Thursday, March 2, 2017

Grace Filled Parenting

Ten years ago I became a mom. A mom…..something I had always wanted to be. Something I had looked forward to with anticipation and longing. Images of happy days and smiling children, fun and laughter, making memories and being friends filled my head. It was going to be GREAT!!!!! Ten years later and I can say it is great and all those things I listed are a part of our reality, but there’s another side that I wasn’t prepared for. A world filled with tears, desperate prayers, silent anguish, frustration, anger, uncertainty and guilt. Of not knowing what to do or where to turn. Looking at my beloved child and feeling hopeless, helpless and so alone. But I know I am not alone. I know there are so many other moms out there facing the same battle and that is why I want to share what God has been teaching me, especially as of late.

If you follow me on social media, you may have seen my posts about raising a child who is ‘different’. My out-of-the-box, “oh my goodness” child. You may have already read the little tidbits I’ve shared of how I am learning to love him well. I am on a journey and I am so grateful to God for all that He has already shown me and I’m excited to see how He will continue to write our story.

We all have days filled with fighting….fighting to maintain order, fighting to tame the chaos, fighting for our marriage, fighting to have that beautiful relationship with our difficult child… We ARE in a battle, mamas. We have an enemy, but the enemy is not our child, or our husband, or whatever it is we feel we are fighting against. Our enemy is satan and he would like nothing more than to destroy our homes, destroy what we want, what God wants, what we are so desperately fighting for. He will find our weakness and attack. And for me, my weakness often is my strong- willed child whom I find I am so often butting heads with.  Good things don’t come easy. We should have peace and order in our homes, we should expect obedience from our children, we should have a God-honouring marriage but it won’t come easy. With time and experience we will learn how to more effectively fight this battle. Don’t give up!!!! Don’t lose heart!! Keep on!!!! God is on our side!!! I think we often forget, as moms of little ones, we are primarily in the sowing season. We want to reap the harvest now, see results now. But now is the time we are planting seeds. Teaching, instructing, guiding….. We won’t see the fruit of it for years yet. Be patient. Walk in faith and trust Him with the outcome.

I want to respect my son’s privacy and not expose him so I won’t get into a lot of detail, but I will say that when my son was still very young, my husband and I began to see that he was different than most children around. We faced challenges and fought battles that I knew where not “normal”. I looked around me and marvelled at the children who sat still in church, who obeyed instruction, who were compliant, played nicely with their peers, parents who genuinely enjoyed their children,  etc, and I wondered what we were doing wrong. We tried so many different things and it seemed like nothing worked. My husband and I were at our wit’s end more often than not. This child baffled us. We couldn’t figure him out. We couldn’t make sense of why he did what he did. At first, we thought it was us. We were doing this parenting thing all wrong. I felt like a horrible mother. I felt guilty and ashamed. Then we had our second son and in a short time realized it wasn’t only us. It wasn’t only our parenting method. My husband and I will be the first to admit that we did things wrong, we failed, we didn’t always know what we were doing, but we also saw our second born respond to us in a positive way. He obeyed. He didn’t always challenge our authority. He was calm and easy to parent. He behaved more the way we thought a “normal” child should behave.

And thus began my journey of trying to “fix” my different child. I put him on different diets; gluten free, sugar free, dairy free. I took him to get chiropractic, massage, cranial treatments. I gave him vitamins and supplements. I took him to get bio energetic testing done. All in hopes he would change. Be more normal.
Easier to handle. Easier to love…. We did get some answers. Some things did change, a little. But in the end, he was still our complex, difficult to understand child.

We got all kinds of parenting advice from well meaning friends and family. “You need to discipline him more”. “You need to show him who’s boss. Put him in his place”. “Be more consistent”. And so on. We tried. We really did. I am by nature more of a drill sergeant parent and I took that approach with him. “This is how it is and this is how you need to do it!” Being strict and stern. And just not giving him a lot of grace. But it didn’t work. If anything, it got worse. He became more angry, more difficult. But as he grew, we also saw he was hurting. This was difficult for him, too. He struggled with the way he was, too. He started to say things like, “I’m a dummy.” “I’m no good.” “No one likes me”. “You don’t want me around”….. and we knew this wasn’t the way. There had to be a better way. We prayed and begged God to show us what to do. To show us how to reach this child. To touch his soul. To love him well.  

That’s when God brought Sally Clarkson into my life. I cannot begin to tell you how life giving her teachings have been for me. How eye opening. She taught about grace filled parenting. Grace for them and for us.. Giving ourselves grace because we are inexperienced and have so much to learn. Extending grace to my child when he/she is at their worst. Loving them when they are unlovable. Accepting them where they’re at. Letting go of the preconceived ideas I had of what a child should be like. Reaching out with a warm embrace even when I don’t understand. Letting them know they are accepted and loved, no matter what! Isn’t that what God does for us? It is His goodness and kindness that leads us to repentance.

I have come to see that there is no magic formula that will change my son. We are in this for the long haul. Yes, I will grow and mature and learn how to better parent him and he will grow and mature and learn how to better handle himself, but essentially, he will never change. He is who he is. God made him that way for a reason. He cannot be put in a box. He cannot be made to think and act like other kids. He doesn’t do things by the book. Rules, for him, are just suggestions. He isn’t mean spirited. He doesn’t disobey because he wants to upset us or make our lives difficult. His intentions usually are good. He just thinks differently and again we need to be willing to extend grace and understanding and guidance. His differences aren’t only liabilities but also the very things that God wants to use to change the world and bring glory and honour to Him.

God has called me to accept this boy. God gave him to me and placed him in my life and made me his mom for a reason. It wasn’t a mistake.  I need to love him as he is and not what culture tells me he’s suppose to be. I need to be the champion of his cause. To let him know, that no matter what, I am for him. I am on his side. I am fighting with him and for him to the end and I will NEVER give up on him! I will NEVER stop loving him, no matter what he does or how he acts.  To believe in him and the man he’s going to become. To speak forward into his life. To believe, as Sally said, “there’s a hero inside of you waiting to get out. I believe God’s going to use you to change your world and together, we’re going to figure out how to give you the skills and life that will free you to become the best man you can be.” I have seen the look of helplessness and hopelessness in my son’s eyes as he, too, struggles with who he is and if we, as parents, can’t even be there to give them hope and courage, what else is there for them? Until they’re saved, who else is going to help them? It’s so important that they know this! I don’t always do this right. I fail. But I have made it a point to ALWAYS go back and apologize and when I do I see the look of relief that comes over him because he knows that everything’s okay again and I really am for him.


It’s important for us to keep picking ourselves up even though we’ve fallen for the 50th time that day. To keep saying “I’m sorry” when we’ve done wrong, to keep forging ahead when we feel like a failure, to remain faithful even when it seems hopeless.

And so my journey continues. I fail and we have bad days, a lot of them actually, but for the first time in a long time I feel hope rising up within me. Through it all God is patiently teaching me so much.  Slowly but surely, I am learning better ways to parent him. I want to trust that we are gaining ground and God is going to give us the relationship I am yearning for and everything’s going to turn out all right.
Because of Jesus,

Helen Penner
--
Springfield


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