20 July 2008

Raising Kids and asking for a "Do -Over"

Last night I had a conversation with some women friends about parenting. I listened as a couple of moms talked about not understanding how a mother could not like being home with her children. Their questions were sincere. These women do not want to be anywhere else in the world than home with their babies. I found myself speaking up on behalf of women who dreaded being alone with their children. I was speaking from experience.

I escaped a childhood from hell. There was screaming, beating, hitting, gunshots, incest, alcoholism, drug addiction, anger, bitterness, resentment and belittling. Even worse there was the abuse of being ignored. I had few safe people or safe moments in my childhood. I was by nature very tenderhearted and compliant but that changed in favor of survival. I became willful, calculating and distant as a means of coping.

My little sister loves babies. She says that when you are caring for your baby you know that there isn't another more important task on the planet. Your priorities aren't in dispute. I understand what she means but I have never felt that way. At one time I liked babies and did a lot of babysitting. Babysitting got me out my house. Soon though, I grew fearful of babies. I realized how dependent a baby is and how easy it would be to harm them. I do not mean physical harm, I mean emotional harm. I knew I didn't have enough internal resources to draw on to give a baby what it needed to be secure and happy. My fear of babies started when I was in my late teens.

By the time I was in my early thirties and my nieces came to live with me I had managed to build a full blown phobia with babies. Children who were old enough to articulate their needs weren't so scary to me but I was terrified of babies. My two precious nieces came to live with me after their mom died. Their biological fathers had nothing to do with them after they were conceived. The were separated from their siblings and had endured things that made my childhood seem normal. Confused, broken and battered they were little black holes of need. Although I was a Christian, I was full of bad theology which is a breeding ground for unrealistic expectations. Expectations not based on the truths of God are just premeditated disappointments.

I was a working single parent. I had a high stress job in public safety. I would get off of work and wish I could drive around the block a few times and get my courage up before I walked into the house to see those faces. Their big green eyes seemed to look for so much in me; answers, comfort, acceptance, love, direction.... all at once. They acted out their frustrations and insecurities by being difficult which made me feel more inadequate and so the cycle perpetuated itself. It was awful.

I am not writing this to make excuses for my behavior. I was so sinfully selfish and motivated to seek my comfort that my kids suffered. I didn't have an example of good parenting, let alone godly parenting to draw from. I didn't have a realistic expectation of life with Christ. I had lots of people at church who wanted to give advice or who would cluck their tongues and remark how I was a saint for changing my life to accommodate the girls or how sad their little lives had been. I needed practical help. I needed a Titus 2 woman to come along side me. If God granted "do-overs" this is the task I would most like to fix.

My primary motivation in writing this is the hope that a woman feeling inadequate to the task of mothering will read this and find hope. You do not have to follow the same learning curve I followed. By His mercy I am not the same selfish woman I was. God has softened my heart. He has changed me and done so without my permission I might add. He is sanctifying me and refining me to His image. The more Christlike I become the more I have to offer the poor, battered and bruised souls that cross my path. He offers the same to you.

I was talking to an old friend the other day, she was my mother's best friend. She has known me since I was a child so she has seen me transform from wild, willful and self-focused to the woman of faith that I am. She told me that I would make an excellent step or foster mother. I was really surprised by her observations. She's not a believer so her dream for me is to get 'hooked up' with a good man whose kids are grown or nearly grown. She thinks it's too bad my kids and grandson are 2400 miles away. She is certain I have something to offer my adult kids and that now they will listen. She also tells me I am a good grandmother. Her mentioning that floored me. Especially since she has seen me at my worst. She knows all the reasons I will never be nominated for a "parent of the year" award.

Our conversation was more evidence that God has changed me. As for me marrying, we'll see what the Lord has in mind. The idea no longer terrifies me. I have been considering fostering. My pastor and I have talked about the wisdom of being a single foster mom. There are a lot of kids out there that need to be loved but I am not certain single parenting is best. Perhaps I will do emergency fostering- being available in the middle of the night when police are forced to remove a child from their home. We'll see what the Lord thinks about that. Who knows, perhaps He'll send me a godly man who wants to retire and foster a whole herd of kids.

Sisters, if you are having trouble as a parent, if you are genuinely afraid or distressed at being alone with your kids, please throw yourself at the feet and mercy of God. He changes people and He uses all circumstances for good. If you're painfully aware of your sins and shortcomings, ask our Lord for the faith and refinement you need. Don't waste another moment in the misery of sin and disobedience. If you know a woman struggling, reach out to her. Develop the sort of friendship our God calls us to. Life on life.

I want to add just one more thing. If you're a woman who has survived a rough childhood or if things are rough for you now, there is every reason for hope in Christ. We are called to more than mere survival. In Christ we have everything we need to thrive.

John 10:9-11
9 "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
10 "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have {it} abundantly.
11 "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

2 Corinthians 5:17
17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, {he is} a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Romans 8:28-29
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined {to become} conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;

Galatians 2:20
20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the {life} which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.

Psalms 103:13
13 Just as a father has compassion on {his} children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

Proverbs 31:27-30
27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and bless her; her husband {also,} and he praises her, {saying:}
29 "Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all."
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, {but} a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

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