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My kids are driving me crazy. How can a single 3-year old have such power over me??!! How does she get right in there under my skin? And under my feet? How does the day start so fresh and yet end up in a tangle of emotions – delight twisted with frustration and patience entwined with exasperation?
After a busy day with the girls, I always look forward to some evening quiet time with my husband. In my mind, the scenario looks like this: the “chicklets” are sound asleep in La-la Land, there's a hot cup of tea waiting for me on the coffee table, and there's Joe, sitting on the couch ready to chit chat and unwind the day together. Doesn't that sound wonderful? Peaceful? Relaxing? And it is. However, I still haven't figured out how to stay awake past those first 5 minutes once I hit the couch! In reality, the scenario all too often looks more like this: I awake an hour later to find Joe gently stirring me, turning off the lights, and helping me get upstairs to bed. There's my tea, stone-cold, on the coffee table.
What I don't understand, though, is how I can be this exhausted at the end of the day. What's a little laundry, a few dishes, some cooking? Sure I've lugged the girls in and out of the car a few times to get some groceries, the mail and a couple of stamps, but it’s nothing I'm not used to by now. So where does this state of tiredness come in?
The physical demands in my life are relatively insignificant (although, come to think of it, Megan does weigh close to 30 pounds and still needs some carrying here and there. You try that and then tell me it's not a workout!). I am seeing more and more clearly that, while the end result may be physical weariness, the main contributing factor to my evening collapse is the emotional tug of war that carries on throughout the day. So often, I go through a series of emotional ups and downs, joy followed by annoyance, forbearance slowly unraveling into aggravation.
Like any other mom, I absolutely adore my children and am deeply grateful for the gifts that they are to our family. I desire my chicklets to be happy girls, have a happy childhood and go on to lead satisfying adult lives. In order to see these things unfold in their future, however, a great deal of emotional energy is required in the present while they are developing their character, their attitudes and their moral foundation. While I have this bigger picture in mind for my daughters, it does not exempt me from getting entangled emotionally when it comes to the everyday issues of teaching and discipline, giving guidance and direction. Every day, I experience the same roller coaster of emotions: one minute delighting in a new discovery, the next instant dealing with the tears of a sensitive 3-year old who can't find her beloved puppy. One minute I’m giving a triumphant high five for a great attitude; the next minute I’m marching her into the corner to discipline a rebellious heart. Just when I think we've reached a milestone in an attitude or behavior, we have another episode and take a few steps backwards in our progress. My mind tells me she should know better by now…
AHHHHHHH!!! Frustrating? You bet! "How many times do I have to tell you…?”
While this type of emotional roller coaster is part of my daily life, what I find most important is to start fresh with the girls every single day. No matter what challenges and frustrations and disciplines I faced during the day, I never want to tuck those things in with the girls at night, nor do I want to take them to bed myself. We often relate the teaching of Ephesians 4:26b to our spouse: "Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry…” But what about our children? Do we ever fail to forgive them their shortcomings after a challenging day? It can be tempting to put them to bed in a huff and hurry, anxious to get on with that quiet evening, idealistic as it may be. I know I've been guilty. In so doing, we may unwittingly neglect an opportunity to demonstrate the forgiveness and unconditional love of God that they automatically associate with Mom and Dad. After all, they've had a hard day too!
It can be equally tempting to wake up with what I call a "leftover attitude" that automatically assumes yesterday's worst for the day ahead: "Uh-oh, another day… Here we go again." The challenge on a morning like this is to immediately pitch those leftovers (which you really should have done the night before) and take the perspective that this new day is indeed fresh with no mistakes in it. I believe it is very important every day that each child is given the benefit of the doubt and is welcomed into the day with a positive attitude. After all, thankfully, that's the perspective our own Father takes with us. The Word says in Lamentations 3:22b-23 "His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Where would we be if our Father awakened us with a leftover attitude? In our own adult waywardness, when so often we "know better," God is merciful and kind, renewing His compassion toward us every single morning. What a relief!
God is amazing. He is indeed the "Everlasting Father" – the ultimate “perfect parent” – from whom I can pick up so many parenting tips. I want to be like Him and am never lacking for opportunities to try with Annika and Megan around.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Elisabeth Di Francesco is a graduate of York University. She has traveled throughout North and South America ministering through music. Elisabeth is currently involved in local church ministry, leading women in developing their full potential in God, becoming women of influence, and living their faith in daily life.
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