There are a few things in my life that have brought me to my knees in a particularly desperate way: my dad’s fatal diagnosis and battle with ALS, marriage and most recently, parenting toddlers.
Particularly the one that is a mini version of me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love her to pieces. She is incredibly bright, thoughtful, caring, spunky and kind. She also has an iron-clad stubborn, strong will that drives me to levels of crazy. We are currently working on the concept of cooperation (making it easy for mommy to do her job) which she is great at when she sees and understands a logical reason to be.
Last Thursday was one of those days. We were at her local preschool sports class (session 4 of 6) waiting for the teacher to call them in. She got dressed in her new exercise pants, packed her gym shoes and water bottle in her backpack and seemed ready to roll.
The teacher opened the door and all the preschoolers except one excitedly ran in.
Enjoying the fun on the first day of class.I tried coaxing. I joined for a bit. I went in with her. I talked about what a fun time the kids were having. I asked what was wrong and why she was feeling shy. The teacher tried inviting her in multiple times. I pointed out that money had been paid for this class. There were only 3 more. I offered ice cream or a Timbit afterward.
She stood beside me silently refusing to participate. For some unknown reason, she had made up her mind and nothing seemed to be changing it. 20 minutes of the 45 minute class ticked by. Good cop was failing.My compassion was quickly shifting to frustration.
Then I switched gears. I calmly explained to her that I had asked her to play and she was choosing to disobey. I explained the consequences that would ensue if she continued to choose to disobey and we had to go home early.
She listened and then looked me straight in the eye and said, “Okay, let’s go home,”
I tried to absorb my shock as I was forced to swallow my pride and exit the gym with my obstinate child, past all the other moms whose children were happily participating.
All I could think was, this wasn't supposed to go like this.
Maybe the rewards didn't help but the consequences were supposed to deter you from this.
Off we went back to the van, back across town and back home. I may have been a tad angry at the outcome but mostly pleading, Lord help me.
Where is the manual when you need it?
Fun on the first day!
Once home, she went straight to her room and complied with all of the consequences her choice had invited. I followed through on every one.
When it was all said and done and she was lying in bed ready for her nap, I sat down next to her and asked, “How do you feel right now?”
Her reply was, “Sad.”
I said, “Me too.”
I asked her, “Do you believe that mommy loves you and wants what is best for you? Do I want to keep you safe and healthy? Does mommy love to see you have fun?” She nodded yes to all of those things.
We talked about her class. I told her that she had missed out on a chance to have fun. I reminded her that she always enjoys herself and gets to exercise. She missed stretching like a pizza and getting her smiley sticker at the end. She missed playing with her friend and some of her favorite games. I told her that usually I take a picture of her having fun and send it to daddy so he can see her enjoying her class.
Today everyone missed out.
As a parent, I want to teach her to obey her dad and I (consistent with the command in Ephesians 6:1) so that one day she will obey God. I want her to trust us, our love for her, and that we have her best interests at heart so that one day she will trust God, His love, and that His desires for her are best. The alternative is to personally experience all of the painful consequences of sin. As a loving parent, I hope and pray that is not the case.
That day in particular, she didn’t follow my instructions. It wasn't only that she didn't obey me but she missed out on what was best.
She experienced the natural and undesirable consequences of disobedience.
My hope and prayer is that as she experiences some of the smaller natural consequences of disobedience, she will grow in trust and desire to obey her dad and I, so that when it comes to the big things of much greater consequence, she will take our word for it.
More importantly, I pray that when it comes to decisions of permanent consequence, she will be in the habit of taking God's word and using His standard to make her decisions.
That truth is often easy to miss. God is for us, He loves us and wants what is best. That is the motivation behind his commands. We can easily get caught up in thinking that what we want in the moment is best and completely miss the fact that He- the creator of everything, the One who understands how all things work, the one who loves us unceasingly, actually has a reason behind the things He commands. He knows how it ends up, and He wants what is best.
I was putting her to bed that night and we talked about Ephesians 6:1 and how God wants children to obey their parents. He put parents in charge of kids to teach them and take care of them.
I asked if there was anything she wanted to tell God she was sorry for. This was her prayer:
"Dear God, please forgive me for disobeying you and not listening to my mommy. And help me to sleep in peace and joy-ness. Amen.”
I realized that something else happened. Her disobedience provided an opportunity to be convicted, to repent, and to experience forgiveness. She had an opportunity to see her need for Jesus, because like me, she doesn’t always obey, and often thinks she can do it on her own.
I hope that she and I both continue to grow in our trust of God and His ways and in our dependence on Jesus.
As a parent you often wonder if you got it right or failed miserably.
Tomorrow is Thursday again so I will know by 11:00 AM if the lesson stuck. And feel free to pray at 10:15 that it did when session #5 begins!