My husband and I have been finding ourselves on the opposite side of the table from our tweenager more times than we’ve wanted to recently. It seems every conversation becomes an argument, each interaction a learning experience. For all three of us.
‘Tis the season, right?
Despite my tendency and love of talking an issue into the ground, even I can admit that these “family talks” are getting to be tedious. They go long and get complicated; one issue turns into the next, and then another, and then another. An hour passes and we end on a topic that was not present at the beginning. There is usually an attempt at walking out. There are almost always tears. I won’t say whose.
His demands for independence and absolute fairness between him and his sister, my desire for peace and love and understanding over discipline and responsibility, and my husband’s general impatience all go into a soup that inevitably boils over. Interrupting each other is a theme worth exploring during this spectacular demonstration of family time, and we talk over each other to try and explain why it is rude and inconsiderate to do so, yet another behavior to be tamed.
“We love you,” we say. Love comes to the table often. “NO YOU DON’T!” he explodes. At least one of us agrees for the moment, if only in her mind. I won’t say who does this.
Parenting is hard, ya’ll. I want those baby days back, the ones where I looked and felt like a zombie, yet that small fleshy person giggled and drooled and cuddled and took naps twice a day and never voiced his loud opinion that salad three times a week at dinnertime amounted to a twisted form of abuse. I will trade one of these punishing hour-long parenting sessions for a month of midnight feedings, anytime.
A couple of weeks ago I was fed up with my children’s bickering and criticizing, and, triumphant with our decision to add Christian education to our children’s lives, pulled out the clichéd and much-maligned, yet to-the-point What would Jesus do? Their ears perked up when I posed the question. They had never heard it from me before.
Me: Who are we called to be like?
Me: Would Jesus pick on his siblings like this?
Me: Where does this behavior come from, then?
They: The devil.
Me: Are we to act like the devil?
Me: Fine, then. Do better.
The lesson sunk in, and they were chastened. They vowed to do better.
For like a minute. But still. A minute.
I forget to do this with my son during our table talks. In all honesty, I am not much of an example of What would Jesus do? for my children. I argue, interrupt, and yell. I do not turn the other cheek, respond in truth and love, or do any of the other clear-headed and rational things that Jesus would do. I don’t even pray for the right words to say.
But I am learning. The lessons are sinking in. This new style of interaction, this parent-child relationship, is shifting from his total reliance on our decision making to a more nebulous boundary shift on all of our parts. It always amazes me how God teaches us through our children, whether by their own behavior or ours. He’s got to; I can’t learn how to do this without him, without his example.
Growing pains. We got ‘em.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:6 (NLT)