I need to work on my reactions. For instance, the other day the assistant principal at my son’s school confided, “I would try for another child if I could be assured I would have a girl just like yours.” After staring at her blankly for two minutes, I decided I should emerge from my shock and paralysis and say something. I should’ve just said, “Oh, thank you,” or something of that nature, but instead I admitted, “They are really tough.” We then shared a moment of confession that our children were not perfect and could, in fact, wear us out.
A few hours later, I wondered if this woman would still want my girls after their afternoon of making ‘smoothies’ with a bottle of blue cheese dressing, bananas, leftover chicken soup, parsley from the garden, milk, and, of course, dirt. I will admit that if she did still want them, they now knew how to scrub the kitchen floor.
However, the next day I was convinced that, no, she would not want my girls after she found out that they stole candy from underprivileged children. Yes, here I was collecting Easter baskets from my son’s school to take to a local ministry, and my girls were climbing over the back seat of the van trying to snatch a quick piece of candy before I got back out of the van to strangle them.
I don’t know how long it took me to leave the school parking lot, but I do remember that once the two-year-old latched onto the four-year-old’s plan, I felt like I was involved in the longest running circus act ever. I would buckle the two-year-old in her car seat, and as soon as I walked around the van to my seat, she would unbuckle and jump over the back to the baskets beneath. As I wrestled with her, the four-year-old would look for her chance to snag a piece, herself. Then I entered panic mode as I knew I shouldn’t beat them or scream obscenities in the Christian school parking lot, but I had to stop the madness. I decided to quietly fling them around while muttering threats through clenched teeth.
I immediately recognized the irony of the situation. Here I was, good Christian mother delivering Easter baskets to spread the message of love and peace, while my girls and I violated at least four of the Ten Commandments in the process.
And once again, I should’ve chosen a different reaction. The rest of my day was clouded with thoughts that I must truly be the worst disciplinarian ever. I could hear the chorus of stern mothers and fathers from a previous generation admonishing me that their children would never act that way, and I decided that none of my friends’ kids from this generation would act that way, either.
I was a failure, and my girls would grow up to inhabit the local prison. They would earn the nicknames ‘White Chocolate’ and ‘Cocoa Puff’ for their string of candy store thieveries. And I would die of a broken heart, my house empty of all sweets because they brought too much pain.
While I replayed the Lifetime movie I directed in my mind, I neglected to remember why the assistant principal the day before wanted girls like mine. My two girls have learned the names of every teacher who helps at carpool. As we pass through the line, they beg me to roll down the window so they can yell their ‘hellos’ to the teachers and share their waves and bright smiles. On days when we stop in the school, my girls look in the assistant principal’s office and wrap their arms around her when she’s at her desk. They bring joy to every person they meet.
And sometimes heartburn, but mostly joy.
They are good kids with strong personalities, much like their brother. Luckily, age five seemed to be the ‘coming of age’ period when he graduated from stealing from the poor and actually started giving. I forget that fact, though. I forget that I actually don’t want a ‘weak-willed child;’ I just want to direct those strong wills toward productive causes. I’d like to think that Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks broke a few rules as children.
I know my job as a parent is extremely important, but I can’t discount the importance of personality, either. I look at my sister and me. I never got a detention my entire school career. My sister met her future husband in in-school suspension. We both came from the same parents. We both are good women; in fact, if I were to say who is the more loving, thoughtful, and generous person, I would have to say my sister. She just happens to do what she wants.
Sometimes I forget that I’m not the only mother who struggles. I’m not the only mom who tells her kids ‘no’ to have that ‘no’ challenged. There are some people who just have to see how close to the edge of the pool they can get before they actually fall in. And, unfortunately, sometimes, they will fall.
I can’t forget, however, that there is no fall too big that God’s grace can’t cover. Of course, I don’t want my children to have big falls. I hope that when they challenge my ‘no’s’ the discipline I give will sink in one day. I hope that the many literal messes I’ve made them clean up will teach them responsibility and the idea that every action has a consequence.
If not, I know I’ve given them the tools to start a successful house cleaning service together.
I know there are other parents who feel as I, parents whose kids do test the boundaries. It’s hard to open up to other parents whose kids are mild-mannered and obedient most of the time. When I see my kids misbehave, I feel like the failure. I feel embarrassed. And while I am not opposed to trying out other discipline techniques offered from others, sometimes I just want to hear that my kids aren’t the only ones who steal from Easter baskets. I want to hear another mom say, “My kid just pooped in the backyard today. What a weirdo.”
Parenting is rough. The responsibility is enormous, and for this perfectionist control-freak, leaving my kids in God’s hands is scary. However, I will continue to do my best to teach them right from wrong and choose the appropriate measure for when their choices are not so hot. And one day, when my kids are grown up and no longer ‘hiding’ underneath the dining room table while eating ice cream or cutting each other’s hair, I promise that I won’t forget that at one time they did. And when that young mom shares that she doesn’t know what to do; her kids are out of control, I’ll say to her:
“Oh, honey, that’s nothing. My girls stole Easter candy from underprivileged children…and I wouldn’t trade them for any other kids in the world.”
What crazy stories can you share about your children? What stories horrified you at the time, but now years later cause you to laugh?
11 thoughts on “Just Like My Girls”
I get similar compliments about my children from teachers and parents at church. I'm always a bit shocked by them, too. But, then I realized that I'd rather they behave and show their golden side while at school and in public than be perfect angels at home and heathens wherever they went. I like to think that 'home' is where they feel the most comfortable to let their guard down and just be kids. And at least we get the funny stories from it!
I, agree. I am totally thankful that all their teachers at school and church think they're angels–sometimes, I think the teachers are weird, but I'm thankful. They are pretty sweet kids, though. 🙂
I don’t have any crazy misbehaving stories about my first (yet). He’s definitely a weirdo though, and just like his mama was as a kid. I think that means the baby is going to give me a lot of behaviour related stories.
Great blog post though!
I'll look forward to reading them if he does!
Looking at your photo of Hannah Grace and Chloe, giving therm outfits and masks might just be the encouragement they need to continue their life of burglarizing cars with Easter Candy in it for underprivlleged children. That is Hanah Grace standing next to Chloe, isn't it? Or is it someone else mentoring her in becoming the "Sweet Tooth Bandit?"
Dad, you crack me up, and you might have a point!
You are SO not alone. I am a freak perfectionist as well and I understand the fear of leaving them in God's hand (ha! can you see the irony there?).
Oh, yes, I see the irony. I felt weird typing that sentence in my blog!
JENNIFER – this is FABULOUS. I love every single word of this story. And I relate on so many levels it's positively scary. I cannot tell you how many messes my girls got into, how many times I threatened, cajoled, pleaded for cooperation. And you know what? We all survived. In fact, we thrived. It was messy, scary, loud and swinging out of control a lot, but…by the grace of God, we're alive to tell about it. And I do thank God that their worst behavior was generally saved for me – others always thought they were angelic. :>) Fooled them! My son was the last of our three and the most compliant in many ways – but those girls? Strong-willed, feisty, determined, smart and I gotta tell you – they are the finest adults I know. The finest. So encourage them to hang onto who they are as people as you train them to use those wills for good. Anyone who encourages you to 'break' their wills needs to be forbidden to enter your home.
Thank you so much, Diana. I respect you thoroughly, so to read your encouraging words truly brought a smile to my face and a little boost to my confidence. While I do wish I could do a load of laundry or go to the bathroom without worrying what might happen in my absence, I wouldn't change my kids for anything. I think their personalities are awesome. 🙂
My daughter often tells me "no" all the while placing her hands on her hips or crossing her arms across her chest. [insert eye-to-eye stern chat here]. But I do typically thank the Lord that she has and does not fear using, her voice. Then immediately follow-up with a heartfelt mommas prayer that He will use her strong-will for His glory as she grows and matures into a woman after His heart. I did not and was not allowed, to have a voice as a child. I said a prompt "yes ma'am" and moved on. So that Jenna has a voice, and more, is not scared to use it, even knowing there might be a pinch on the arm, or a consequence as I can't tolerate mouthiness, I see as a blessing. Call me crazy.