Can I make a confession? I have lived in Texas for over 16 years and have never once taken pictures of any of my children in the Bluebonnets. We even had them growing on our property one time but it never happened, not one picture, I’ve never even tried. Here’s the thing, my family can be feisty, especially when they were younger, they didn’t like to pretend for me or smile for no reason, or pose in uncomfortable clothes while standing in itchy grass. I’ve come to know our limitations and I don’t sweat it anymore. But there was a time when I did — sweat it that is.
I longed for the perfect family and the perfect kids.
My husband worked long hours building his company when my kids were little and was rarely home for dinner. I had these lofty dreams of balanced meals and placemats and dinner table devotions, none of which happened. I spent night after night serving hotdogs, blueberries and chocolate milk to little girls who were coloring, accompanied by poly pockets and pink ponies, and two strong willed toddlers in pull-ups who would not sit down. They literally stood in the chairs eating and waving their blue hands at me. I would then wash their hands with a wipe, (sometimes a clorox one meant for the counters!) put them to bed and eat my own dinner. Oh, I had my pity parties for sure, but it was liberating when I realized, “Yeah, we are not the dinner table devotional type of family.”
To this day we don’t put much emphasis on the dinner table as a training ground, but when we do find ourselves together around the table we cherish it.
On a more serious note though, I have had to adjust my parenting style around one of my kiddos who is easily frustrated and struggles with anxiety. He does not like surprises or changes in routine. So I don’t spring things on him, or spontaneously change our schedule. We haven’t entertained as much as I would have liked over the years, or gone to other people’s houses as a family often because it just doesn’t go well for him or for me, or anyone. I never really made him play with people he didn’t want to or even wear pants with zippers or shoes that had laces because it all lead to anxiety, frustration, and anger. Resulting in complete meltdowns and arguments. It has taken me years to put my finger on all of this and wrap my mind around how to raise the child I have, not the one I wish I had.
I have a dear friend whose daughter is on the Autism spectrum. Her daughter is bright and beautiful and talented and challenging. I have walked with my friend through diagnosis in elementary school and their difficulties now in middle and high school. At each stage there is a new frustration and she and her husband remind each other, “This is going to be different than we thought and we are going to have to adjust and do things differently.” We will raise the child we have, not the one we wish we had.
It has been a victorious battle for us both but a battle nonetheless. It’s hard dying to this dream we’ve have– This life we expected!
I have flopped in the chair in my room at almost every season of parenting a difficult child, crying and saying, “I do not deserve this, I did not “sow” this and this is not the life I am supposed to be living!” Which is understandable in the moment but after I cry it all out, I still l have this child that I must not only parent, but parent to the point of flourish.”
I liken it to gardening. I am correct in thinking that I “did not sow this!” God sows the seeds and my job is to tend to the soil not looking left or right or getting bitter at God for what He has or has not given me. He obviously thought I was right for the job and that this child and I needed each other. As we take care of the soil (the foundation, the healthy stuff, the emotional support of a loving family that will make them flourish, (the fertilizer?? If you will), some gardens will yield sunflower and some daisies; some get crazy crawling ivy that is out of control yet oh so beautiful. We must not have a case of the grass is greener on the other side or pride that says, “Look at me and my beautiful roses”. We aren’t in control of the seeds that were sown but we are responsible for providing good soil and tending to what grows. We are charged with nourishing and nurturing them, building a foundation where they can thrive.
I wish I had a formula for instant success!
Here’s the kicker, each person’s garden is unique and requires specific care. ARGH! I know right??
Here are a few “sure fire” ways to get started though.
- Do not neglect the garden– because that won’t work no matter who you are!
- Lay down your pride and your dreams of “the child you wish you had”.
- Study your child.
- Purpose to find out what makes them tick and thrive and flourish.
- Be their hero.
- Seek help ( professional if necessary) as well as from family and friends who’ve gone before you and are supportive.
- Pray without ceasing.
My friend and I talk often about what it might look like if we kept trying to parent the child we wish we had, or the days we want to give up all together and the difference it would make in our child’s life. It’s a sobering thought that brings us to tears and we are left with no other choice but to push up our sleeves, get our fingernails dirty and tend to our beautiful gardens.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap,if we do not give up.