This particular evening we had friends and family over for dinner and my 3-year-old daughter was in a destructive mood, throwing things and screaming. She had already banged her head into our hard wood floors that morning from not getting her way. I was sitting on the couch and before I knew it, she launched one of her toys straight at me and struck me right in the forehead. Tears welled up in my eyes from the pain. I gazed into her blue eyes with anger and yelled her name. My blood was boiling inside.
This was just one of the many incidents of the past months. Constant disobedience, name-calling, extreme fits over how I squeezed the mustard on her hot dog to what clothes I put on her head, to her socks being too thick and refusing to wear them so we could never get out the door.
I could never satisfy her. No matter how hard I tried, she refused my help. I immediately got up to discipline her and I felt like it was just never going to end with her behavior. If you could call me a “closet cryer” – a term I heard recently from a mom friend – I was by all means one of them. And I won’t lie, a good cry is sometimes the best medicine.
This was my life the past two years with our second, strong-willed child, Rebekah. In that time we also welcomed her sister and brother so life had its joys and challenges. Rebekah turned 4 this past October and the past four years in raising and attempting to love her the best I know how, I discovered new fears and struggles in motherhood I never thought possible:
- Am I scarring and screwing her up for life?
- Will she ever be able to make friends?
- Does she know and even feel my love for her?
- Will we ever have a good relationship?
- What did I do wrong?
- Is all the hard work I’m doing day in and day out, enough?
- If anyone knew how I treated her in the desperate moments, they’d look down on me
- Why did God choose me to be her mother?
If you’re reading this and have a strong-willed child of your own, you know that one “determined” child can feel like you have 3 extra children. Your energy is depleted. You’re emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained. You can feel far from God because of the guilt you feel from not being able to handle the behavior in a godly manner (Ie., resorting to yelling, spanking in anger, cussing under your breath, and more). You just don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. You feel like a horrible mom who has a child that no one can understand. You often feel alone in your struggles. “God, help me” is your daily prayer. I get it.
In reading the new book Brave Mom by Sherry Surratt (President and CEO of MOPS – Mother’s of Preschoolers), my heart has been so encouraged. In her chapter, “There is No Perfect Child,” she writes how as we are raising our children, their personality struggles and behavior issues are mere snapshots into their life.
No single snapshot can convey who your child will become– the complete, complex album of a life which reveals God’s good plan for her. It is this creation – this series of life portraits of your child- which will endure, not the frustrating snapshot moments. God’s album for your child gives the big picture of lessons learned, of temperaments refined, of maturity blending with experience to produce a beautiful person indeed. (pg. 89)
These snapshots don’t make up the whole story or define their whole life. And as we look into the mirror as moms, our imperfections don’t define us either. I have found freedom knowing that there is a bigger story going on and it’s not over. I have found freedom that God’s grace covers me in my weakest moments.
Today, our Rebekah is still a fireball. But she is smart as a whip, courageous, and has a beautiful soul. I have found ways to her heart like letting her have control in the kitchen with me cooking up recipes. I used to fear she would burn down the house, but she’s proven herself as cautious. She loves Pioneer Woman on Netflix so we watch that together. She enjoys creating with her hands. I discovered that giving her opportunities to stimulate her senses helps calm her down: giving her a warm shower, rolling play dough, building legos, painting a picture, and playing with rice and bean bins (a mess on the floor is worth her enjoyment).
She still tells me she doesn’t like me at times and name-calling still spills from her lips. But when I was gone on a trip for 4 days recently she told me to “never do that again.” She still has fits but they are less. She is making new friends too. She still refuses to put her socks on before we leave, so I put them in the car so when we reach our destination she has no other option. She still struggles, just as I do, but I’m learning to love her even when it’s not reciprocated. I’m learning that God made her just the way she is.
The fears and struggles I have are real. I’ve definitely had my share for today. More are coming in the future. But my struggles are making me into a braver mom and helping me realize that I’m doing the best I know how as I ultimately surrender my strong-willed child to God and allow him to create a beautiful and God-honoring portrait of her life, and of mine too.
This story was inspired by the book Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears and has been linked up with MOPS International. Their editor has given me a copy to giveaway. Please leave a comment if you’d like to enter to win.