Confessions of an exhausted parent

As a non-parent I had strict expectations of myself and my future child.  There were certain things that were permissible and others that were not.  I would stare at children in public and make a decision right there about how I would handle them if they were mine.  A majority of my decisions were made based upon a split second view of someone else’s child.

Fast forward to now.  I am no longer a non-parent.  I have a child who lives with me 24/7.  She has a very exuberant personality that tries me emotionally and sometimes even physically (exhausting!).  My prideful view of parenthood has been turned upside down.  You know all of those mothers that I judged in the past?  I am now her.  The mother of the spirited little girl with a will stronger than mine some days.  I am tested every second.  My sanity is sapped dry, and I sometimes feel like I am the only one who is struggling.  During our shopping trips, I count it a success if we can make it to the check out line without an incident.  When we go to play dates or birthday parties, I see all the other children playing and behaving.  My child is hitting, kicking, throwing toys and disobeying.  After seeing these comparisons multiple times, I began to question my efficacy as a parent.  Am I doing this right? Do I just have a more challenging kiddo than these other parents?  What is wrong with this picture?  I have done Love & Logic.  It works most of the time, but not all of the time.  I have tried every trick and tactic out there.  My little one’s will seems to defy all of the parenting strategies that have been invented thus far.  And to put it into perspective, she is not wreaking havoc like a tornado every time we leave the house.  She is just high energy, active, annoyed by other children who mess with her and frustrated when someone else is getting the attention.  Most kids experience these feelings at one time or another.  Some react by withdrawing.  And others, like my little girl, react by acting out.

This mom (me) who taught 2-4 year olds for 7 years and provided music therapy for children to correct problematic behaviors for 12 years is at a loss.  I SHOULD know what to do.  I SHOULD have a better handle on all of this.  I was able to help other families with difficult behaviors!  But the truth is that I don’t have a better handle on this.  There is only so much I can do on my own.

Over the years, God has been strict with me.  He has to be in order for me to listen.  I have found that through having a spirited child, I cannot rely on my own strength or compare my situation to others.  I have exhausted my earthly resources, and all that is left is God.  I find myself asking what other “technique” I can use to parent my daughter more successfully instead of praying.  Praying often feels so simple to me.  But it’s not.  It is a surrender.  It is a humbling act.  Not to be taken lightly.

So as I sit here stressing over the frustrations of the day, wondering how I will cope once she wakes up from her nap, I still struggle.  The truth is. . . .it’s embarrassing when our child misbehaves in public.  I can handle her at home, but the watching eyes of other parents is intimidating.  Not knowing how they feel about you or what they’re thinking is even more intimidating.  But I have to continually remind myself that God is my judge.  God and only God.  If I am parenting well in His eyes, that should be good enough for me.

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