Parenting is probably the toughest thing ever. As a very much less than perfect child, I appreciate my parents a whole lot more these days even as I lean heavily on the Holy Spirit now that I am a very much less than perfect parent.
One afternoon, I was nagging my teenager when it just went from bad to worse.
I say nagging because I went on from reprimanding for one issue to rehearsing every single thing that bugged me for the week. I had forgotten how a pastor once shared with me that parents need to choose their battles. U can’t fight on every front so you pick the ones that matter. But I digress.
I had told him I was upset with his attitude, his Lego being left on the dining table, his clothes being left all over his room, his blatant use of the computer without seeking permission… And just as I was halfway through my nagging, he got up, took his Lego creation and skulked away. I reached out and grabbed his arm to keep him from going away and he tried to fling my arm off. Unfortunately, as he did so, his Lego creation sailed through the air, crashed on the floor and broke into pieces.
K’s Lego creations are intricate stuff. They transform, they are articulated and most of all, they are unique.
“I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intention.”
“Look what you’ve done!”he cried as he surveyed the damage.
I picked up the pieces and tried to give it to him like some peace offering.
“Sorry… I didn’t throw the figurine. It slipped from your hand.”
“You put it together for me again!”
“I can’t. You know I don’t know how to.”
The pieces were everywhere.
“You put it back together again or I’m not talking to you again!!”
I grew angry too.
“If you didn’t try to walk off halfway…”
“I was going to put it back in the room and take out my laundry!”
“Well, I didn’t know right. You should have told me.”
He had not yet taken photos of this piece of work and was truly upset. It was crazy articulated.
As I watched him seethe, it dawned on me right then that the parent child relationship is fragile like a Lego figurine.
At first it is easy to resolve issues with the kids- when they are young, things are less complicated like those Duplo sets. Large bricks, more basic structure… Hugs, kisses and a sincere sorry are oft times enough to placate an upset child.
As they grow, it gets more complicated. There are different types of pieces and sizes of bricks. There are joints and complicated bits of engineering.
Allowing our anger to grow out of control because of our emotions as we deal with them can cause things to break horribly apart and it can take more than a simple sorry to make things right again. And teenage boys aren’t the most huggable sort… Puberty sometimes makes things I once took for granted like a huge bear hug and a big kiss planted on the cheek an awkward exercise.
“I can’t piece the figuring alone. But perhaps we can do it together.”
I thought that was a reasonable compromise but sometimes, what’s needed is time to cool off. We can’t rush parenting and we can’t parent angry. He was hurt. We both were.
“Let him go to his room and cool off,” my Dad wisely advised. “Don’t talk to him first.”
As desperately as I was to make it instantly okay again, I know I needed to give the Holy Spirit space to work on him.
All his anger came about also because I had parent angrily. The way they deal with their emotions are a reflection sometimes of how we have dealt with ours. I can’t ask my children to control their temper if I can’t control mine. I’ve after all had a 22 years head start & if even then I still struggle with myself, I need to be more patient and understanding as he figures himself out.
Ultimately, as parents our expectations must not be of our kids but resting fully on Jesus. We can give them boundaries and curfews, but we cannot expect perfection from them. There will be disappointments but the LORD will turn these disappointments around into something good. Remember, we never parent alone.