Day 12 ~ Digging Up the Weeds
I’m at my wit’s end. For weeks, I have been holding back tears (sometimes unsuccessfully) over the whining voices, the incessant squabbles, the ungrateful attitudes, and the back-talk.
All the kids are doing it, but one, in particular, leads the way—agitating the others, catalyzing the conflicts, and generally trying to run the house at 9 years old.
He’s got all the makings of a great leader, but the expression of that within our family system is often challenging. He contests my authority daily, tries to negotiate his way through any circumstance where negotiation is possible (re: all the time), attempts to manage and monitor his siblings, and lacks empathy and kindness in his interactions with them most of the time.
All of this behavior is relatively unseen by anyone outside our family. In public, he is often complimented for his helpful and attentive behavior toward others, but in private, it’s not always quite as rosy.
I know he has the potential for true greatness (which I have pegged as leadership with a servant’s heart) and glimpses of a future that surely involves success of some variety.
I also imagine the terrifying prospect of his obvious leadership ability being nefariously misdirected as he grows. Right now, the stakes are not quite as high as they will be in a few years.
There are so many times I feel lost about how to parent this boy. It is a conundrum. I love him for who he is, and in the same breath, I can’t let him run our home at the expense of the other seven people who live here. Some days it takes every ounce of my attention, love, discipline, and patience to keep him moving in a positive direction. Some days, my boiling-over frustration comes out in the form of yelling and emphatic, incensed speech.
We have slogged through a particularly challenging summer full of sibling animosity (largely at the bidding of this one child), and I’m starting to feel desperate for a change, or even a marginal improvement of the constant bickering. I have employed every trick I can think of to stave off the fighting. I’m worn down to the point of staring blankly when yet another sibling squabble erupts in front of me, started by the aforementioned child. Behind my irritated expression, I stew a furious mess of emotions that I keep to myself, for the moment. He complains about his brother without taking any responsibility for his own actions. According to him, it’s always someone else’s fault. Of course, it is.
I close my eyes, draw in a slow breath, and long for an easy way out of this stretch of parenting because I’m not sure I have it in me to be patient or calm. Help me, Jesus.
I have to do something to help us change course, but I don’t know what. I feel like I’ve tried everything, and nothing has worked. My eyes dart around the house in search of some way to ensure a small reprieve from the bickering. Work gloves. Weeds. Outside.
I snap up the gloves with determination to help my son start in a new direction with a little time outside in the yard. I have no idea what we’re going to do out there (I’m not a yard person) but I have to try something. I can’t continue this daily pattern of discord. Fortunately, my husband is home and I can leave the other kids in his care.
We arrive at the dandelion haven outside our front door. An eager crew of children has spread the dandelion seeds across the lawn on many “wish-blowing” occasions, and those seeds have now sprouted up. As we have sown, so we are reaping. The bright yellow, feathery blossoms brushing against my legs, and even though I’ve passed by this stretch of our property dozens of times this week, I see for the first time just how many dandelions there are. It’s been a month since the last mow, and these weeds have vigorously taken over the yard.
Who knew that if you let weeds grow where they land, they multiply at an alarming rate?
We find a dense patch and sit down. At first, I think I’m going to watch him do the task. I’m still wound up from weeks of the challenging behavior he’s displayed, and what I really want is an instant change without any fuss. It’s just not reality. Within a few minutes, I realize my son needs me to set my annoyance aside and yank out the weeds alongside him.
He needs my instruction and my example. He needs my encouragement and my help staying focused. As we sort out the mess of this yard, I realize our hearts–his and mine–are both full of things that need to be dealt with. We are both in need of God’s transformative work in us.
He is bright, interesting, and delightful–and he is also selfishness, prideful, and occasionally mean-spirited. Me? I’m a good mom: attentive, caring, and committed. I am also irritable, short-tempered, and sometimes impatient. In the fabric of every person’s character, there are flaws mixed in with all the good; flaws that hinder relationship if not addressed honestly. We each have to account for our own actions and choose a different route.
Children are individuals, and the fabric of their personhood deserves respect and care. I recognize my children will also become who I influence them to be. I can’t afford to ignore the ways they require my love and leadership, even when it feels inconvenient or frustrating. They need me to be in the dirt with them, present and patient through the ups and downs. If I am too distant or distracted, I can’t help them recognize or reach their potential. If I raise too high a standard, and I’m not there to help them reach it, they will lose heart and quit trying.
So this is my resolve: I will be close. I will be present and engaged. I will instruct, encourage, and lead by example. This is the work of an intentional mama—digging up the weeds.
“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:8