The ultimate paradox of childhood is that boys and girls want to be led by their parents but insist that their mothers and fathers earn the right to lead them.
~Dr. James Dobson
Right about the time my first baby was born, Dr. James Dobson released his updated version of The Strong-Willed Child. The title intrigued me because I’d overheard my mother reference me as a strong-willed child once or twice and figured there was a high probability of passing that gene on to my son. By the time my newborn was two weeks old, it was obvious I needed Dr. Dobson’s book! Forget the child part, I had a strong-willed infant!
As I’ve been a mom to that firstborn for going on 15 years, I’ve realized raising a strong-willed child takes being a strong-willed mom. Actually, raising kids in general no matter their temperament takes strong-willed parenting.
One essential quality of a strong-willed parent is setting and upholding firm boundaries.
In other words, doing what you said you would do.
Kids push. And push and push and push. You draw a line, and a strong-willed child wants to cross it one way or another.
I woke up this morning to the words It’s not supposed to be easy running through my head. It made me think of the P90X guy saying in the arm circle warm up…“We’re going to be here awhile. It’s going to burn. It’s supposed to.”
Life this side of Heaven: We’re here for an appointed time. It’s going to burn. It’s supposed to.
I know this, but somehow the creep happens. The comfort creep. I grow weary of fighting the same battles over and over again, so I start hunting for the cruise control button to make life easier.
But I forget ease and comfort are not the goal here. Life takes tenacity, endurance, perseverance. All those words you hear in cross country training and insinuate it’s going to be hard!
Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew…
My eyes are bigger than my stomach…
Basically, sometimes I think I can do things, I can’t.
Like in my head I think I can do a round-off back handspring in my front yard. I’ve watched my daughter do it countless times. It looks easy!
But have you tried a cartwheel lately?
Something happened around 27 years of age that biochemically defies turning upside down without torrential side effects.
I remember one time, I was really excited about something and I did a frontwards flip onto my bed like a little kid. Afterwards I just laid there, flat on my back, watching the room pass by in front of me.
But I have these moments in life too…not over cartwheels and front flips anymore for I respect those boundaries… where I think I can do things I can’t.
Now, it’s over schedules and activities I think I can jam into my week and stay sane. Problem is they have the same result as the front flip on my bed – leave me dazed and confused as to what just happened!
A few weekends ago my oldest son wanted to sleep outside. And when my oldest son wants to do something, he lets me know of his plans every chance he can. We could be talking about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and Caleb would insert a plug for his case to sleep outside.
Maybe it’s partly my fault. Being the mama that I am, I don’t tell him yes to everything, for if I did, we’d be fur trading in Alaska and eating bear soup for dinner. I make him work for his yeses. He must convince me as to why he needs to sleep outside in such a way that I understand his cause and want to say yes to him with joy.
So I had put him off for days but by Saturday night I had no more reasons to say no. He had convinced me and with a smile I said Yes.
“Oh Momma….come heerree,” my little man called from the back door in his sing-song voice. “I’ve got something to show yoouu.”
Sometimes these requests cause me to hold my breath, afraid there will be a finger dangling from its base or some disaster to clean up. But something in his voice this time sounded promising. So I stopped whatever I was doing and followed him to the back porch. You can imagine my surprise when I saw this:
A freshly blown off porch (blower provided by Daddy with a rent fee of $2), wiped down picnic table with a beautiful camellia blossom planted in a vase. All just for me! Just because he loves me!
I engulfed my little boy in my arms and said thank you with all the reciprocal love I could find. Then I sat down across from him on the bench seat and discussed the finer things in life according to a seven year old while soaking in the serene scene he created for us.
This morning my sleepy 13 year old stumbled into my room. Since he was the first one up, he nestled quietly into the coveted spot right beside me on the bed. With his head against a pillow propped up on my leg we discussed quite deeply the thoughts of a young hunter/trapper boy. Most of the language I didn’t understand but I tracked along as well as I could with my barely awake brain.
He talked about guns and what the calibers meant, how many bullets go in each barrel and so forth. And I just listened. We talked battle scars and injuries and how it would be good for his future wife to have some nursing background.
I marveled at how easily we embraced and how fluidly the conversation ebbed along. I wasn’t distracted by my phone pinging the day’s notifications and I wasn’t in the middle of teaching my other two math or English. It was just me and him enjoying some sweet conversation.
On the spur of the moment last Saturday, we declared a Family Date Night to Tyler. Caleb needed some new shirts, because when you grow 4.5 inches in a year, nothing old fits! Since I had some Kohls cash in my wallet, I figured that was just the place to shop.
We’re also down to 4 hens in the chicken pen, and so buying some new chicks has been on my ever-growing list as well.
As I’m planning the route in my head, all-of-a-sudden I remember the movie God’s Not Dead 2 just came out in theaters! We saw the first one as a family and the kids loved it, so I thought that would make a fun surprise if we could fit it in. I kept it a secret in case we couldn’t.
We all start loading up in the truck when Mackenzie comes outside, flicking her hair back and swinging her purse over her shoulder. She says, “Mom, we’re going to meet someone named Jessica today and when we do, I’m going to give her this flower.”
One thing my new schedule and the beautiful weather allows me the freedom to do is take a walk down the back-roads behind my house. I have a favorite journey down a winding trail, canopied over with tall, waving pine trees.
When I trekked along this morning, I noticed the road had been repaved. Before when I walked, water from an underground spring flowed all over the road, in some places pooling up into quite a puddle. Since I’m not a six year old boy, the puddles aren’t my favorite thing to stomp through.
They repaved the road, making the center significantly higher than the sides, which created a perfect, natural rut for the springing water to flow along. This left the middle of the road dry enough to walk down without raising up my pant legs.
I don’t know why my brain thinks like this, but this whole scenario reminded me of my strong willed child. The child that has tested every ounce of my will since the day he was born. The child who’s passion and behavior often spills all over the road – or the store, house, wherever he is.
Normally, I like to stay away from “How-To” books. They seem to stifle my creative nature, but also because, I long to follow a formula that looks nice and neat, tying life in a pretty bow. So, when the title promises me 5 Guaranteed Ways to Grow a Happy Family in 3 Easy Steps, it sounds appealing as I imagine my darling children all neatly dressed with ironed pants, smiling at me even when I tell them No.
Inwardly I want that book. I want to follow those 3 Easy Steps and obtain the advertised results. But I’ve tried to follow the 3 easy step philosophies and claim my overnight success as a parent and….failed.
I quickly thought about this glitch of mine when Wendy Speake Brunner asked me to read and share in the launch of her and Amber’s new book, Triggers.
Dear homeschooling husbands,
(And by homeschooling husbands, I mean not necessarily that YOU homeschool the kids, but rather you are the husband to a homeschooling mom.)
I am convinced that motherhood is the hardest profession out there. I am also convinced homeschooling, as wonderful as it is, places second in degree of difficulty. So when you mix the two hardest jobs in the world together, every minute, every day, well there is just not a word that fits the job description or requirements.
You know how you feel when you first come home? You just left the cozy quiet of your truck or car, walked all by yourself to the front door and then WHAM! One kid grabs your leg, the other slams you with questions and the other is quietly taking the vacuum cleaner apart?