Monday, June 13, 2011

Confessions of a Lazy Mother

When I had my first baby, I eschewed the idea of routine.
I thought it was archaic and constricting.

When my daughter needed potty training, I was secretly glad she was in daycare because they trained her. I had very little to do with any of it.

When most mother's were putting there daughter's hair in braids, I let hers hang loose.
She didn't like getting it brushed and I wasn't really sure what to do with those hair tie thingies anyway.

And when it came to discipline, I acted like a sweet, old Grandfather who winked at mischief.

The truth was, I felt all thumbs. I didn't know what to do. I didn't have a very good sense of actually instructing my child in what to do and what not to do. I just kinda let things unfold and would be extremely puzzled when her behaviour was embarrassing and out of control.

Then she turned three, and the antics weren't quite so cute anymore.

Then she turned four and I moved away to a city where I knew no one and saw my husband only ten or twelve days out of the month. I didn't do a lot of parenting other than creating arts and crafts, reading books to her, tucking her in at night and feeding her food during the day.

Then she turned five and my husband and I realized we needed him home. He quit his job, we moved back to the city we loved, and we got used to seeing each other again. Only what my husband saw wasn't all that great. He saw a very undisciplined little girl and asked me what I had been doing all this time while he was gone. So I blamed her behaviour on his absence and made excuses for my poor parenting.

Then she turned six and the scales fell off my eyes and I realized that I had done a very poor job of training her or correcting her when she behaved obscenely. My daughter had no problem obeying her Dad, but I just didn't seem to have any ability to lead or direct her. I kind of held to the "Que sera sera theory", and the cracks were starting to appear.
Then one day, I realized that I needed to grow a back bone. The startling revelation struck during dinner at a new friend's place when my daughter's behaviour was atrocious and the other family's 5 year old asked me, "Aren't you going to discipline her?"

Wasn't that the question being asked of me all the time?
Yes, it was.
And so I realized I had to change.
But I'm slow to change. And so I spent a year feeling guilty for six years of being a lazy mother. I spent hours in thought and blamed everything on my childhood: I had never experienced consequences for behaving badly as a child.
And when I say never, I am not using it for dramatic effect.
I mean never.
I don't remember ever losing privileges, paying for anything I broke (and I blew two tires on the family car on the same day), or anything having to do with true discipline.
Basically, it was, "Say you are sorry." And then that was the end of it. Someone else cleaned the mess up and I went away thinking, "Well, that wasn't too bad."

I remember getting married and thinking I was the best thing since sliced bread, and wasn't my husband lucky to be married to someone who hardly ever made mistakes.

(I'll leave a pause here for you to start laughing uproariously at my selfishness!)

But you can only blame your childhood for so long. Eventually, you have to own up to what you have in front of you.I finally came to terms with the fact that training and correcting my child is my responsibility.

At this point, she's seven. So I took a few days to panic over the whole "The Years Before Six Form Your Whole Life" theory.
But I figure God is bigger than that theory and He is famously known for turning bad things around (see John 19-20 in the Bible for proof).

I started to take my role seriously. Inconsistently but seriously. The inconsistencies led to a lot of frustration. I felt disrespected continually and as a result became very angry.
An angry mother who shouted a lot.
And scowled.
Scowling brings on early wrinkles and I may have contracted a few of those.
I may have tried to soothe myself with chocolate as well.

This led me to pray, desperate for a solution.

And I attended a Mediated Learning workshop.
I learned all sorts of valuable things.
I heard one mother say at a workshop that she had a daughter who was headstrong. I perked up. I needed this woman's thoughts. She said, "My eldest needs her boundaries firm. And if I don't stay consistent, and let things slide once. I will need to be firm ten more times for her to believe that I mean it when I say, 'this is a boundary.'"
I almost burst into tears.
Someone just told me why inconsistency was the undoing of me.

I went home. I used what I learned. I mediated. I saw progress.

I kept mediating, kept being firm.
And then all hell broke loose.
My daughter kicked, fussed and made a huge stink about my new found backbone.
Only she made a stink in public.
She swore.
She hit me.
She yelled.
She's eight, remember. Not good. Not good at all.
And when I wanted to give up and crumple and cry, I decided to mediate. I asked questions. I found ways to make her think about her thinking. I wrote emails to Therese at the Wisdom office and whined. I called Therese on the phone and cried. My husband held me as I sobbed myself to sleep thinking, "I can't do this. What if she becomes a teenager who we have to send her away?"

I could see it as a possibility in my mind. I would be wearing jeans and a t-shirt and she would be driven in a car far away from me, giving me the finger and a defiant stare as she left. Then I would stare at the sidewalk and cry.
Well, I have a vivid imagination. I have to tell it stop many times. And this was one of them.
I had to believe that God would turn things around for us.

So I kept mediating.
And slowly we saw a change. It was very subtle, but I clung to it.
And then, we saw more change. A thoughtfulness emerging, an ability to use words to communicate that previously was not there.
And then just like spring appears brightly and unseemingly, so did my daughter. Where I thought I had created a monster, God did a change of heart and revealed my daughter.

Suddenly, things had changed. She was listening to me and I was listening to her.
It turns out, she goes into a rage when she feels that no one is listening to her.
Huh. How about that? Like mother, like daughter.

So, I listen now.
I listen to what she's saying and what she's not saying.
And she hears me now, and listens and obeys.

We both understand the truth tucked away in James 1:20 "For man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."
We get it, and we're learning to live it. We fail and fall, but grace makes us stand again.

Grace will make you stand again, too.

I was a lazy mother when it came to correcting my children's hearts and attitudes.
But that was then.
I've come to live and breathe the truth of Hebrews 12: 12-13:

Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

1 comment:

Brambleberry said...

WOW!! What a powerful God we serve. I am so happy that you have found a system that works for you and your girl. I'm sure it feels like the most gigantic blessing ever! Thank you for your honesty...this was such a powerful post!