Oh, three year olds. I once had a friend tell me that the terrible twos were no match for year three. I was shocked. As I struggled through Jael’s second year and her disobedient and stubborn heart, it crushed me! I didn’t want to know that getting through the second year just meant that I would begin an even harder year. I was already having a hard time with her, Elijah’s first year was the hardest year I’d had as a parent as well…it was too much to think it would get harder. My friend has triplets and another toddler after them, so I was convinced that sheer numbers skewed her opinion. Surely!
Unfortunately, my friend was right. Oh boy, was she right. Now I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news for you two year old mamas out there, so please know, I truly believe that even though many children have commonalities, I do feel that each child is different. And how we parent them is a big factor in it all.
Attitude Enter Stage Left
It wasn’t an overnight change. When Jael was coming up on two years old, it seemed her sweet baby ways morphed into miniature torture artist overnight. But her journey towards three years old just gradually got harder and harder. It probably began a couple months before her birthday…but suddenly, she started acting like a hormonal teenager. Running to her room sobbing over a small incident, getting very angry or upset instantly, telling me to go away, etc. All things you’d expect in an episode of Parenthood. But my sweet toddler was going through something, and it hurt my heart to not understand how to approach her.
Her attitude towards everything changed. She would be rude and mean to me, dad, aunts, grandma & nana…most women (plus her dad) got a eye roll or shoulder tilt from Jael. And then two seconds later, she is climbing up into your lap, getting two inches from your face to tell you in the most animated language how much she loves and adores you.
Its Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde up in here, y’all. And I found myself in a spiraling attitude vortex. I get stressed and frustrated. And I ashamedly admit that I have yelled more this past 3-5 months than I have since I was a hormonal teenager. I have come to the point where, honestly, I don’t know what I’m doing.
Jesus Enter Stage Right
Oh for the love…I have whispered and cried prayers out into the air like breathing. It seems that constant communion with the Lord when you have toddlers is not that hard! ha! I’ve seriously begged the Lord for help. I’ve prayed against the devils attacks on our family and children. I’ve considered buying parenting books. I’ve read blog posts with cries of other mamas going through similar things. And this blog has suffered at the hand of crazy and time-consuming parenting. Its like as soon as my laptop hits my lap, the switch is flipped and my daughter is suddenly out to make everyone cry. [Oooh, there’s a hint! More on this in a minute.]
But y’all, that is seriously the main lifeline for me right now. Jesus has it all. He has enough grace and peace to cover the mountain of tantrums. And when I let go of any frustration that I have for not being the perfect mom, when I let go of the picture of the perfect relaxing day, when I let go of the shame I have over my own sins, when I let it all go…Jesus is the one left standing. And even when I lie crumpled on the floor, He is standing. Not just watching over me, but standing against the enemy.
Attitude Begets Attitude
One trend I noticed in my sweet girl was that my attitude greatly affected hers. GREATLY. Like as in if I’m gentle, she’s gentle. If I explode, I’m just lighting her fuse. So it is my intense desire to stay calm and gentle with her. Is this hard? Oh my goodness gracious, yes!! In a moment where I just want to scream, it takes insane amounts of self-control and the Lord’s peace to restrain my sinful heart and love on her instead. Of course there are still moments of punishment. The time-out spot may as well have a Jael toosh mark on the floor. Probably one time out an hour AT LEAST. Correction. Redirection. Action. I’m like a referee every second of the day.
I also found that when both my kids are awake, Jael reacts very negatively to anything I do outside of sitting and observing them. Is that fair? Not really. I have things to do too. Dishes, laundry, blogging, clients, emails…on and on the list rolls. But days that I have a schedule for us make for more smiles: wake early to get some emails answered, kids up and breakfast and playtime with them until about 11am, Elijah nap at 11am to about 1pm is quiet time where we color, read, etc. while mommy checks more emails and tries to get work done, Elijah up at 1pm is lunch for everyone and more playtime until his second nap at about 3:00/3:30. This is mommy and Jael snuggle time until he wakes at about 4:00/4:30 (sometimes even 5:00!) and then its dinner, last hour of play, baths, and bed. I can then work more when they are down for the night. Is this ideal? Not really. Does it give my kids my attention and show them I value their time as well as my own? Yes.
No one ever said that overcoming sin and learning to be more like Jesus was just going to be an easy monk-like existence. No one said that we would magically change into peace-loving, gentle spirited women and mothers the instant we had babies. Far from it! What does the Word tell us?
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God?
-Micah 6:8 (ESV)
He has shown us through Jesus’ life what is GOOD. And from this, the Word states what the Lord “requires of you.” This is a call for your action. To do justice – to do what is RIGHT. To love kindness – being kind to others and ourselves. To walk humbly with your God – to walk with Jesus daily realizing what Job 19:25 says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” And in this we are called to try. To work. To make effort. Some days will feel like a bust.
But our heavenly Father is calling us to do what we so long for our children to do: work at being just, kind, and lovers of God. We cannot ask our children to do what we ourselves refuse to do.
So today, mamas, wives, friends, whoever you are…I encourage you to examine yourselves. Not in a self-loathing, I-need-to-do-better kind of way. But in a way that reflects. Is my attitude and heart affecting the attitude and heart of my sweet child? Our children need examples, parents who confess wrongs done and then show how to grasp the excellencies of the Lord and lay claim to them in our hearts. To show our children the value in repentance and the excitement and joy found in getting up and continuing the run of the Grand Race. Help them tie their shoes. They need you.