How many more battles must I lose as a parent? I feel like I lose all the time, and I DO NOT LIKE to lose . . . one little bit. “Competitive” may be a word some have used to describe me. Maybe? Possibly? Yeah? Okay, definitely. Once it actually described me in regards to sports or games, you know generally things that revolve around the art of competition. Now it seems to center around my 3-year old. I am not competing and losing, I am just losing – all the time. Or at least when I choose to fight. This decision between which battles to wage seems to consume a larger percentage of my day than I would like it to. And I am tired, worn, defeated, discouraged. So let’s divide my daily battles into 3 categories:
Impossible Battles (ones I have succumb to): what shoes she partners with her outfit each day, what pajamas she chooses at bedtime, wearing princes dress-up clothes like it’s her job (no matter where we go), how many different names she gives her animals, which animals she sleeps with, which book we read at bedtime, which Disney Jr cartoon she watches when it is “her turn” . . . the list goes on but you get the idea.
Exhausting Battles (ones I am tired of fighting): finishing a meal in less than 1 hour, combing out her hair every other night when it must be washed, getting in and out of the car without dilly-dallying while I am holding a rather heavy car seat and 16 bags, using a tissue, covering her mouth, running, running again, running some more (we fall a lot), and the most exhausting one yet: listening — to anything I say ever
Important Battles (ones worth fighting for): not being too rough with Maisie, the words we use, the tone we use, the way we treat people, and anything having to do with safety or health.
Pick your battle, right? But how? Fully realizing that the “exhausting battles” need to be relocated to either Impossible or Important before I die of exhaustion . . . flat out run out of gas. . . . I wrestle with both letting go and holding on. I don’t want the fight, but I know it is unavoidable to an extent.
Still, I don’t want to battle all day. But can I really avoid it with a three-year old? I can’t give in 100% of the time or she will be walking around in her swimsuit in the snow with a princess tiara after finishing off her lolipop for breakfast and watching 16 hours of Disney Jr. I have to be the parent. Right? But I also can’t fight EVERY SINGLE battle or I will never do anything else (not to mention I won’t be able to win the majority of them the way I want to anyway).
Point in case: The other night when she was 45 minutes into dinner time and still had 3/4’s of the food on her plate (food she hand selected by the way) I gave her a final warning and said the next step was a choice between bed and dinner. Of course, don’t you know she voluntarily chose bed! What????? Are you kidding me??!!??!!? Dead serious she headed to her bedroom.
Go ahead, put a check in the “lose” column for Mom.
Adeline 5,972, Mom 42.
Of course this score is exaggerated, but it seems like the reality most of the time.
So much of parenting is about relinquishing control. Not fighting the battles we can’t win. Being able to identify the important things worth fighting for, and letting all the other stuff go. So many times I even convince myself I have “her” best interest at heart, but the truth surfaces and I hear that inner voice gently reminding me: this is about control, not love.
Love. This is the hardest motive to be faithful with, for me I admit. It is so much easier to be motivated by my need to control, my desire to get there quicker, to fill the day with more things, hurry, hurry, hurry . . . move it . . . let’s go . . . not like that . . . do it now.
But some how when love enters, when love inspires and motivates, some how things become crystal clear. Some how things make more sense, go more smoothly, and feel way better. Love seems to win every battle.
Anytime I struggle in relationship with my daughters, I think of my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I think about how he interacts with me, how he loves me. I think about the battles he fights for me. Seems clear. The most important battle he ever fought for me was on the cross. This is the battle that changed everything. This is the battles that set me free. It is THIS victory that gives us all victory. Victory over sin, over death, over it all.
The internal daily battles between flesh and Spirit all point to one thing, God’s love doesn’t inspire him to fight battles AGAINST me, but really to fight battles FOR me. His love says I am always on your side and I always have your best interest at heart. His love says it is impossible for me to love you in any other way. His love says that winning or losing the battles won’t change the fact that the war has already been won.
See unlike my relationship with Adeline, where human brokenness enters and love is not always perfect, God cannot do anything outside of love because God IS love. His love is perfect. I, on the other hand, can quite easily allow fear, a need for control, and my own brokenness to dictate my interactions, my choices, my reactions, my tone, and even my love. As much as I might not like it – my love is imperfect.
Now if that were the end of the story, it would be a sad one indeed. Good thing it’s not. Because in any relationship in life, God’s perfect love can be the source and the perfecter. The Holy Spirit can provide us with more than we can muster up on our own. The Spirit enables us to love our children more than we can grasp. Here is what we get when we rely on God’s Spirit.
1. We are given a chance to access wisdom that is beyond our understanding. This wisdom helps us differentiate between which battles are important and which are impossible. It teaches us when to let go and when to push through. And it is freely given according to the book of James
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and un-grudgingly, and it will be given you.
2. We experience patience that exceeds our ability as evidence of God’s Spirit alive in us:
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness
3. This patience allows us to endure the important battles and walk away from the impossible ones. This is the very endurance we need to be moms. Why? Because endurance brings nothing but good stuff . .
“endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
And then there is love – the type of love that is bigger than we are- God’s love. Aka, perfect love.
Good stuff right? When we let God enter into our relationships with our children, we get access to wisdom, patience, endurance that produces character and hope, and perfect love.
Suddenly the battles don’t seem so overwhelming. They don’t seem so exhausting. Because let’s face it, we will always have battles. But the way we handle each one can determine how many tears we experience verses how much laughter we enjoy. So maybe I am asking the wrong question when I ask, “How many more battles must I lose?” Maybe I should be asking something more like, “How am I best equipped for the necessary battles?” Maybe it is not about whether I win or lose each battle, but how I engage in them.
Determined to win . . . OR . . . determined to learn?
Out of fear . . . OR . . . out of love?
Motivated by control . . . OR . . . motivated by love?