“He’s awful. I wouldn’t babysit him for a million dollars.”
I heard what they said about me, those teenage girls. I heard every word. So did you.
It’s me, your stubborn, strong-willed child.
Mom, those girls don’t see the countless hours you spend trying to figure me out. They don’t see the tears you shed. They don’t know that you feel helpless and lost. You wonder whether you’re a terrible mother. I’m always in trouble. It seems that way, at least. I’m rebellious, constantly pushing boundaries. I never sit still. Ever. You’re spent emotionally, physically and spiritually. And the comment from those girls pushed you over the edge.
I’m here to say, “Thank you.” Mom, raising a stubborn, strong-willed child is crazy hard. Instincts and intuitions go out the window, right? The world says strong-willed, stubborn kids are problems that need to be fixed, with rebellious spirits that needs to be tamed. I know raising me isn’t easy, but I’m here today because of you. Here are a few things I want to thank you for.
Thank you for pointing me to Jesus rather than forcing me to conform. There are so many resources on parenting a strong-willed child like me. Most of them show you how to make me obey and conform. But you are uneasy about seeing me as a problem that needs to be fixed. Maybe you realize that changing me creates more resistance. The details are insignificant. Here’s what matters. Rather than imposing your will, you lean closer to Jesus. You trust Him to get you through the hard days, asking Him to do something you can’t…transform my heart.
Have you ever thought about this, mom? Almost every quality considered negative as a child is positive for adults.
A mischievous child becomes a curious adult.
A defiant child becomes a determined adult.
An obsessive child becomes a persistent adult.
Do you see, mom? What’s considered negative as a child is positive as an adult, traits you would want in a CEO or something.
Thank you for working with me rather than fighting against me. I think I came out of the womb with boxing gloves. I push back against everything. And I push hard. For a while, you fought hard too. You remember that time, right before my third birthday. I refused to eat dinner, but you were determined to make me eat? Determined to win this one for all the parents of strong-willed children, you said I wouldn’t leave the table until I took a bite of something.
Two hours later, when you realized I wasn’t eating, you sent me to bed. I woke up at 5 a.m. screaming for food. I was starving, mom.
After that night, something changed. You put down the boxing gloves. You stopped trying to win. Not because you knew you couldn’t. You knew I wasn’t your opponent. You chose to empower me rather than overpower me. Thank you, mom. It’s crazy. When you put down the gloves, so did I. You see glimpses of this now. You’ll see it more fully in time.
Today, I listen to others rather than assert my will. I would rather be collaborative than competitive. I’m not sure I would be this way if you never put down the gloves.
Thank you for teaching me rather than telling me. I want a “why” for everything. It’s insanely frustrating. I know. Giving me rules without explanations is easier. “Because I said so” requires much less time and energy than your rationale. But you choose to explain things, even to four-year-old me.