I’ve been feeling like a schizophrenic the past few days. Why, you might ask? Because I’ve been striving to delight in my children, and to spend at least 15 minutes each day focusing on and enjoying them without worrying about competing priorities. And these two efforts have elevated, in my mind, my own demeanor toward them – my tone, mood, word choices and attitude. Remaining pleasant, friendly, approachable – a ready-with-a-smile mom. I do get it that this should be my effort all the time on all days, whether I happen to be going through a phase of “working on this” or not. However I can’t say that I dwell in this space with such intentionality all the time. Regretful but true (though that’s a post for another time.)
At the same time, I’ve been finding my children especially taxing over the past few weeks, especially the eldest. As he nears four, he’s discovered methods of discreetly disobeying and ways to be less than respectful without being outright rude. He flies under the radar; bends the rules; manipulates. Four-year old tricks. He’s quite clever, for which I’m thankful… and is becoming adept at using that cleverness to sneakily defy me, for which I’m not. Never having parented a child at this stage before, I’m finding effective parenting here challenging. Consistent oversight and discipline are paramount. He and I have the same conversations over and over again, it seems, about acceptable behavior (or words or tones). I have to revisit my resolve to be consistent every five minutes. In short: I feel like my son sets himself up as my mini-enemy throughout the day, even as we love each other and have a healthy and completely developmentally appropriate mother-son relationship
This situation – coupled with normal parenting tasks – call out crankiness and frustration in me. Annoyance and aggravation are constantly crouching at the door of my heart. And yet, I know my son – all my children – deserve better than that from me. They’re testing me – that’s their job. They’re misbehaving and sinning – that’s their heritage. My job is to rise above that, address their sin for and with them, train them well, and not allow myself to become rattled. I must continue to return to the mom who loves, supports, affirms – whose affection is new every morning (and midday and evening) regardless of their behavior.
That’s where my feeling and subjective experience resemble a ping-pong ball being batted about between these two poles. Frustrated to the point of boiling over one minute, praying God’s grace to get over it and love and affirm the next. Next infraction – antagonized; few minutes later, praying to delight in them and striving to enjoy (and sometimes succeeding). It’s a roller coaster. Does the schizophrenic feeling last throughout motherhood, I wonder?
I think the thing I need is steadfastness – of heart, demeanor, action. This can, of course, only be found in the Lord. “My heart is steadfast, O God,” wrote the psalmist, “my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.” If I can get me a big dose of His steadfastness as I mother, maybe the ping-pongness of it all will diminish.