There are times when I am reminded of just how much I do not know. That is kind of where I have been lately. I have been struggling with one of my kids and some behavioral issues that have been escalating. I have tried to talk her through them. I have tried to be patient, until my patience is taxed to the very extreme. After days, weeks, and years of the same issues coming up, some days I regrettably do not have enough patience to deal with the challenges that keep presenting themselves, without losing a portion (sometimes a large portion) of my cool.
Then I feel guilty, and she feels guilty. So, we apologize and start over. And then the same thing happens the next day. And the next. And I begin to feel like I am spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. I begin to question my ability to parent this child, who does not seem to understand the things that I have spent years trying to teach her, no matter how hard I try.
Some days I see glimmers of understanding. Some days I see large strides in the right direction, and I think we are making progress. And then we are somehow right back at the starting line again, and I wonder what in the world I am doing wrong.
Yesterday I was having a pity party for myself. I was complaining to my husband about all of the things that I was worried about. I was telling him that I had no idea how to get through to this struggling child, and about how I was again at the end of my patience rope. (Yes, we have been here many times before.) I told him that I didn’t think I could continue to write on this blog, because I clearly have no idea what I am doing as a parent, and, therefore, have no wisdom to share.
He listened to my whining for a good thirty minutes. He tried to assure me that I was doing fine – that things would work out eventually. (He has to say that, right?) He then proceeded to join in my pity party by throwing a few more things onto the worry pile. That alerted me to the fact that I was just whining, and that I needed to stop, pick myself up, recommit, and move forward. I could choose to stay there and complain for a while longer, but that wouldn’t get me anywhere except more frustrated.
Haven’t we all had days like this? Heck with days… sometimes there are months when I have absolutely no idea how I am going to navigate through challenges without losing my mind. Sometimes, like yesterday, I feel like I have temporarily lost my mind, and I must take time to regroup, reassess, and find it again.
And, the thing is…that is OK…because it happens to all of us from time to time.
Sometimes I make more than my share of mistakes. A lot more than my share. I wish I had an unlimited supply of patience, but I don’t…so I will keep working on it. I have kids that will help me with that as they continue to test my patience on a daily basis. I wish I knew the answer to every parenting dilemma. It is clear that I have no clue sometimes. But, how will I learn unless I experience challenging situations that stretch me to new levels, and teach me more empathy and understanding?
Parenting is like the refiners fire sometimes. It heats us to uncomfortable levels, which purifies us and teaches us that we can do things that we didn’t realize we had the capacity to do. I have come to the end of my rope enough times to know that, somehow, miraculously, more rope always appears, even when I am certain that I’m holding the last possible inch of it in my hands. That last little bit turns into a little bit more, allowing me to take one more step and make it through one more day. Sometimes I just need somebody to unload on for a few minutes (insert supportive husband), and then I feel like I can tackle another day. Other times I need a little time to myself to think things through. Often, I find strength through prayer. I have received guidance and peace from the Lord on many occasions, which has given me the capacity to hold on a little longer… and a little longer… until the difficult stage fades into memory, leaving behind important lessons, and a little more strength.
Although these past couple of weeks have been tough, it is good to remember the lessons of the past. Thinking of those reminds me that stages don’t last forever, and that there is always hope for better days ahead. It reminds me that I can be strong, that I can do hard things, and that I am in the process of learning things that will be important later on – because that has happened before. It reminds me that I don’t have to struggle alone – that I have a supportive husband and many friends who can undoubtedly relate – and that we can all learn from each other. It helps me to see things with clearer perspective. I have found that the ability to cope with daily challenges is all about perspective.
So, I pray for perspective, for patience, for peace, and for the ability to see beyond the challenging situations that continue to present themselves into brighter days ahead. I will try to keep my cool and see my kids for what they have the potential to become, rather than what they are when they are testing my patience. I will apologize when I mess up, and start over as many times as necessary. Hopefully those times will become farther and farther between. And, even when I am reminded of how much I do not know, I will remember how much I have already learned, and how far I have already come.
As I have said before, parenting is not a sprint, but a marathon. I’m not quitting in the middle when things get tough! I’m in it for the long haul.
What about you?