I spent a generous portion of my first 16 years of parenting letting my kids’ annoying traits (um…) annoy me.
Many days were filled with tension headaches and pleas to God for help — sometimes through tears after locking myself in my room. Those years were m.i.s.e.r.a.b.l.e. In the mornings, the thought of getting out of bed to relive another stressful day with the kids that seemed to be playing on repeat made me want to hibernate until they all grew up a bit (or a lot). Having kids with special needs and a few with strong “leadership skills” only exacerbated the situation.
Why was this so hard?
I have a big bunch of kids — yes. We were struggling with some individual behavioral issues — yes. There’s only one of me — yes. But really, did it have to be this difficult?
There had to be something that could help alleviate life as we knew it. Even though my daydreams said otherwise, I knew a nanny, running away, or a vacation wouldn’t solve anything, so I began to pray and truly seek God about it.
The answer the Lord helped me see was one I think I knew all along: I was taking my kids’ behavior personally.
I was reacting to them as if their sole mission in life was to see how annoying they could possibly be and how crazy they could make me.
It took me a decade and a half to realize it doesn’t have anything to do with me at all.
My kids are their own beings who are learning to wield their gifts, conquer their sin, and who need loving and grace-filled guidance as they do so. I’m a work in progress and so are they.
It has helped for me to detach myself from their behavior and give consequences from a place of mercy rather than annoyance or anger. That way, I’m able to keep my emotions from becoming entangled in their issue.
I began to respond carefully to their poor choices rather than react impulsively.
I began seeing myself as a sinner in need of grace just like them.
I began to pray for my children rather than gripe about them.
I began paying more attention to them.
I began seeing them as an important part of my day rather than an interruption to my day.
I began looking for the good they were doing and started catching them being wonderful. Because they are.
As I engaged in these behaviors, I began to fall more in love with my kids and enjoy them again.
I also learned to breathe again. Holding my breath waiting for a new season to rescue me wasn’t doing any of us any favors. I needed to breathe and I needed to do it right then.
My family and my sanity were counting on it.
Here’s to all the parents struggling to keep it together when our kids fall apart. Right now I’m reaching through the screen to offer virtual fist bumps, a knowing nod, and gallons of fancy coffee.
Let’s learn to breathe in this season right where we are, no matter how messy.
This article originally appeared at The Masterpiece Mom.