Parenting isn’t easy.
Parenting after living through a horrific accident and in a few moments of time becoming a widowed mother is even harder than I imagined some days.
There are days when I struggle…when I struggle a lot.
There are days that are filled with beautiful times. But over the past several weeks, our house has been filled with tantrums, serious testing of boundaries, defiance, challenges, tears, groundings, a few more swats than I would like, more yelling from both sides, trash fairy visits, with the only moments to breathe being during our schooling time (which the boys and I all three enjoy).
There have been time of fun that sputter out into a battle of the wills.
I don’t know if you have noticed but I haven’t talked a lot about parenting lately. As a blogger, I am faced with a daily decision. What I write has to be authentic…I’m committed to that. I won’t pretend with you. What purpose would that serve?
And so in this area of my life…my life as a recently widowed (a little over nine months now) homeschooling mom struggling to work through boundary and respect issues with my boys…I want to be honest too. And so I give the timing of my sharing to God. And I wait on Him to tell me when it is time to share. Tonight is that time. The reason I am sharing this is because my son, Josh and I are both learning and growing from our journey through this time of testing and challenging. And I pray that my story, encourages you and fills you with hope and a reminder that no matter how rough the storm is, God is present. He is at work and He always faithful.
Two months ago, I was able to stop taking prescription pain medication. In the process I learned that I have physical limitations that I have to learn to respect instead of fight. When I respect these new limitations my pain levels are manageable without it. After the first couple of weeks off of my pain medication I began to realize how foggy my thinking really was during the many months I had to take it to survive or move without severe pain. I thought I had a handle on things…I learned that I was wrong in some areas.
During the first seven months after the accident I was in basic survival mode. My body, heart and mind had so much to process. I did the best that I could and managed to take care of my guys and nurse them back to health while trying to take care of myself. There are stages of grief that everyone needs to go through and on top of trying to recover from my own injuries and help them recover from theirs and deal with the aftermath of the accident, I was slowly grieving the loss of my amazing husband…something I never planned on having to do so soon into our marriage. (Our third wedding anniversary would have been April 10th of this month.)
It wasn’t until the effects of the high, but necessary, dosages of pain medication began to leave my system that I became aware of how much ground I had lost as a parent. Will and I had worked so hard together as a team to re-train and help my older son, Josh, to work through the effects of my previous marriage to Josh and Michael’s biological father who has very serious drug, alcohol and abuse problems . That marriage was an abusive marriage and our family life was extremely unstable, unhealthy, and to be honest just not safe. I took my boys and fled that situation, at the urging of our pastor at the time, and moved across the state to a safe house where we were able to get the help we needed to start a new life together. The courts have determined that he is to have NO contact with me or the boys for our safety.
I will share more about the after effects of being in an abusive family on me and on children more in future articles…but let me say this. The time young children have soaking in the attitudes and behaviors of an abusive parent affect them for many years and it requires lots and lots of prayer, hard work, patience, and help to help them heal and re-train them. In our situation, one of the biggest areas we are still working on is respecting me…since Josh was taught I wasn’t worth respect for the first five years of his life.
It hasn’t been easy, but Will and I had worked with him as a team and the impact Will had on him in just three years has left a lasting impact. A legacy I called on today.
As I said earlier, I lost a lot of ground while I was in the fog of my healing, grieving and medication fog. So over the past two months we have been in a serious battle of wills. But now the battle has been with Josh and Michael who over time picked up some of his brothers behaviors and attitudes.
Today I had hit an impasse.
I have prayed about it and had my prayer warriors praying for us. I know that God is with us and that He is faithful. I stood firm when I needed to and he did not like it. They both fought it. But with Josh being ten now his will and determination is stronger than it was before. He had gotten away with some things more than I had realized that needed to be put to an end. I did. He fought me. Each day I woke up knowing that I would need to be ready to hold my ground. I have been exhausted but refused to give up because I knew that I wasn’t just fighting unhealthy behaviors and attitudes of a ten-year old and five-year old, I was fighting for the men they will grow up to become. I was and am fighting for the husbands and fathers that they will grow up to become…but was I going about it the right way?
I felt everything coming to a head over the past several days and I knew something had to give soon.
This morning, Josh came to me and confessed to some things he had sneaked while still being grounded. I could tell he was struggling with coming clean on these things. I listened to him. Talked with him about it and told him that I would need to take some time to pray before I decided how I was going to handle it. He understood and the boys played in the living room while I went up to my bedroom to take some time out to calm my emotions and pray.
I called out to God.
I admitted that I was at a loss with what to do next with Josh to help him. I was completely open to whatever God would have me do next. I had tried everything I could think of and didn’t know where to go next.
God gave me a picture of what we had gone through and I began to realize that I had begun focusing on the problems we were having as behavior issues instead of addressing the real issues…which were/are heart issues. As soon as I realized my mistake, I asked for God’s forgiveness and said, lead me Lord. Will used to do so well at handling this part…I am new at this type of discussion with Josh and I need your help more than ever.
I called Josh upstairs. Michael tagged along. I let him stay because it was important for him to hear and see what was going to happen since he is so heavily influenced by his brother.
I began by telling Josh how much I love him and how much God loves him. I told him that I was very proud of him for coming to me and telling me the truth. Then we talked about how the choices we make in our family and when no one is watching are the choices that form our reputation and our character. He had a couple of light bulb moments about some of his behavior choices. I was so blessed to see him be able to name what kind of person makes some of the serious choices he has made that are not healthy. Then I asked him if that is the kind of man he wants to become. His eyes were glistening when he told me “No mom.” I told him that is the first step to changing. I explained that the choices he makes now slowly become habits and he is getting older now and needs to really think about what kind of man he wants to be. He said he wants to be a godly man like Daddy. A man who can be counted on and trusted like Daddy was. (his words) So I told him that I want to help him to do that.
We talked about how God has a priceless plan especially for his life and to live out God’s plan he needs to spend time with God and think before acting out in selfishness. We talked about how being a godly man doesn’t mean doing what is easiest all the time it means doing the right thing because he loves God. Then we talked about how he doesn’t have to figure it out alone, God will help him and I will help him if he will let me.
He told me that the family devotion we did last night had really hit him in the gut. In it we had talked about how the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts and helps guide us back to God and away from our sin. And, as Josh quoted, and that Satan can turn that same guilt into shame if we let him. He told me that the reason he confessed some things to me this morning was because he felt the guilt and conviction of the Holy Spirit. He told me that the devotion taught him that guilt is a good thing if it is for the right reasons and we use it as a leading to change-up our behavior, confess our wrong doing and get back on the right road.
((tears)) We continued to talk about how he wants to be my “right hand man” and how if he wants to be that, he needs to show me that he is worthy of me trusting. He understood and we prayed together. Wow.
His behavior the rest of the day reflected the decisions and commitments he made in our talk this morning. Because of his repentant and willing spirit, I told him he could choose the devotion for us to do tonight. He took that honor very seriously.
When did I know that things were coming to a head? I would have to say on the way home from the ER last Thursday night when he had burned his arm and we needed to get it taken care of.
He made this statement…”Mom, I need to start reading the Bible more. I need to read it every day. I haven’t been doing that and I think it would make a difference.” We talked about it then. He started reading a little more each day while continuing to struggle more and more with his rebelliousness. But I can see now how the Holy Spirit was working in his heart and mind through that time.
I have learned SO much through this experience. I realized we still have a long road to go. But I now understand that I need to make sure that I am not getting distracted by and caught up in his words and actions and forget that what I need to stay strong and focused on is discipling him and his brother…parenting with grace which means letting go of my frustrations and remembering that when I focus on discipling his heart and mind God will do the work in his heart and as that happens his attitudes and behavior will slowly be transformed.
There is a time and a place for behavior modification, and we still have consequences and a reward system in place. The difference I am already seeing is that when I talk with him and firmly and lovingly remind him to think about what kind of man he wants to become and what kind of young man he wants to be now, because of the work the Holy Spirit is doing in his heart, he gets it more quickly now.
Will was always so good at having those conversations with Josh. Josh had so much respect for his Daddy even when he fought what his Daddy was trying to teach him. But all of those heart conversations and moments of discipling were essential seeds that were planted in his heart and mind. I am so grateful for the work Will did with him.
And I am so very grateful that I am not parenting alone. I need to remember that God is with me and He is with our children. When I stop trying to figure things out myself and instead take it to God and listen after pouring out my heart instead of leaning on my understanding things work so much better. The devotional that I had Josh read from last night was the one he asked for as his baptismal gift in November, he has read it ever since…sometimes it takes a while for seeds to grow and show visible change.
Tonight he chose to read a devotion from his new devotional that his Grandma Lorraine, my mom, got him for his birthday and brought him this past weekend when she visited us. It was on the story of the great flood and Noah’s family and what they did after the flood to remind themselves that no matter what they faced God keeps his promises and is always faithful. He read the Bible story and the devotion and I led the discussion. Michael helped me lead our song, “The Lord said to Noah”.
When Josh went to bed tonight, he was calmer and more at peace than I have seen him in a long time.
One day at a time with lots of prayer and patience…he will get through this time of re-training. We will get through it with God’s help. He is faithful.
I pray you are encouraged in your own walk as a parent from our story. God is teaching my sons. God is teaching me. And we will walk this journey together.
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Growing in His Grace,
Joined with Make you Home Sing at Mom’s the Word who has more great advise on the topic of parenting along with great blogs linking in!