Friday, November 15, 2013

Rats in the Cellar and the Strong-Willed Child

Shortly after becoming pregnant with our second child, I decided to get to the library and check out some more parenting books. This new endeavor would naturally take more parenting skills that I had yet to develop. I perused the shelves, in search of any of the books I had seen in the bookstore, but was too cheap to buy, until one book caught my eye. I snatched it up, took it home, and set to reading.
 
The name of the book, The New Strong-Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson. After all, other than some clinging issues, our first was a rather compliant child, but I couldn't afford to take any chances. I needed to be "prepared" in the eventuality that this second one was more headstrong.
 
I read the first chapter. The second. Then quit. It freaked me out. A young mother, I was already struggling with the idea that I would be capable of loving another child as much as the one I already had. If this second child acted like any of the case studies in Dr. Dobson's book, I was petrified that I wouldn't love the child at all. Plus, it just looked like so much work to love that kind of child. And mothering one obedient child was tiring enough.
 
Our second, a son, had issues like every other kid, but being strong-willed wasn't one of them. Antagonizing, anxious, goofy, sensitive- he's all of those. Strong-willed? Not really.
 
Then I had the privilege of raising a third child. For this child I prayed. And God let me have it. I wonder why Dobson's book doesn't grace our shelves as a source of constant wisdom.
 
 
 
You've gathered it from previous posts. She's our spit-fire. Our "wild card." Jekyll and Hyde. Time-bomb. She's even been referred to (lovingly) as Sybil on a couple occasions.
 
After a series of hard days this past week, I finally got around to asking people to pray for me as I navigate this relationship. The switch she flips between happy and irate was on a hair-trigger, and so was mine. It was rough and I was coming unglued.
 
It was her fault, I believed in the heat of the moment. I couldn't possibly be expected to respond civilly when she was always catching me off guard. But too much musing in bed revealed what I knew to be true. It was on me.
 
It reminded me of a point C.S. Lewis made in Mere Christianity. (Which is amazing, considering this morning I went into the basement to grab something, only to stare blankly at the overflowing shelf, completely lost as to what it was I needed. I headed back upstairs. Bingo. Paper plates. I chanted "paper plates" the whole way back down.)
 
"On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am." Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chapter 7
 
So I am embarking on a thankfulness journey, again. Not because it is November. Not even really of my own will. "After the first few steps in the Christian life we realize that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can be done only by God." Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chapter 7
 
It is starting because of this relentless love. Turns out, I can love a strong-willed child. No matter how long their season of stubbornness lasts.
 
And that's not on me, or in me. I have the rats of selfishness and anger running around in my cellar.
 
The relentless love begins, continues, and ends with God. I'm the strong-willed, weak-willed, disobedient, fickle child. And yet He rejoices in me. He delights in me. He loves me and He even likes me.
 
He rejoices in us. He strengthens us. He makes us new. He shines the light of His love into the cellars of our souls, and doesn't recoil at the rats.
 
Again and again and again.
 
And there is one person who reminds me of that day after day- my third-born. God will show me the good. Give grace to our short-comings. And if the only thing I see at the end of the day besides my regrets and her tantrums is His relentless forgiveness, then that's a good day.
 
Pray for me in this please!
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