Hold Your Patience
Since my wife and I had our first child 7 ½ years ago, we have ups and downs. A friend once said to me, “listen, we all just do our best and hopefully we don’t raise a serial killer.” It perfectly sums up parenting. We hear so many messages about the right and wrong ways to raise our kids, but in real life every kid is different with different needs and goals, likes, and dislikes. It is exceedingly difficult to broadly tell a group of people how to parent their children the same way. I am going to share on this blog some of the experiences and advice that have helped us as we attempt to navigate the sea of parenthood while emphasizing the warmth and love of God to our kids.
A little background: My wife, Emalee, and I have been married for 12 years. We have 2 children; Evelyn (Evie) who is 7 and Norah who will be 3 in November. Emalee and I have worked around young people our entire lives. Emalee was a customer service trainer for Bed Bath and Beyond for years, teaching new hires (mostly teens and young adults) about products and how to help the public. She now works as one of the alumni directors at Alma College and oversees, amongst many other things, a student group who does alumni outreach. I have been a youth minister for 12 years working with preK-12th grade students. I tell you this only to say that we are not novices when it comes to dealing with people who are not as geriatricly challenged as we are.
This week I want to share one of the simplest, yet most infuriating aspects of raising children as good people: Backtalk (aka, I’ll take you out and we can make another one that looks just like you.)
Our oldest daughter is one of the kindest, most thoughtful people you could ever hope to raise. She goes out of her way to help us at home; makes homemade cards just to say she loves us; she is creative and joyful and a genuine thrill a minute. As she enters into 2nd grade this year, however, her personality is coming out in ways that are hard for us to deal with at times. She is constantly complaining about the simplest tasks and is outright belligerent at times. This is nothing new for a child, but that doesn’t make it any less infuriating in the moment.
Emalee and I try to do our best to stay patient and calm but, as happens with all people, sometimes we reach our limit which results in hurtful words, punishments, and losing privileges. We know we do not always succeed in dealing with conflict with our children as best as we should. When I look back at these instances, it is easy to remind myself that we are not perfect. No one is. Yet we can always strive to be better.
When we look at our failures, we should consult one piece of scripture that we all know because we usually hear it between one and a hundred times at the weddings we attend in our lives:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
The fact that we so often hear this at weddings is meaningful. On these days when we see the people that are the most important to us demonstrate how they want to love one another for the rest of their lives, we hear the purest form of what love is, exemplified in this short verse. So, when I look at my failures as a parent, I often use this as a reference guide to see where I could have done better.
When my daughter tells me with a defiant tone, “No! I will not pick up! Norah made that mess!” Shouting back at her, “I don’t care who made the mess! I want you to help pick up!” does not really show the patience that I should have for my 7-year-old. If I were to take a moment and explain to her that helping to clean up after her little sister both sets a good example and demonstrates a selfless kindness that we want to teach others, she may be more willing to help in the future.
The trouble is, this isn’t going to happen after one conversation. Like most things, practice makes the task easier. Maybe after the 5th, 10th or 50th time we have this conversation she will finally understand the importance of how helping in the little tasks makes a big difference to someone. Are we willing to have that same conversation 50 times? It’s tough, but so is raising a kid to be a good person.
We need to have the patience to allow those conversations to happen and to show kindness to our kids who, of course, learn more from us than we will probably ever realize.
Good luck with your week. God bless, and remember to, as a 4-year-old me once said to my parents, hold your patience.