With a 3 yr old and a 2 yr old in my home its the word I tend to use most often. I am finding that, now that I'm to 3 kids, I really really really need to take this whole parenting job seriously. Not that I didn't feel that way before, but maybe now that I'm starting to see the effects of my parenting I realize just how much influence I have over my kids.
Hearing Isaiah yell, "DUDE!" when I have to slam on the breaks because he's heard me yell at other drivers before.
or, for proof I'm not the Queen of mean
Isaac saying, "What a cute little sister! Mama look at how cute she is!" And him repeating me and saying it with the exact tone and emphasis I put on certain words.
It's SUCH a big job. And though I have my worries that they may make mistakes and decisions that will irreparably change their lives for the worse, in all I am confident and hopeful about the men and woman they will become one day. HOPEFULLY God-fearing, humble, joyful, capable servant-leaders who shine bright for the God who died for them and love Him. Willing to give all for Him, even if He asks them to shine for Him in very dark dark places. People who love their spouses and their children and sing the praises of Jesus until they are old and gray.
But oh! How to get them there!?!
Sometimes I've said "no" way too much. And much of the time I'm "saying" it at a decibel my neighbors can hear. I think tattooing it on my forehead and teaching them to read it might save me some time and some breath some days, or at least they could read it while Immanuelle was napping so I wouldn't have to yell it and wake her up. I could just point to it real forceful like.
And then I'm reminded of Whose child I am.
Not Bruce and Janice's (though they ARE fantastic and DID introduce me to the One who keeps an eye on me when I am so so so far away from them)
But my eternal Father.
The One who graciously allowed me to become a parent.
Not as a big fat joke to try and test my patience every hour my children aren't asleep. No, in His loving plan for my life He made me the Mama to Isaac, Isaiah, and Immanuelle. And since the first day of becoming a Mama I realized how deep the Father's love for me is. I'm never hitting the bottom of it and I'll never understand, this side of heaven, how in the world He loves me enough to keep me alive. Not to just zap me for all my sinfulness and ugly and anger and attitude and bad decision and disobedience... and not ONLY to not zap me to a Looney Tunes pile of ashes, but then on top of that to LOVE me enough to orchestrate all of creation and time and history so that He could send His Son to come and DIE for me, so I could know Him and give Him the glory He so richly deserves.
That thought. That knowledge. That love. That's what keeps me from throwing in the towel (or just throwing things in general) most days. It's what pushes me, ever so gently and firmly toward being a better mother.
Because lemme tell ya. When that 2 year old pitches a fit over not wanting to put his cup in the sink after he's done with it and screams and cries bloody murder... where's a zapper when you need one!?
Scenes like that are too frequent. And if my heavenly Father would interject here, He could tell y'all about a few humdingers of stubborness I've thrown His way. And then, so completely unbelievable, He'd then tell y'all about how firm, kind and GRACIOUS He was as I acted like a pouting, fussing, disobedient 2 year old.
That sweet sweet grace. My. Oh my. When I know how much I deserve in the face of a Holy Pure and Perfect God. His wrath. His unending wrath because of my sinfulness. And THEN!? To get to be His child? Wow. Grace is even that much sweeter.
So when my children act like me I am learning- through each excruciating tantrum, each and every whine, in the defiant looks, and the fit pitching- that I need to act like God.
Wait. That didn't come out right. Lemme 'splain.
I do my best to treat my children like the Lord treats me. With love, gentleness, kindness, mercy, grace... conviction too. Oh yes. Nothing cuts quite so deep as that gentle scolding I get from my Father...and I feel it too, because I know He's so good. AND so right about whatever it is He convicts me about!
But His KINDNESS leads us to repentance. Not His anger. (though I want to avoid that too!) On the days I manage to not growl like a dragon and spit fire at my children, they DO seem to respond to me so much better. I can be angry...but in my anger do not sin. The bible is filled to the brim with parenting tips and case studies.
"A harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle answer turns away wrath." I quote that SO often. That would be my next tattoo after the one on my forehead. Except that would go on my hand so I could read it.
Even so "soon" into my parenting journey, I already have regrets. Not huge ones. But like moments where I chose to yell, giving the excuse that "they make me so mad!" when, if I would have let my Father have His say, self-control would have been the wiser, more helpful option. Opportunities where I chose meanness over grace (when my heavenly Father would probably have given grace). I just pray I can learn from them and do better next time. I've got the best teacher, and He's incredibly kind and helpful even as I have days where I botch things pretty terribly.
And now that I have 3 and am realizing evermore just how BIG a deal it is that I have these precious souls in my care, I'm taking it more seriously. It's not a new revelation to me. Each child has made this understanding more clear.
Just since #3, the desire to do better and get it right has sunk deeper down and I feel the task of parenthood more deeply and profoundly as the task is busier and the frustrating moments come more often because there are more children. I know I've got a lot to learn and the only way to learn it well and make it happen for my kiddos is to get up tomorrow morning, learn from MY Father, and then do what He does and how He says to do it.
I'm ready to do a bang-up job with these Rivers kids!
So when I get it right. Or, at the very least, we all have fun together. It is beyond rewarding! Like today at McDonald's for lunch after church the boys' shared their drink so well. I was so delighted and so thankful in my heart that something good was coming from all that instructing I do everyday. And most of all I got to tell them how great they were doing and encourage them in their good behavior.
To fill up my youngins' "love tank" is such a privilege. I KNOW I am going to have to say "no" (hopefully in love. Firm. Kind. Love.) tomorrow. So today, and every Sunday, we have "Sunday Sundaes." Ice cream communicates love to 2 and 3 year olds. Really. It does. :)
If you happen to have Micheal Franti & Spearhead's song, "Say Hey" or "The Sound of Sunshine" you can play it while looking at these photos as it is usually the song playing when we get our Sunday Sundaes. And you have to point to whoever is near you at the "I love you. I love you. I love you." part. That's important.
|Gasp. A child not in a carseat. I know, I know. There are no childseat laws here so for the close, slow drive to McDonald's every week, the boys get to hang out the windows.|
|We go most Sundays right after dinner to get McDonald's chocolate sundaes.|
|We got a new traffic light in our neighborhood. Isaac's preschool is the building in the middle...like if you went straight through the traffic light. You wanted a tour of our neighborhood right? Also, it's rainy season. These were taken near sunset.|
|Isaac gets to pay.|
|...the entrance to our neighborhood. We go through the "Residents" gate...right past that "Happy Chinese New Year" banner. (I'm writing this at 1am because it's CNY and Disney sized fireworks are going off outside our house right now)|
|Don't let their serious faces fool you. These guys LOVE Sunday Sundaes!|