I learned more about my husband's childhood during my sister-in-law's recent visit. While the details she provides help me apply grace to my wonderful husband, they also highlight the uphill battle I face as a parent..
Forgive me for a lengthy lead in to today's topic, which is: Worried About Your Child's Future? Part l.
My sister-in-law described being traumatized by her father's ongoing treatment of her brother. As a lad my husband was always in trouble; little mercy was applied, despite his mother standing up for him Nobody suspected AD/HD, as it simply wasn't known in everyday circles. Having the inattentive type, my husband forgets things frequently and doesn't complete tasks thoroughly the first time. These symptoms sent his father into a rage.
Not knowing otherwise, people assume the inattentive-type AD/HD sufferer is lazy and incompetent. Unable to impress people or completely satisfy them, the sufferer lives with daily frustration and anger, and a feeling of failure. As I said, none of this was understood when he was young, and I've only come to understand it as his wife in the last few years, due to 8-year-old Peter's hyperactive/impulsive type AD/HD, and 7-year-old Paul's inattentive type. My husband, for his part, is only now understanding why "success" has eluded him all these years, and why his father hated him.
Regularly, I see my husband struggle. It's hard to watch, and it leads me, at times, to fret about my boys' futures. The past few days have been one such time, and I wanted to share how I pull myself out of these worrying frenzies.
If your children don't display any unusual behaviors or conditions, you probably won't understand this post completely. Still, I'll try to present it so that all mothers can glean something.
First off, I have reason to worry. Peter is becoming more of a bully toward his siblings (especially toward his brother). His pediatrician warned me that bullying would become more of an issue around ten years old (Peter will be nine in January). Due to his impulsiveness, frustration quickly becomes aggression. Medication to treat the impulsivity aggravates his tic disorder and his OCD symptoms. He washes his hands far too often, causing them to bleed. Sadly, last week he gave up helping with baking (which he used to love) because of contamination fears regarding the eggs.
Additionally, Peter strangely and audibly tells God he is sorry for insignificant things, for fear some punishment will befall him (distortion of religious beliefs--Martin Luther had this type of OCD and suffered profoundly, leading to his historically significant emphasis on grace (Protestant Reformation), rather than works, as the cornerstone of the Christian faith.
I worry that Peter won't be able to hold down a job and support a family, or that he'll be able to do so only by taking a few different medications (which would be tragic, given the side effects with these types of drugs). I worry he will frustrate his wife and kids, leading to increased feelings of failure.
I worry that Paul, who has the inattentive type, will always be perceived as incompetent or lazy. He is extremely bright, especially in math and problem solving and spatial relationships, but without the ability to stay on task, his intellect may be wasted (although tasks he enjoys are not a problem, as is typical in these cases). Will he become a perpetual underachiever, I wonder?
Having summarized my recurrent worries, let me now discuss what helps me regain peace and joy, after a period of worry.
A couple of things help me consistently.
First, I separate what I'm responsible for, versus what God is responsible for. Knowing what I can control helps alleviate worry.
So, what am I responsible for, according to God? What kind of a parent must I be?
I must teach my children about the precepts of the Lord, and keep them from folly:
"You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." Deuteronomy 6:7 ESV
"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6 ESV
"Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it from him." Proverbs 22:15 ESV (I do not believe this refers only to spanking. The rod was used to redirect wayward sheep; it had a crook in it. Redirection is imperative, and perhaps at times, it may include spanking, depending on the child's disposition.)
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the LORD." Ephesians 6:4 ESV
The above verses represent my part in this child-rearing gig. When I catch myself worrying, I remember that as long as I dedicate my days to these endeavors, God is pleased and honored. He will reward my efforts, though imperfect, and pepper them with grace.
It's tempting to get distracted by education and even let it be our god, as parents. Society wants us to regard it as the only means to success. Resist that. What kind of "success" are we after for our children, anyway, as Christian parents? Certainly not financial success--although there's certainly nothing wrong with it if it comes. We're not after recognition for our children, either.
Our goals must focus on the heart. Spiritual training first; multiplication tables later.
To Be Continued.