My husband and I have been talking a lot lately about how much having children changes you. And whether we want to accept it or not, I believe that we are supposed to change, that having children will drive that change that God desires in us. Now, obviously, we can resist that change, and oftentimes we do. But I’m coming to realize that a lot of these changes, while hard and difficult at times, are for my own good. And I just wanted to highlight some of the ways that God is personally changing me over these past months.
You know, I love the portability of babies. Like literally, you can strap them in a baby carrier or a car seat and go pretty much anywhere you want. But my daughter has finally reached that stage where she protests things she doesn’t like. And of course, I can always correct the tantrums and stuff, but I’ve realized that I’m often very self-serving when I’m going places. I have a To Do list and a short amount of time most days, and that often means moving my daughter along at my pace. However, I’ve come to realize this summer something I told my husband on Sunday when I knew for certain we would be late to church: Honey, I hate to tell you this, but toddlers aren’t made for convenience, so we’re going to be a little late.
Ultimately, I can’t keep living my life like I’m the only one whose feelings and desires matter. As much as I have to get things done, I have to be there for my daughter. She needs downtime. She needs time to explore. She needs time to get dirty and messy and throw dirt all over the place (much to my dismay…a whole lot of dismay). She needs to be a little kid, and I need to adapt to her needs. And her needs will not always be convenient for me, as much as I may want them to be.
And I hate thinking about it that way, but it is true. I’ve always adapted to her needs. When she was going through sleep training, my husband and I were on top of not staying out late, getting her to bed on time, and everything else. When are finances were ultra-tight, we made sure she was eating healthy and nutritious food and had everything she needed because she was the most vulnerable of us. I mean, we’ve done this throughout her entire life, and those needs really won’t stop as she continues to grow up. And that means that her needs will require different kinds of personal sacrifices from me and at varying degrees as she grows up. It’s time I woman up and accept that.
When I think about love, I don’t just mean being affectionate. What I really mean is being more patient and more kind, having a better attitude and disposition, and I need to exhibit more love with my daughter.
Truth is, I wish this 3 year old stage came with a clear month-by-month manual like that What to Expect When You’re Expecting: The First Year book we had when she was born. Literally, that book was like clockwork, and she hit every month right on time. I knew what was going on, could respond appropriately, and things went relatively smoothly. But at this stage in the game, I find myself subject to her changing attitude, personality, whims, distractions, and everything else. I just can’t seem to “figure her out” right now, and it’s causing me a lot of frustration because I want to respond the right way. I want to be able to give her what she needs, how she needs it. But when I sit back and think about it, what she probably needs most from me at this point is more love…more demonstrated patience and kindness from me, and fewer demonstrations of frustration and annoyance…more dependence upon the Lord, and less dependence on myself.
I told a friend yesterday that my daughter reminds me of a Rubik’s Cube. As soon as I think I have one side pinned down, I get something else, and I’m left there trying to figure out how in the world do I deal with this? And I guess children, in some way, are always like that. They are little people with their own personalities, no matter how much of her I think comes from her grandma. J But ultimately, I don’t think my job is to know her perfectly and be able to ‘solve’ all of her associated problems when they arise. I mean, how can I know her perfectly when I’m still discovering sinful dispositions within my heart??? And that leads me to the last thing that the Lord is changing in my life: how I pray.
One of the beautiful things that I have seen over the past year being in Bible studies with older women is how these women request prayer for their adult children and grandchildren. Now, when I was younger, it didn’t strike me as being anything out of the ordinary. But now that I’m getting older, I realize that I’m seeing the ongoing longing and desires of mothers’ hearts being poured out before the Lord continuously. The see things within their children’s hearts and lives that they know only the power of God can remove, and they pour out their hearts in prayer, even asking others to join in with them, for their beloved children.
Likewise, going through these past months have made me reflect on how I pray for my daughter. Now, my husband and I pray continuously for her salvation and that she would come to love the Lord. But going through these more difficult days of nonstop tantrums, rebellious behavior, attitudes, screaming, yelling, and outright disobedience have caused me to reevaluate my prayers. And I noticed that I offer many prayers for God’s grace and wisdom in parenting and discipline with her, but I also noticed that I wasn’t really praying about the sin I clearly see in my daughter’s life.
To be honest, I think in listening to everyone talk about the “phases” children go through, I never thought of it as being something to pray about. I mean, if it’s just a “phase” then I can expect her to get through it at some point. But through His Word, God has been making me more aware that “phases” are just times where certain sinful inclinations are more obviously seen and pronounced than other sinful inclinations. And all of these inclinations are still sin within His sight. So, in response, I’ve been praying for my daughter much more than I have previously.
And although it has been hard to just call her sin out as sin in prayer, God has graciously worked in my life by giving me a much more humble heart and attitude towards her. I actually now feel that burden for her, that wholehearted desire for God to be in control of her life, that prayerful hope that one day she will abandon her sinfulness and turn to the Lord. I will say, that has been an unexpected response from Him, but it is something that I humbly accept for my life because it is drawing me more and more to me knees in prayer, not just for my daughter, but for many other issues as well.
All and all I find it amazing how God will use any and everything in our lives to ‘work’ on us for His own glory. Something as simple as parenthood completely causes you to reprioritize things, revalue things, and restructure your life to take care of new responsibilities. And all the while you are working to take care of the little one that is now outside of you, the Lord is working on your inner man bit by bit, day by day. In His hands, I’m growing up just as much as my daughter is. Truly, He is such a faithful and wise Father.