The seven year old who pushes her sister so she can go down the slide first. The five year old who stomps her feet and boldly declares that she will not wear that particular shirt. The three year old who defiantly pees on the couch to show her disapproval of her mother’s instructions. The one year old who refuses to sit still while you try to enjoy a dinner out with friends.
All of these parenting frustrations (and more!) occurred in our household this past week. Each of them were handled with varying degrees of grace and patience-some good, some admittedly not so good. Sometimes Beth and I collapse at the end of a long day and just look at each other: “This is so hard!”
It’s hard to deal with attitudes that seem to change dramatically from one moment to another. It’s hard to deal with toddlers who are pressing hard at every seam to see how far we’ll let them go. It’s hard to clean up the fiftieth potty accident or the twentieth juice spill. It’s hard to spend all day getting the house in order only to have the living room torn apart after coming out of the bathroom from a shower. Parenting is hard. And though I long for the days when everyone can eat, go to the bathroom, and get dressed all by themselves, I know that older years will bring a whole new set of challenges.
And yet, by the grace of God, we can not only survive these years, we can thrive in them. We just need to have the right perspective.
Paul Tripp says this: “These are not years merely to be survived! They are to be approached with a sense of hope and a sense of mission. Almost every day brings a new opportunity to [invest in] the life of [your child] help, hope, and truth.” He goes on to say that all of the difficulties and frustrations of parenting “all must be seen as something more than hassles that get in the way of an otherwise enjoyable life.”
That last sentence drove right to the center of my selfish heart. Why is that potty accident so frustrating? Why is the defiant refusal to wear pants instead of shorts so maddening? Why is my patience so short when I’m asked to do fifteen favors when I walk in from work in the afternoon before I’ve even set down my keys? It is because I am seeing my home as something other than a place of spiritual formation for my children. I’m seeing it as a place of escape and ease and comfort.
I don’t want to clean up after an accident. I don’t want to fight over clothes. I don’t want to patiently explain why a parent’s voice should be obeyed even when it goes against what they want. I want children who are programmed already to know how to live in this world. I don’t want to take the time to teach them. I want to tell them once and for them to have it down. I want to inform their minds and think that this is sufficient to shape their hearts. In short: I want no suffering in my parenting.
Yet I am beginning to learn that what appear as moments of frustration are actually golden opportunities; they are divine appointments to shape both the mind and the heart of my children with God-centered truth. They are times where I have the chance to prepare my children for a life of joy centered in knowing and cherishing God. Foolishness is bound up in their hearts-and oh! how often it comes streaming out! But God-centered correction will drive it far from them and became a gracious garland of joy around their necks.
I pray that God would open my eyes to the opportunities that are present in the struggle. I pray that God would show me the glory in the frustration. I pray that I would exhibit the fruit of God’s Spirit-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control-as I work through the difficulties of raising children.
The glory is there if we have eyes to see it.