Before I had my own children, I had an idea of how parenting would go. I operated under the assumption that I would parent my children to the best of my ability and that would be enough. I believed that my efforts would ensure me happy and obedient children, all the time.
I was wrong.
It turns out that you can parent a child with all your might. You can train. You can teach. You can make up good-behavior charts and bribe reward a child with all manner of stickers and special treats, but these things might not make a difference at crucial times in their life. No parent has ever been able to predict and control every choice a kid makes. That’s the thing about kids—they come with minds of their own. And this often becomes obvious in front of other people, and we mothers are embarrassed beyond words, possibly even stunned silent.
For example, our daughter recently startled a room full of relatives at the family reunion when she yelled, “Pray, Larry!” at her grandfather. You see, my father-in-law is a dear man of God, but he often takes a bit of time to gather his thoughts before beginning the prayer. My mother-in-law has been known to nudge him with a whispered, “Pray, Larry!” to get him moving. My own husband has taken up this prayer-hesitation as he ages, so I’ve started mimicking his mom at the dinner table. “Pray, Larry!” I hiss at Eric.
I think I’m terribly funny, and if he’s honest, so does my husband. He snorts and starts praying. But we forgot to tell Audrey that sometimes little family jokes are just that—little and with only the four of us. So when she was hungry at the family reunion and Grandpa wasn’t on her schedule, she just did what comes naturally—she ordered him to pray. And the whole room thought it was hysterical, except for maybe me. And Grandpa, who apparently doesn’t appreciate being called by his first name by a grandchild. He did get right to the prayer, so I guess the child made her point.
In another example, I think of the time that Caleb threw up on me, all over me, at story time at the library. We were sitting quietly when I suddenly realized he was burning up, then he was throwing up. There was no time to prevent the disaster. My first instinct was to start cleaning the mess, but there was no way I could do that and care for my sick child at the same time. The dear librarians came to my rescue and started mopping up the mess. They cleaned the carpet and the chair and sent me home. My daughter was heartbroken to leave story time early, so they let her stay and then walked her home when it was over.
I could go on and on about the chances God has given me to get over myself as I parent. In fact, I wrote an entire book called There’s a Green Plastic Monkey in My Purse, and it’s all about the ways God has let me grow closer to Him through parenting. Each parenting challenge is another chance to move past my initial reaction to seek the good of my children, and to move past pride and self-absorption. These things are poison to our walks with God, and He lets the difficulties of parenting teach us this over and over.
Colossians 3:12-15 says:
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. (NLT)
Those cringe-worthy moments in motherhood give me a chance to do just these things. They let me learn how to clothe myself with tenderheartedness towards a child even when I’m embarrassed. They give me a chance to react with kindness when a child blurts out something at the wrong time. They let me learn forgiveness over and over again, just like Christ forgives me over and over again. My life is not about me. I live to glorify God, and He teaches me how to do it as I parent. I pray that He lets you learn these same blessed things through your own experiences as a parent!