My parents are my biggest fans… That is not to say that I am their favorite child. I am one of seven siblings.. and my parents love us all equally. I mean how could you compare any of us to each other? My older brothers were both Nuclear Engineers on naval ships. They know how to fix and maintain an engine that powers a massive ship… I barely know how to change the oil in my car. My sister can make beautiful jewelry… and other beautiful creations. She used to manage a store before that. She has focus and a drive that I could only dream of. My younger brothers are all wonderful “boys” that I am proud to know myself. They are all successful at work. One is a supervisor… I can barely keep my kids on task.. let alone adults! One knows how to work on “renewable fuel cells”… I don’t really know what that means.. I keep picturing him working on giant batteries! And the youngest is a manager of an auto parts store.
Every single one of them have hearts of Gold…. so how could my parents choose a favorite? They couldn’t… There is no common ground to compare us on.
So how could they be my biggest fans? If I am not their favorite? Well .. in a way I am their favorite… I am their favorite distractible, creative middle child … and their favorite youngest daughter.. Just like my oldest brother is their favorite firstborn… And my sister is definitely their favorite oldest daughter. In fact, we all have traits that make us shine… and they are so proud of us for them.
But that does not mean I was spoiled.
Ha.. in fact … there were definitely periods of my childhood that I thought my parents were the “meanest” parents in the world. When my parents explained I wasn’t allowed to go to the local skating rink.. because there were rumors of activities there that my parents did NOT want me exposed to… Man did I think they were mean… I mean REALLY!! Those were just rumors… right?!? When my parents insisted on meeting every one of my friends before I could spend the night with them? Honestly.. whose parents do that? And when my parents wouldn’t let me go on a date until I was 16.. and THEN they had to meet each and every one of them?!?
Yes… there were plenty of moments in my life when I thought my parents were mean…
But every moment of my childhood .. I knew that I was loved..
Every moment of my childhood.. I knew that my parents were trying to do the best they could for me.
How did I know?
Because they told me. They told me .. and all of my siblings.. that they love us… every single day. Even when they were frustrated with us… even when they were disappointed in the choices we made… even when we were making them crazy… They always told us, “I love you.. and I know you can make better choices.” “Your mother told me what happened today.. and I am disappointed. We both love you and expect better from you.” It was so heartbreaking for me .. to see tears in my father’s eyes. Each and every punishment I received in my childhood was explained to me. When my father told me that the spanking I was about to receive.. hurt HIM more than it would hurt ME?!? I didn’t believe him. I mean I was the one about to be spanked .. right?!?
What hurt more than anything… it was the tears in my father’s eyes. The quiver to my loving father’s voice as he explained why (as parents) they couldn’t let me get away with questionable behavior. The hesitation my father always showed in giving out punishments. What hurt was that I KNEW it was ALL because of a choice I made… It was ALL because I had a weakness.
Those tears in my father’s eyes?
They followed me everywhere… The memory of that hurt I caused.. it kept me from making so many more mistakes in my life. That does not mean I was perfect.. I am most definitely NOT perfect. I have had my fair share of punishments.
Then I always had a hug.. and forgiveness.
Why did my father go through with punishing us kids? If discipline was obviously so unpleasant for him? Why would he still do it? He did it because he knew what God expected from him as a parent. And God tells us what He expects from us in His book,
“He who spares his rod hates his son (or daughter),
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly,” Proverbs 13:24
So my parents disciplined us promptly. Because they had such high hopes for us.. Hopes for us to be the BEST person we could possibly be.. The person that God wanted us to be. So? So my parents were mean.
Sounds like I was a naughty child.. doesn’t it? I wasn’t extremely naughty.. but I WAS a child. Children always make mistakes. And just like my parents were there to tell me that they loved me and were so proud of me… They were also there to catch me when I fell .. and tell me they were disappointed. They were always there to tell me they KNEW I could do better next time. And I always felt cared for..
EVEN as a teen.. when I felt their logic was somewhat “misguided”? I still felt loved.
Since those days.. so long ago… I have come to see their wisdom. Not just in parenting my two children.. one so strong willed.. and one with special needs. No I have seen it in others around me.
I have seen parents who are so busy “providing” for their child.. that they forget to care about their child’s needs. Not just be annoyed with their child’s bad behavior.. but to be saddened by it.. To not just punish their bad behavior.. but to discipline them. To use love to guide them.. explaining why good decisions are necessary.. even when those decisions are hard…
Some parents are just “too tired”.
Oh… and I understand tired. Not only do I have a strong willed, independent, free thinking daughter. I also have a son who has autism. Along with autism, my son has bipolar. Bipolar affects the moods.. For reasons unknown.. the body releases an imbalanced amount of hormones.. causing the person to be unusually happy.. or scared for no reason.. distractible … or restless.. Sad for no apparent reason… and on certain occasions.. a crazy mixtures of more than one of these emotions.
For my son… it happens with the season changes. And spring is the worst. Maybe it’s the increase in sunshine that disturbs the serotonin balance. Maybe it’s the increase of exercise after the long winter? Maybe it is a natural excitement for the coming summer and it’s freedoms? What ever the cause… my normally calm and loving child turns into the Energizer bunny … mixed with… a sassafras tree. Back talk, aggression.. refusal to cooperate… Constant chatter… lack of sleep (for me or him)… Constant hunger… Instant anger…
Yes.. I know tired….
There were days I wanted to give up..
There were days I couldn’t discipline my son… Days that my tears were more than just pools in my eyes.. Days that I couldn’t even explain my punishment to my son… days my voice did more than just quiver..
But I trudged on…
Why continue to discipline when it seems pointless? Or in some eyes.. why discipline my son’s actions when he obviously cannot control them?
Because I love my son.. and I know what he is capable of. I can see what kind of man he could be with proper discipline. I can see the glimmer of the person God wants him to be. My son needs to see that there are ALWAYS consequences for his behaviors.. That no matter how hard it is to control his imbalanced emotions.. That he has to do it. And my job? My job is to guide this wonderful child as he grows. It’s my job to guide my head-strong, independent daughter. To guide them both with love .. and patience.. and discipline.
I trudge on because I remember my father’s eyes.. I remember how he never gave up on me. No matter how tired he was after a long day of work. No matter how he must have wanted to do anything else .. anything besides giving his children another “talk”… Because he loved us? He trudged on that extra mile..
Those eyes remind me of my Heavenly Father’s eyes.. As I have grown in my Faith.. I imagine our Heavenly Father’s eyes look a lot like my father’s. Imagine they fill with love and pride at our accomplishments… and I imagine they fill with tears and heartbreak when we disappoint him.
And yet… Our Heavenly Father is always there to pick us up when we fall. He never gives up on us…
So when exhaustion threatens to overtake me?
Then I pray… “Please Lord.. give me the strength to make it through this next mile.. or so.. Please fill me with love, patience.. and discipline… So I can show my child I care… In your name I pray..”
Something else drives me to trudge on… another thing I see when I want to give in to exhaustion…
I have seen the eyes of a child whose parents did not love them.
I have seen the eyes of adults whose parents did not bother to go that extra mile. The eyes of a grown child .. eyes that know that their parent isn’t their fan. The child who doubts that their parent even loves them… The child who knows their parent doesn’t like them. And in their heart.. that child “knows” it was their own mistakes that forced their parent to not care. How do they know? Because their parent tells them.. That child? That child doubts the reason they were created.
We have all seen that child..
The child that cannot seem to do anything right.. The child who is constantly grounded… The child who feels like they are a disappointment. The child who disobeys (over and over) to get attention.. Any attention…
I can’t imagine being that child. Not being sure that someone will be proud of my every accomplishment.. Proud that you won the coloring contest at the grocery store.. proud of the “A” you earned in English.. proud that you mastered the curved tail on your cursive “g”.. I couldn’t imagine being the child that performs.. wondering if anyone in the audience was clapping JUST for them. I couldn’t imagine not being assured that someone will still love you when you make a childish mistake… I couldn’t imagine going to bed at night and not feeling cared for.
But I have seen that child. I have seen them in stores.. at parks.. at school.
I have seen a parent tell a child that their birth ruined their life. I have watched a parent berate their child for being worthless in the middle of a gym full of people. I have seen parents laughingly admit that their child doesn’t know any better.. or that they aren’t capable of anything better.
In those moments? That parent failed their children..
We have all seen that parent…
I can imagine being that parent.. because I have been that parent… Not everyday… not every month… But I have been that parent. The parent that forgets to discipline and settles for punishment. When I am exhausted.. exhausted beyond the extra mile… I fail my children. I have yelled at them more than a few times. I have sent them to their room with a, “I can’t even stand to look at you right now.” I have finished chores for them when I was too exhausted to make sure they followed through to the end. And once…
Once… In a particularly trying time of my life as a parent.. Once I even told my daughter I wasn’t sure I even liked her anymore.
The pain I saw in her eyes in the moment?
It made my heart stopped.
And I cried.
In that moment I failed my child… and I knew it. That failure is worse than any exhaustion. Worse than any other punishment I ever received.
When I finished crying (and praying for forgiveness).. I went in to talk with my headstrong daughter. First? First I apologized to her.. because of course I like her.. I absolutely love this beautiful creation that God sent to me. I explained that I let myself give into frustration and lash out on her. But that it wasn’t her fault.. No.. the fault was mine. I tell her that although no one is perfect.. my words were unacceptable.. and asked her to forgive me.
After I hugged her.. and told her I loved her.. with tears in my eyes (and on my cheeks).. and a quiver in my voice… Then it was time to correct my punishment .. and change it into discipline. I explained to her that I CANNOT let her be disobedient and make poor choices. That even though discipline is exhausting and unpleasant.. I do it because I love her… I love that beautiful soul that God gave her so much.. and I explain that it is my job to guide her. A job given to me by God himself.
Yup… I told her that discipline sometimes hurts me more than it will hurt her.
Even though I apologized to her for my weakness.. and she forgave me? That moment still haunts me. Will that be the moment that sticks out in her memories of me..? Not of love and patience.. but one of anger?
I pray every day that it won’t be.
I also pray for God’s guidance.. His love.. His patience and His discipline for me in my own life.. To help me be the parent He meant for me to be… The parent like I had…
So I guess I am praying to be my kids’ biggest fans. To love them and hope for their best future.. beyond anyone else in THIS world.. That is what I strive to be..
But I know that God is actually their biggest fan.. He cheers them on everyday… Tears of pride at their accomplishments.. Tears of disappointment when they fail.. But always the unfailing love and support. I can strive to be like God … but I know.. I will always fall short of that.
So in this instance?
I am aiming for second best…