwasher...I love how you include your brother when you play. I love that you put first things first and get your homework finished as soon as you walk in the door." The more I tell them of how thankful I am for their good choices, the faster they seem to stick and become habits, although we are all guilty of sliding the wrong way from time to time.
"I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name." 1 john 2:12
For Mike and me, we struggle with finding the right balance between love and grace and discipline. Mostly because I have never really viewed discipline as love. Mostly because I have always disciplined out of anger. I had it all wrong, and sometimes, I still do.
I am learning to remove myself from my tantruming toddler. Put her in her crib, and go take a breather. I can reunite with her and tell her that she can't lie at the bottom of the steps and scream her head off for me to carry her upstairs when she's perfectly capable of walking herself. And then quickly love her and forgive her and hug her and wait for her to make a good choice so that I can tell her, "You make me so happy when you listen!"
I have to make a conscious decision time and time again, I'm going to discipline them fairly and appropriately, because Proverbs tells me over and over, "If I love them, I will discipline them." While they can make me so angry I cannot see straight, I also have to learn to step away, take a breath before I say something too harsh that I'll soon regret. I have learned the hard way that when I try to discipline them when I'm boiling mad, I am way too harsh with my words and actions. Mike is usually so good about sending them to their room and calming down and helping me calm down.
If you have a minute, you can google Romans chapter 7 Verses 14-20. It explains our sinful nature. Mine. Mikes. Our kids. On this side of Heaven, it cannot be escaped. Try as we might to "be good" we are going to keep on coming up short until the day we die.
We can choose to stay angry and bitter. Anyone who is married or anyone with children, even a toddler will tell you there is always something to be annoyed about. We really must choose to forgive, time and time and time again, keeping in mind that we are sinners ourselves.
Have you ever been "preaching" at your kid about "not listening" only to have the Holy Spirit remind you...."Don't forget little lady that you time and time again, choose not to listen too!" It's very humbling. It always leads me right into forgiveness because the bible also says in Matthew,The degree to which you forgive others will also be the degree to which you are forgiven.
It is hard. Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Raising kids is hard. The challenges keep coming and aren't going to stop.
Joy comes when we make a choice that in our homes, we'll love unconditionally. Sure we'll get angry. Sure we'll make mistakes. Too harsh words will be spoken. But we can also choose to continually look for the good. Build each other up. Forgive quickly. Love our babies and our spouses EVEN WHEN their choices don't match up to our plans.
From Proverbs 28 - Discipline your children; you'll be glad you did. they'll turn out delightful to live with.