Last week, my husband promised our kids a trip to Carousel sometime over the weekend. Carousel is our favorite summer ice cream hot spot in our small town. Saturday arrived and the big event was set for that evening.
Over breakfast, we discussed our ice cream treat possibilities. I landed somewhere between a peanut butter shake and a dipped cone. I discovered last summer that shakes were perfect for when Philip and I went to Carousel alone because he kept his lips off my tasty treats. When I went with the kids...they begged and bothered until I let them have some. I know they were saving me huge amounts of calories, but I was looking forward to every last drop of deliciousness. There should be a law about moms not having to share desserts with anyone.
Unfortunately, there was a turn of events in the Pauling home that day and we were forced to adjust our plans. Somewhere between breakfast and dinner, my daughter decided to be boldly independent, strong, and sassy. I worked with her all day, but the streak wasn't letting go. Right before we were supposed to leave, she did something big—like hurt her brother big—and she would not apologize.
We discussed it at length, but she would not relent. Then I made the call, "Philip, take the boys without us." It is amazing how that one sentence seemed to change the tide and "I'm sorry" rolled off her tongue like a champion.
From there, everyone grabbed their coats to walk out the door...believing all was forgotten because she had finally said the precious words.
I looked at Philip and knew that wasn't going to work for either of us. I held Jennifer's hand, looked down at her, and broke the news. "I am sorry Jennifer, but we can't go because you wouldn't apologize."
She insisted that she did apologize, but I confronted the obvious. "You only apologized when you realized it would stop you from getting something you wanted, not when I asked you to." She hung her head down, dropped her shoulders and went up to her room sobbing.
I don't think there is a parent out there that enjoys drawing the hard line with their kids. Technically...she did apologize, but she didn't do it when I wanted her to. This has been my biggest struggle with all my children and it isn't an outward problem...but an inward one.
We can guide their outward behavior, but it the end...their hearts towards others and their motives comes from within. I can pray. I can guide. I can instruct. After that, it is up to her and Jesus. I am determined to stay the course with her because I have worked too hard for this relationship. I have cried too many tears over her circumstances.
I despise the hard line.
My husband hates it.
My son asked if he could bring her back ice cream.
With all my heart, I want her to have ice cream. I don't want to hold her back. I want to give her huge memories of fun and joy, but I also need her to listen. I need her to yield her will to mine. It was so simple, but in all actuality, it was so much more.
Parenting is a fine balance between grace and discipline. I have found many parents who do discipline really, really well. They are on it. 1st-time obedience is the expectation...no debates. I have also found many parents who do grace really, really well. They embrace their kids through the difficult situations. They talk things through...they reason...they dialogue. For me...I want both. I want to recognize the appropriate times to lay down the law, as well as the times to extend grace.
There are times I get so mad that I find myself walking around with gritted teeth. No joke, I am angry. In these moments of my own internal weakness, I have to rely on Jesus to get me through. Is my anger justified? Most often, absolutely, but I can't respond or react our of those emotions.
This wasn't one of those times, I wasn't angry. I knew she had not yielded her will to me and even though she finally apologized, she didn't feel she was in the wrong. The punishment wasn't because she hurt another family member, but because she refused to own her mistake and apologize. The punishment wasn't about ice cream, the punishment was staying behind with me when everyone else got to go.
After my family left for their ice cream extravaganza, I went upstairs to console our little one. You see, my internal struggle was that I wanted to pull away. It is very hard for me to stick with it when my kids fight me. I have to stay in the game. The nights of ice cream treats will come and go and she most likely won't even remember this night, but the memories of a mom pushing her away will last a lifetime.
I think this is where I can go wrong in disciplining my children. When my kids misbehave, it brings up emotions in me as well. In turn, I find myself acting out of the very same emotions I want my children to control.
I can't ignore.
I can't yell.
I can't push them away.
I have to engage. They need to know that even though they make mistakes, I am not leaving them. I will forever pursue them. This is a tough one because these little sinful humans can drive me crazy.
AND they are also my tangible blessings from Jesus. He gave them to me to love and to raise because he knew I could do it...as long as I walked with him. So I am walking each and every day with him. He leads me and guides me as I lead and guide my children.
So while my family was getting their creamy bites of awesomeness, I was in Jennifer's room reading a story, singing a song, playing 10 rounds of "Rock, Paper, Scissors", and saying prayers. We sat on her bed and talked about the day. We didn't talk about the missed ice cream, instead, we talked about school, her friends, and the things that make her heart happy.
When she got up the next morning, she started fighting with me about what she was going to wear to church...and then she stopped. We dialogued. We discussed. We merged on an appropriate wardrobe plan for the day. I was able to show grace because the night before, I had graciously shown her discipline.
Our kids need boundaries and rules. It is my job to love them enough to give them consequences for their disobedience. I would have preferred to have shared my peanut butter shake with my kids but in the end...her heart finally yielded and we were able to grow our relationship a little bit more.
And to me, that is sweeter than my favorite mouth-watering peanut butter shake...until next weekend when we try again.
I am a girl passionately in love with Jesus, my husband, and my children. I am forever learning how to live a life completely undone for my God. This blog is about my journey and a few funny stories in between.