I don't know how to begin this post except to say: parenting is shockingly hard.
Bedtime's been a nightmare around here the past few months. The boys have always shared a room peacefully, but lately they play off each other in waves of mischief, sometimes lasting an hour.
Silliness at teeth brushing, scaring each other after lights out, throwing clothes, giggling. A whole slew of consequences haven't changed a thing, with Peter being the instigator most of the time, and Paul allowing himself to be led astray.
Just when Mom and Dad are feeling the most spent, comes the worst part of the day. These boys are old enough to be more sensitive to their parents' exhaustion.
Last night, after problems with neighbor kids just hours before, I was so. done. with. child. rearing. So beyond exasperated. Peter got the rare spanking, which he's really two years too old for. I didn't do it, I confess, because I thought it was the answer, but because in my exhaustion and exasperation, I wanted to punish him for the stress he causes night after night.
Whenever a spanking is given to punish, either consciously or subconsciously, it's never good parenting. It's broken parenting. Our aim as Christian parents is to shepherd, not punish. Punishing--outside of a civic, societal function--is about getting back at someone, not redirecting them toward righteousness.
A calmly-given spanking can be part of good parenting, I do believe, but I wasn't calm (don't worry though--there's not a mark on him).
After all were asleep, I was heartbroken and empty. I wanted real answers, not just grace. I knew if I sat down and recited the 23rd Psalm and prayed, and quietly let the Holy Spirit minister to me, I would recover.
But I wanted more than recovery...I wanted all the trouble to disappear. I wanted beautiful nights of parenting, executed as gracefully as an expert ballet performance. A true art form.
My husband is gone 12 hours a day Monday through Friday, and 6 hours on Saturday, which leaves me with a full-to-the-brim load. The lower your income is the more hours you need to work (and sometimes the higher your income and responsibility, the more you need to work).
With the homeschooling, the chores, the various disorders represented here, and the neighbors who congregate here by the threes after 3:30 PM, while I'm trying to put school supplies away, switch laundry, do dishes, and make dinner...well, it's too much.
My kids behave better when they play with just each other, so in the healing time last night, as I asked for real answers, it came to me that it was quite reasonable to limit the neighbor childrens' visits to just the weekend, when my husband is available to watch everyone outside. He loves the outdoors anyway, and with perimenopausal upheaval happening to me when I least expect it, I simply can't pack my days as full as before, and maintain the same level of sanity.
Being in the middle of this, I'd say it's probably easier to go through menopause when your kids are young, verses when they're teens and in upheaval themselves. One of the blessings to having kids later in life?
I suspect so.
My boys tend to rush through their afternoon school to be done in time for the neighbor children's inevitable knocks. Yesterday I had Lexie insist she wanted to hang around our yard while we finished school. She even went into our shed, making herself at home with Peter's pet snake, and later staring into our window, checking on our progress. I felt so invaded and the kids couldn't concentrate; the boys made terrible spelling errors.
We had an ADHD/OCD pediatrician appointment, and a library stop, both of which slowed us down and made school go later.
Lexie went on to entice my six year old into a tree that was way too large for her to handle, prompting me to send all the kids home. It took me telling Lexie four times before she would leave the yard. I was terribly exasperated, but I also had compassion on her mom, because if she's this bad over here, she's far worse at home.
It occurred to me, too, that as a parent I would never send my children to the same house day after day, expecting the mom there to watch her own kids as well as mine. That's just rude and yet these parents have done it for over a year, never checking on their own kids or asking if I mind the nearly-daily invasion.
I don't allow my children to visit neighbors' yards or houses, in fact, because I think a parent-extended invitation is important, and because there are no Christian parents on this street anyway.
The Holy Spirit brought other solutions to my mind, too, such as putting one boy in the master bedroom until both are asleep, and the one can be carried back to his own bed. It's not ideal, but it should help. Also, Peter will be given time to read in bed to help him relax and stay out of mischief, and he'll be allowed to sleep later in the morning to compensate.
Today has gone far better so far, even with speech appointments interrupting us again.
During morning devotions I read aloud some commentary on our Matthew passage:
Commentary from Life Application Study Bible on Matthew 13:8, pg 1674:
This parable should encourage spiritual "sowers"-- those who teach, preach, and lead others. The farmer sowed good seed, but not all the seed sprouted, and even the plants that grew had varying yields. Don't be discouraged if you do not always see results as you faithfully teach the Word. Belief cannot be forced to follow a mathematical formula (i.e., a 4:1 ratio of seeds planted to seeds sprouted). Rather, it is a miracle of God's Holy Spirit as he uses your words to lead others to him.I choked up reading this, on the morning after my hardest day. Children, in other words, will not necessarily show fruit in direct proportion to our evangelism and discipleship efforts--neither our own children or the neighbor children. But our words do matter. Our obedience matters.
It may seem to me that my boys should be more sensitive to Mom's and Dad's feelings at their ages, but God is working through the Word, and through our discipleship, nevertheless. Our home may not be spilling with spiritual fruit right now, but I believe every passage we read, everything we teach, everything we model (yikes!), will shape their hearts for life.
So often with parenting, the rewards come later. So often as Christians, in fact, the rewards come later. It's hard to labor day after day, knowing the rewards are far removed.
But in the meantime there is grace. There's wisdom freely given to the prayer warrior.
There's a quiet Savior whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light, who quiets me by his love.
Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So, how was your parenting day?