Here are some of the recent searches from my Google history:
- How to wash stuffed animals in the washing machine
- How to remove nail polish from upholstery
- Natural remedies for Toddler Constipation
- How to remove playdoh stain from clothes
- How to repair a torn book cover
- What is the phone number for Poison Control?
How did parents survive before the internet? Even with answers to all of these questions at my fingertips, with a two-year-old and a three-year-old little boy, our house stays in a pretty perpetual state of chaos.
A couple of weeks ago, before Jason and I got up, they got all the red apples out of the crisper drawer and took a single bite out of each one. We had to call Poison Control because they drank half a bottle of (child-safety-capped) liquid Motrin. When I was baking recently, they secreted away the sprinkles and made quite a mess in their room and all over their faces. And while I was putting on makeup last week, Garrett drew all over his face with eyeliner. When I used one of my makeup removing wipes to get it off, he took that to mean the wipes were his, and I caught him in my room later that day, happily removing them from the package one at a time.
It’s easy to get frustrated with all these mishaps and messes, and I often do. Some days I feel like all I do is chase the boys around the house, putting out fires. But in moments of a little more clarity it helps me to remember a few things:
1. They are children
I don’t know why this is so easy to forget, but sometimes I expect them to reason and make responsible choices the same way I do. In fact, sometimes I think I expect more out of them than I expect from myself. I spill. I make mistakes. I break things. In fact, right now, the shirt I’m wearing has small spots where I dribbled coffee on it this morning and the phone that is sitting next to my computer has a cracked screen from when it fell out of my pocket in January.
When I’m getting particularly agitated about one of the boy’s antics, Jason often looks at me and says with a grin, “It’s like he’s a toddler.” And that reminds me: they are toddlers. If I were to lay down on the floor and kick and scream when something did not go my way, you would accuse me of being childish. Because on some level, we know that children can’t help responding that way when they experience strong emotions. Likewise, I should expect plenty of boundary-pushing, plenty of failure to resist their impulses, and plenty of mistakes as they learn.
2. We asked for this
Sometimes, when I’m cleaning up after a particularly bad “oops” or straining to control my voice when I say “no,” yet again, I sort of wish I had children who were more apt to be compliant, cautious, and easily deterred. But then I think of the men my boys were named after: Caleb, the warrior who refused to believe that victory was impossible with God on their side, even when everyone else cowered in fear, and Josiah, the zealous, law-abiding king who resisted the way of his fathers and did not rest until idols were abolished in Israel. These men were stubborn in holding to what they believed. They were brave in the face of massive obstacles, and dogged in their trust in the ways of the God of Israel.
When I think on those things, it’s easier to see the seeds of great men in my boys’ fierce independence, their initiative, and their determination. They can’t be men who will “hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught” (Titus 1:9) without some stubbornness in their makeup. They can’t be men who will do big things for God if they give up the second something gets difficult.
3. God can use them to change me
I thought that there was nothing like the crucible of marriage to reveal to me my own failings and flaws. That is, until I became a parent. I fail my kids daily. I lose my temper, I get impatient, I put my own needs before theirs. I see in my gut response to them just how desperately I need Jesus.
Every day I have a choice about how to respond. I can respond to them in my own strength, or I can cast myself on Jesus, being reminded of his grace towards me, and given the strength to extend that same grace to my children. It’s not easy; I’m still not perfect. But God is remaking me and refining me, and he often uses difficult days with my kids to do it. I’m so thankful for that.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go scrub some red nail polish out of my chair.