Two years ago we had a lot going on in our house. We had just moved, had a baby, Mark had lost his job and every stress imaginable had come into our home. It came not only in the situations, it came with emotions and uncertainty. What scares and causes me to be anxious, also causes my kids to be anxious. They are watching me and I do not always handle these situations with elegance and grace. It looks more like sobbing fits as I try to process and find some semblance of peace and joy. Yet, peace and joy often feel so far away.
As if those situations were not enough stress, the oldest naturally carries on the weight of the family and more responsibility falls on them as well. This is definitely the case in our house. Maddie came to a breaking point and she could not take on one more stress, she could not take on one more task. She was done. Stopped in her tracks and she was angry. She was angry at life, angry at me and I feared I had lost my relationship with her.
Yet, it felt like her anger was one sided. She still joked, played and talked to Mark. I had heard of son/daughter relationships where they connect with one parent but completely butt heads with other one. Everything between them is a struggle; communication, interacting, literally everything is affected.
I could have thrown my hands up and said oh, it will work itself out. Kids bounce back, but the honest truth is kids do not bounce back as much as we think they do. What ends up happening is they stuff it way down deep in their soul. It is my job as the parent to help them process the stressful world around them. It is my job to be truthful with myself and take responsibility for the actions going on around us. I need to be honest with what is really happening and own up to my part in it. One of the things I appreciate about kids is their inability to rubbish. They speak how they see life and most of the time, they are right on.
Maddie saw through our rubbish. She saw the hurt, confusion and as a eight year old, it hurt and confused her more. She had only her eight year old experience and perspective to go on. So, what did we do? How did the Lord end up winning her heart back? First, we prayed and prayed and prayed. I asked the Lord to help me get out of our way and allow me to hear what he needed to tell me. I did not care how raw the truth was about myself. I did not care what he pulled up, I needed to deal with the crap in my life so I could see Maddie’s heart. Mark and I together also sought wise counsel from close friends who we knew aligned with our core beliefs as followers of Christ and as parents. We also gave Maddie the freedom to yell at us, I knew she needed to get out her emotional voltage and if this was one way to do it, then she had free reign. We also gave her immunity, she could not get in trouble or receive a discipline during these yelling, emotional voltage times. I also readied my heart to hear blows to my heart, to truly hear ways I had wounded her, take responsibility for it and seek her forgiveness. Her perspective of the world around her and what hurts her, matters.
In all honesty I have learned when one of my kids is butting heads with me, it stems from something not being right in our relationship. It is usually me as the adult not owning up to a sin being exposed in my life. I realized one day that when adults usually tell kids to keep their opinions to themselves it is because they are being called out on a sin in their life. We recoil from it and because they are kids we talk them down and change the subject. I do believe this needs to be done with respect, but when respect has not been given to a child, when respect is demanded but not given, rebellion is going to happen. Rules without relationship breed rebellion and relationship without rules breeds brats. It’s true, there has to be a balance and it has to start with me.
It’s hard work, it’s painful to look at oneself and see our sin, and then label it sin. We are a culture right now who is afraid to use the word sin. We live in a culture where we live and let live, Jesus loves us so it’s ok. No, it’s not ok. Sin is sin and I have discovered it is a huge factor in my inability to connect with my kids.
I am thankful for the Holy Spirit’s guidance to win back my relationship with Maddie. It was not an overnight cure. It took months for her to even talk to me. It has taken three years for her to hug me as only Maddie can, arms, legs and all. She will look at me now and say out of the blue, “mommy, I love you”. It brings tears to my eyes and I do not take this for granted. I know the road we had to take to get here and I give thanks to God for helping me to win back the heart of our daughter.