I've been the mom subconsciously judging you when your child screams and cries while you look helpless and confused, or angry. Please forgive me. I don't know you, your life, or how hard you are working to train those children. I don't know how long it's been since you slept through the night or had someone come alongside you to encourage you in this journey.
It is often said that God uses our children to teach us. To help grow in sanctification.
God has given me three of those little blessings, with a fourth due to make an appearance sometime early to mid January. And I have never felt so utterly confused, helpless, and out of control.
You see, one of those children is a sweet, empathetic, funny, and adorable three year old named Gilead.
A boy who is cautious by nature, and over the past years of more moves that I can count because we were literally without a home for awhile, church trauma, and work trouble, has become overly so. Seemingly innocuous things in life terrify him. And when they do, I'm pretty sure he literally loses his little mind.
I fear that I have done this to him. That I haven't handled all of the stress over the past years as I should have. I haven't shown him faith as I ought. He hasn't seen through his mother that we truly can trust God to take care of us in all things.
This week he's made some major progress. We got a new bike trailer, which he thought was really cool, until he realized it had only one wheel instead of the two he was used to on the old one and he melted into a puddle of terror. We prayed with him, we had him watch his siblings ride in it safely, we prayed some more, and we gently strapped him in and took off. Three rides later, and though he's still cautious, he's enjoying himself. He's also conquered his fear of the curly slide at the local park.
We were encouraged. While feeling at a loss for what to do, we knew a "buck up and don't be a wimp" approach was not it. So we mostly pray with him and talk to him a lot about God always taking care of us. Then we help him work through whatever it is that's scaring him on a practical level.
Yesterday we began a homeschool gymnastics class. I was looking forward to this as an opportunity for Mercy and Gilead to develop their gross motor skills as well as a time in which I might be able to meet other local homeschooling moms. About two minutes in Gilead lost it. Really lost it. I was more than two feet away, the equipment looked scary, and he didn't know how to do a somersault--which he apparently thought was a pre-requisite.
Yes, I was the mom with the child who was screaming, throwing things, and hitting his mother. None of those are behaviors he typically engages in, or that we tolerate (not that we don't have our moments), but when he's terrified he becomes another creature entirely. Oh, and my toddler was the one darting across the gym trying to get his chance at the rings while I was trying to calm his brother.
By the end he was doing better, and had even apologized to the teacher, but I was still humiliated, confused, exhausted, and yes, shamefully enough, a little bit angry with him and a lot angry at myself.
I came home and cried. And cried. And cried some more. I saw my child being crippled by his fears for life. I saw my chances at developing friendships and support in a new community go down the drain. I felt, and still feel, completely drained and totally inadequate as a mother.
I know what I'd have been thinking had I been on the other side and seen a child behaving that way a couple of years ago, and I'm ashamed of myself. I would have (and have) passed judgement in spades. Denied support to a mother who very likely needs it more than those whose children could be the positive examples in parenting books. In short, lived as if God is a God of judgement rather than mercy.
I still have no idea how best to handle it. We're praying with him, talking to him, encouraging him, and hoping that next week's attempt will go better. As it turns out, childhood isn't carefree, and helping a little one truly believe that God never lets go of us is one of the most important and difficult things for a parent to communicate. It requires that we, too, place all of our fears (including, or maybe especially, those regarding our children) at the foot of the cross.
I can only pray that next time I see you with your children, looking about to cry as they wreak havoc on your notions of what parenthood is supposed to be like, I'll be the one reaching out and loving you. It's what Jesus would do, and I pray that He will conform me into a reflection of him.