Confessions of an Impatient, Imperfect, Nit-Picking Parent

(This one’s for all the mommas who reached the end of their patience before the end of the summer.)

Anyone who’s been a parent for more than 72 hours knows this…

Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

You’ve got to be tough and tender, flexible and firm, instantly responsive and exceedingly patient. And that’s just for starters.

Last week was one of the worst in my parenting career. And I’ve had some doozies, believe me. After 28 and a half years on the job, I still haven’t mastered it. Not even close. (To be fair, though, the job description has changed… weekly.)

Recently – regrettably – I stooped to a new low. I did the underhanded interrogator/ overbearing drill sergeant/uppity church lady routine. And my 20-something was having none of it. So I let it go.

(In my dreams.)

No, the truth is… I didn’t let it go. I dug in deeper. I scoffed, scowled, and scolded. Meddled, muddled, manipulated, and just generally made a mess of things. Thankfully, my kid is the forgiving type. (If he were a grudge-holder, I’d be toast.)

The devil didn’t make me do it. It was all me.

Yeah, sometimes you just fall flat on your face… and suck mud.

I sucked.

I’ve always wanted to be the mom who’s willing to play the game, read the story, stack the blocks again (for the eleventh time in a row). The one who starts the ticklefest, the water war, the pillow fight. The one who throws impromptu cupcake/fingerpaint/Play-Doh parties for the littles and French press/film fest/Fortnite parties for the bigs. The mom who’s attentive and affectionate, wise and witty, playful and prayerful, faithful and FUN. I want to be the welcoming committee, sounding board, prayer team, and biggest fan.

And on my best days, I am.

But…

I can be lazy, short-sighted, selfish, impatient, presumptuous and downright b!#<%y too. (If not for coffee and Jesus, there’d be no survivors.)

When I feel stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, I get irritable, inflexible, unreasonable. And the more I say, the more I sin.

I overstate, exaggerate, manipulate. I assume, accuse, cajole and – (wince) – judge.

Thank God for this:

Love covers a multitude of sins.

(Can I get a “Hallelujah” from all the other humans with offspring?)

A mom friend once said to me: Little kids, little problems. Big kids, bigger problems. At the time, I remember thinking, Have you ever tried to extract a Polly Pocket playset piece from the itsy bitsy teeny tiny nasal cavity of a writhing, hysterical toddler? That’s a very small, VERY BIG problem.

But now I get it.

Instead of spilled milk, mysterious rashes and choking hazards… it’s speeding tickets, sexting and cyber bullies.

(It’s excruciating… waiting for the whole “cause and effect” concept to take hold.)

Lord, have mercy.

I do think it’s pretty great that God chose to make newborns stationary. You plop them down someplace and – miraculously – they stay right where you left them. I believe He did this to give new parents a chance to acclimate to having a very small, very needy human being in close proximity, one who’s incessantly hungry/thirsty/sleepy/poopy. At least they stay put. But not for long. Soon, they get rolling… and “sit, stay” rarely happens again. Their inclination is to scooch, crawl, walk, or ride their bikes as far from us as possible. Next thing you know, they’re 16, 17, 18, 19… and they’re asking for the keys so they can drive away. Far, far away. Into the big city. Or the mountains. (In Colorado.)

From the time they take their first steps, we encourage our kids to seek and savor independence. But what we don’t realize is that the more independent they become, the less control we have. And the more terrifying it is. And, well…

Desperate mommas do desperate things.

When it comes right down to it, most of my parenting failures are a direct result of my own anxiety and insecurities. Though it pains me to admit it, I often parent from a place of fear, pride, or a pretty anemic notion of love.

Let’s face it: parental fears are persistent… and plentiful. Injury, illness, insect bites and infestations. (If you’ve never had to wield a fine-toothed nit comb and lice-killing cream rinse, you should drop to your knees right now and give thanks with a grateful heart.)

The world is a perilous place to grow up. Not only do we have to worry about mean girls, bad boys, bullies and predators; we now need to issue urgent warnings about opiods, active shooters and texting/driving fatalities.

Worse yet, even when my kids manage to steer clear of the danger zone, I turn and fall headlong into another “parent trap.”

Pride.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made is parenting by popular opinion. (It’s a minefield, littered with high horses, haughtiness, blame and shame. Don’t go there.)

Another biggie was openly (and smugly) stating all the things I’d never do if my son _______________ or when my daughter ________________.

Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.

Yep.

Invariably, that very thing you swore you’d never do… you’ll do it. And discover you’ve tumbled headfirst into the pit of despair (with all the other demoralized, defeated, derelict parents). You’re facedown, eating crow. And there’s only one thing to do.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

(He’s got strong arms.)

But the thing I most regret in all my years of parenting is this:

Conditional love.

I love you if you…

I love you when you…

I love you… but…

Not only am I guilty. I’m a repeat offender.

I dole out love in meager doses… or with a laundry list of prerequisites.

Why can’t I just love him freely and fully just the way he is? Why don’t I love her lavishly even when/if/though… Why can’t I just pour out love like there’s unlimited free refills? Splash it all around? Drench my kids in kindness and mercy and grace?

Maybe because I haven’t steeped long enough in Love and Living Water myself. Maybe because I don’t often enough go to my Father for advice. Maybe because I’m inclined to keep wandering far, far away. Which is pretty foolish… because I’m lost without Him.

The only perfect parent is the One enthroned above. His love never fails.

He’s a good, good Father.

And His mercies are new every morning… Before the alarm goes off and the lunches are made and the backpacks are loaded. (Even before the coffee is done brewing.)

What a relief!

Wendy

P.S. One last confession: I was not (and never have been) the momma who shed a few tears on the first day of school. I was the one doing the happy dance all the way home from the bus stop.

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Entanglements and Race Results

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My dear reader,
Today, I’d like to make a few comments about… hair.
Specifically, Chloe’s. My daughter has long, lovely, thick hair. It’s the color of chamomile tea – with a spoonful of spun honey – and it’s approaching the length of a jumbo Willy Wonka Pixy stick. (Remember those totally tubular treats from the 80s? Pretty much a powdered sugar buzz in plastic pinstripes.)
We always say that Chloe is our princess, and her hair is quite literally her crowning glory. And did I mention that it’s thick?  It’s wavy and windblown and voluminous. That girl’s hair is BIG.  All the time. And most of the time, it’s tousled and tangled too. Knotted, gnarled, and in desperate need of detangling spray and a boar bristle brush.
When she was young, I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to untangle that beautiful, brutal hair. It was incredibly frustrating (for me). And excruciating (for her). Wince, yelp, scowl. Those detangling sessions would invariably end when she started to cry… and I would raise the white flag (ok, it was a Tinkerbell towel) in surrender. And Daddy would finish the job. God bless that kind, gentle man. Seriously, God, please bless him… and empower him to continue his mane-taming mission and ministry. Amen.
Up until the arrival of our little girl, Steve and I had a houseful of boys. With buzz cuts. No tangles. Ever. (Unless you count that one unfortunate wad of Big League Chew firmly affixed to Trent’s toddler noggin.) We were blissfully free of gnarls, knots and dreads. Plenty of dirt, grass, grape jelly, and an occasional bug or fruit snack. But no tangles. Until Rapunzel joined Team Holtz. And 486 bottles of conditioner later, we are still battling troublesome entanglements.
In her hair. And… in the daily grind.
Whether we know it or not, we’re all in the thick of it. Every dang day. Right smack dab in the middle of the muddled, matted messes of life. Entanglements are everywhere. In our global landscape and our local schools. The public forum and (most glaringly of late) the political arena.  Our workplaces and, sadly, our places of worship, too. They gnarl our thoughts and knot our stomachs and produce… well, dreads.
Sticky situations. Scattered minds. Twisted words. Life is full of those. And these: career snags, relationship snarls, financial messes, and family disarray. We need not even venture out into the world to witness these. We can see them “up close and personal” every morning. In the mirror. Most of us don’t even notice these tangles and troubles until they’re so vexing and virulent that we think we must cut them (or ourselves) off. Completely.
That’s the thing about snags and snarls. When they’re few and small, we can comb through them, work them out. But once they start compounding, we have to untwist, tug, and then tug some more. The tangles become tougher to tackle. Our lips (and hearts) tremble. Tears are inevitable. And so are tatters and tears. Sometimes irreparable ones.
It’s a lot easier to just keep it clean and comb through things daily, rather than letting gunk build up and tangles take over.  Then everything winds up muddled and matted and messy. And pretty soon, we’ve got a whole lotta dreads. They weigh us down, slow us down.  And we end up… well… down. Discouraged. Depressed. Defeated. We’ve surrendered the battle.  We’ve lost the race.
Scripture talks about this very thing.
“Therefore… let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2a)  
Sin – anything that falls short of God’s good way – is like a bola. Ever seen one? It’s a throwing weapon used by Argentinian cowboys (and ninjas :)) to capture cattle or game. Made of braided leather fastened to small but heavy weights on each end, it’s a surprisingly effective weapon. Just like a bola, sin trips and traps.  It tethers and tangles. And pretty soon we find ourselves wrapped up in it, about to be strangled to death by Lust or Lies or Slander or Envy or Rage or Pride. Eventually, and always, sin destroys.
But God, through Jesus, swoops in to disentangle and carry us to safety, unscathed. Jesus offered Himself to be bound, so we might be unbound. He was lashed, so we can be loosed. He was slaughtered, so we could be spared. He sacrificed Himself. To save you and me. He was nailed to a cross, so we can run free.
And He wants us to live that way. Every day. Disentangled and unencumbered. Freed… to flourish. And finish.
There’s a race to be run. A race to be won. And it’s an ultra-marathon. We need to be steady, strong, fueled and fit. We need to be loose and light on our feet. Not weighed down by sin-burdens or dragging baggage. Not fettered by nagging doubts or high anxiety. Not distracted by the “shiny things” along the race route. Or the media covering the action.  Not tripped up by the other runners. (Or their cheering sections.) We just need to run our race. Clean, clear, fair…  Fast as we can toward the finish line. To win the goal and gain the prize.
But here’s the crazy thing: we can’t do it. Any of it. We can barely spring out of the starting blocks, let alone run the race. And we’re completely incapable of laying aside encumbrances. Or disentangling ourselves from our own incessant sin and selfishness. Our endurance wanes. Our pace lags. We stumble. Again, we need God. We need His Spirit to fuel us. We need to inhale His Word and fill our lungs with the breath of Life. We need prayer to pace us and protect us. We need living water to keep us hydrated. And His training program to get us race-ready. And keep us so.
The course is long. The terrain is tough. There are potholes and pitfalls. Aches and pains and palpitations. Spills and chills… and cheaters. We’ve got to keep our eyes on Jesus, the Light of the world, or we will stagger around in the pre-dawn dark. We need to focus on Jesus, the Way, or we will wander off course. We need to gaze at His beauty or the ugliness of the world (and our own propensity to criticize/condemn/scoff/scorn) will overtake us. And then trample us.        
As this unprecedented, unpredictable, painful presidential race finally draws to a close, instead of disseminating the candidates (and every other voter venting or lamenting on social media) let’s simply reexamine our own race. The one we’re still running. It’s not over. If we’re still breathing, we’re still racing. And none of us knows when we’ll reach our finish line, because we can’t see it ’til we’re there. Sometimes, we round a curve and come upon the home stretch, far sooner than we ever expected.
So, let’s sharpen our focus and shift it back where it belongs. On Jesus. No matter who won the election, He has already won eternity. No matter who sits in the Oval Office, He is enthroned above. Regardless of your politics or preferences or position, only One can meet every need, solve every problem, heal every hurt, and fill every heart. Only One holds the entire human race in His gentle, strong grip. Only One can give us clean, clear, smooth, straight PEACE. No tangles and no dreads.
Because He Himself is our peace. 
Let’s pray and press on. Let’s work out the gnarls and knots daily… and throw off the things that are weighing us down. Most of us have miles and miles to go. Let’s run – each our own race – with endurance. Finish the course. Keep the faith. Don’t know where to turn? Look to Jesus. Unsure which way to go? Follow Him. He is the Way.
And sooner or later, we will realize…
He is the prize too.
Finish strong,
Wendy
P.S. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  So let’s drop the labels and stop the madness.  Let’s ditch the divisiveness and disparagement. And let’s pray for healing in our land… and in our hearts.  Let’s link arms and work together for peace and unity, so that we truly do become one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.