I used to joke that my toddler son was so fascinated with the vacuum that I literally had to vacuum in circles around him as he chased me and I avoided running over his tiny toes. (Actually, I still do sometimes.) At the time I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. But now I’d think differently. Through recent personal evaluation, I’ve been one by one realizing all the ways that my kids try to manipulate me (it’s too chock-full of sin to get into at this moment and it’s really not what this post is about). But scarier than that, I’ve been realizing all the ways that I’ve been trying to manipulate the situation to keep them from manipulating me (all the while still being manipulated by them, of course, just in a different way.) Like with the vacuum. Instead of teaching my toddler son how to obey, I simply vacuumed around him – conveniently side-stepping his sin and allowing him to continue in that sin every single time I turned on the vacuum. Yes, he’s young. And yes, he’s not going to get it right away… but he’s definitely not going to learn if I don’t take the time to teach him. Ooh, and that’s where it get’s really scary. Because you see, I am responsible for this teeny tiny life. It’s important that I teach him about safety and obedience and sin and consequences and God. And when I don’t… oooh, now I’m all up in my sin. And that is what this post is about.
One of the biggest areas that I’ve struggled with is putting the kids to bed. We’ve lived in this house two and a half years, and the girls have never gone to bed, on time, at the same time, in the same room (and they share a room!) At our previous house there was a window unit and a heater only in our room or the living room so Princess (who was two) either slept in our bed or on the couch. As you can imagine, when we moved into this house (a few months before she turned 5), she didn’t want to start sleeping in her own room and we’ve been inconsistent with making her. Drama Queen started off great, sleeping in her crib and her toddler bed just fine – until she got old enough to realize that big sister wasn’t. She also starting climbing in our bed in the middle of the night when she realized that’s what Princess was doing. And by the way, both of them can slip into bed with the stealth of a trained military assassin so that you don’t even realize that they are there until you wake up later with a knee or a foot in the small of your back – by which point I am too tired to get up and do the right thing. Clearly, these are all black and white examples of our lack of discipline, and we have had years of practice in it. But discipline isn’t really the point. Manipulation is. Here’s where the manipulation comes in. After trying to get them to sleep in their own room at the same time but not succeeding (Drama Queen intentionally bugs and irritates Princess and won’t let her go to sleep), what did I do? I gave up. And I manipulated the circumstances. I separated them. We’ve been through various routines but the end result was usually one in their room and one in our room whom we later moved after they were both asleep. Now exactly what did that teach them? I mean, besides the fact that they can keep on long enough that mom will give up?
Of course there are more examples but I think the point has been made. Instead of taking up the mantle of responsibility, I’ve been taking up the t-shirt of convenience. Somehow I don’t think that’s what God has called me to do. Okay, I know it’s not. First and foremost I’ve been called to honor God, and that certainly isn’t God-honoring. So now what?
“Just do it.” As an assignment, I’ve been given the motto of “Just do it.” Okay, Nike may have that cornered as a slogan, but not as a mindset, right? 🙂 I know what God wants me to do, I know what scripture says,.. so what is it that holds me back? What’s stopping me? Why, self-discipline of course. Parenting is hard. It takes a lot of work. And in each moment when the need arises, I need to just do it – the “it” being “parenting.” Just get up, just go over, just take initiative, just dole out the consequence, just take responsibility, just teach them about sin, just show them God, just correct and guide them, and when the need arises again – just do it all over again. No side-stepping the issues, no circles. No exasperated “just go and play and be nice.”
God is not calling me to a life of ease and convenience. He is calling me to teach my children about Him (among other things.) And manipulating them is more likely to teach them how to manipulate in return than it is likely to teach them to love God. In fact, manipulation only makes things harder. Parenting is still going to be challenging, but trust me, it’s a lot easier if you’re not “parenting in circles.” I’ve been avoiding the circles lately, and trying to discipline more effectively. It’s hard, but it’s getting easier every day. The proof is in the pudding right? For two weeks the girls have been going to sleep in their own room , together, for two weeks. I just started doing it one day and told them there was no going back. It still takes them an hour of talking and giggling and then fighting and crying before they actually fall asleep but I have faith that time (and continued effective discipline throughout the day) will eventually help with that. At the same time I put my foot down about sneaking into our room in the middle of the night, and it was amazing that it stopped so abruptly and so easily (with only one exception for a night of bad dreams and that was a week ago!) I also did the same thing with Little Prince and the bottle – which I had been putting off for fear of a huge dramatic meltdown. We threw them all away last Tuesday and that was that. Sometimes you just gotta stop avoiding the issue and just do it – or it might never get done.
The moral of my story is that sometimes it might be easier to just change things around, give in, or vacuum around the child so to speak, but ‘easier’ is deceptive and it doesn’t take on the responsibility of godly parenting. So instead of avoiding it, just honor God and do it. I’ll be drawn closer to God as I lean on Him to guide and teach my children, and hopefully they’ll be drawn closer to Him because of it as well. After all, that is our ultimate hope and prayer for our children, isn’t it?