Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Choose Your Battles

When I had my first child, almost 8 years ago, I was determined to tackle the parenting role with flawless precision. I prepared myself by taking every class offered, reading every book written, and learning everything I could about being a great parent. And it's a good thing I did, because that first child turned out to be about as strong-willed and difficult as they come, and I needed every bit of ammunition I had acquired.
One expression I had always heard other parents say was "choose your battles". In other words, some things are worth fighting and some things are not worth the time, effort, and emotional strain. Well I got where they were coming from, but that just wasn't my style. To me, those people who "chose their battles" just didn't have the stamina and determination to stand up and fight every fight. But I did. I was not down with choosing the battles - I was the Commander in Chief, and I was not only going to fight every one of them, but I was going to win them. And I did. I used every ounce of my being to control that child and make sure he did everything the way I wanted him too. No matter how hard the task or how strong his opposition, I dominated his will and shaped him into an obedient, respectful little person who didn't dare step out of line. Now don't get me wrong, I loved him abundantly and showered him with affection during this process because I strongly believe that rules without relationship lead to rebellion. But through all the hugs and kisses, I won the battles, and I won them decisively. All that hard work paid off. I now have a well-behaved child who is a joy to be around, excels in school, and actually enjoys following the rules. Mission accomplished.

Strangely, the rules seems to change when I had my second child. I was six years older, no longer had the energy I once had, and now had twice the work load raising two kids instead of one. There was homework and lunch-packing added to the diaper changing and spoon feeding. Twice the laundry, and twice the mess. Let's just say I soon realized what it meant to "choose my battles".
I just don't seem to care as much anymore. I love my youngest son equally, and I devote as much care and attention to him, but I just don't seem to have the drive to win that I used to have. I'm still a firm believer in discipline, but perfection is no longer my goal. I've let myself (and him) off the hook a little more. I must admit, I surprise myself sometimes with the way I react to a situation: I've even said to myself, "Aren't you going to do something about that?" only to walk away in sheer surrender. Don't tell anyone, but I've even committed the worst "mommy sin" ever (in Mandi's parenting Bible) - I've shoved a cookie in my one year-old's hand just to shut him up. I know, I know! It pains me to even write that! This morning while walking through the grocery store, my youngest refused to sit facing forward in the kart. He kept turning around backwards with his feet sticking out above the child seat. Now if that was my oldest child, I would have turned him around as many times as it took until he was sitting up straight, facing the proper way, with both feet in the right holes and a smile on his face. This time, however, I looked at the little misfit (with cookie in his hand by the way) and said, "Fine. Sit backwards if you want. Hang your feet over the edge. I don't care." That battle was just not worth fighting in that moment. I just wanted to get out of there with my groceries and my sanity.

Amazing what 6 years can do to one's parenting style. Oh how we change as the years go by. And oh how different we are from God - the ultimate parent. He was the same parent in the beginning of time, and He will be the same at the end of time. He never grows weary, never loses stamina, and never gets overwhelmed by His workload. His philosophy remains the same. His style remains constant. And we can count on His consistency day after day after day, until the end of the age. Nothing we do is going to throw Him off or cause Him to have a bad day. We can't exhaust Him. And even better, we can't exhaust His love for us. And thankfully for me, He will never throw His hands up and say, "Fine, do what you want, I don't care!" His level of care remains the same, no matter what we do to exhaust it. So the next time you think you expended your resources with your heavenly Father, think again. His account never runs out. He has just as much time and energy for you today as he ever had and ever will. And the great thing is He WANTS us to use Him. His word says, "Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you" (1Peter 5:7). There's no limit. You can never cast too much. He can handle all the burdens you give Him and then some. And He does it with delight.
Are you carrying a burden that you were never meant to carry, simply because you've neglected to cast it upon Him? Are you worried that you've somehow exhausted Him and He doesn't have the energy to keep dealing with your "stuff"? He gladly wants to deal with your stuff, so go ahead - throw it His way. And remember, no matter what kind of strong-willed, hard-headed child you are, he will never grow tired of parenting you. And here's just a little side note: He created you that way, so He knew exactly what He was getting. Thank God that He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever... and we can count on His perfect parenting no matter how we stray. So these days, I will keep choosing my battles and trying to make it through raising my second child with my sanity in tact... while God keeps choosing to fight every battle on my behalf with the guarantee of victory. Amen to that!

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