Sometimes God Yells Too. Loudly.

Sometimes God uses circumstances to speak. Sometimes He whispers. And sometimes He yells. Loudly. So this morning I had a conversation with God where he had to yell a little. Yell just enough to get my attention. And then discipline me with the same calm, reassuring, loving guidance that I hope to provide my own kids (but that’s a work in progress). He used a lesson about parenting my girls to teach me a lot about myself. My morning prayer started the same way that they all have for way too long. Me apologizing for the same things I have apologized for every morning for the last few weeks. Apologizing for saying I’m going to spend more time with Him and not doing it. Apologizing for saying I’m going to do things differently and then not doing them differently. Apologizing for not listening to things I know He has been trying to tell me. And this morning He got my attention. Loud and clear. “I’m tired of whispering so maybe if I yell you will listen this time. But I’m only going to yell long enough to get your attention. Now that you’re listening let’s talk.” So here’s what I learned from my conversation with my loving Father this morning. (If you haven’t read my post from yesterday you may want to read it first, as it has a lot to do with this one, and my journey towards being the best mom I can be.)

1. I get frustrated too. Just be patient. Your girls will learn eventually. And so will you. I’m still trying to teach you some of the same things I started teaching you 20 years ago.

So I’ve mentioned how frustrated I get with my two year old’s tantrums. But my five year old can be just as frustrating. Recently, we’ve been trying to teach her some of the same lessons. Over and over and over. We remind her about manners and attitude and compassion and empathy repeatedly. And she repeats the same mistakes over and over and over. And our conversation always goes something like this: “Abby, why did you do that? We have talked about how you should behave.” And her answer is always either “I just forgot” or “I can’t remember to do that”. And I always get exasperated with her and explain how I just reminded her a few minutes ago and you can’t possibly forget that fast. But this is what God said this morning:  She’s just like you. How many times have you apologized to Me for the same thing? And how many times have I gently reminded you and forgiven you for the same things? Over and over and over. Think about everything your girls are trying to learn. Be patient. As I am patient with you.

2. You don’t like it when I yell, neither do they.

So I have a problem with yelling. My husband is the calm and controlled parent. So sometimes I let him handle more of the discipline than I do. I know I will end up yelling. A lot. And my daughter is just like me. So we will both be yelling. And crying. But this is something I have prayed about a lot recently. For patience with my girls. And calmness. And the ability to control my tongue. But here is what He said this morning: Sometimes I whisper. I use subtle gentle ways to get your attention. Sometimes I have to yell to get your attention. Don’t you feel bad when I have to yell? Remember that your girls feel the same way. And that I don’t keep yelling, even when you don’t listen. Talk to your girls. Really listen to them. And just as I sent my Son to be a living example for you, be a living example for them. And for everyone else in your life.

3. No matter how many times you make the same mistake, I love you unconditionally. Just as you love your girls. Remember that. All the time.

Sometimes I can’t even imagine why my God would love me as much as He does. I mess up. A lot. But then He blessed with me with two wonderful daughters. And now I know. The love you have for your child is unlike any other. It’s the kind of love that causes you to cry before Kindergarten graduations (not ready for that tomorrow). That causes you to be fiercely protective and overly affectionate. The kind of love that makes up for sleepless nights and frustrating tantrums. The kind of love that allows you to forgive them for making the same mistakes over and over again. That causes you to find their faults cute or charming. The kind of love that would lead you to lay down your life for them if they were in danger. It’s an overwhelming, sometimes gut-wrenching, always rewarding, amazing love that is like no other. And that love pales in comparison to the way God loves us. Remember that. All the time.

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Terrific Terrible Twos

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My kids are five and two, so I don’t have experience yet with parenting and disciplining older children. I do work in a pediatric clinic where I work with parents on these tasks at all ages, and have done a lot of studying on various methods of parenting and disciplining. And I have come to the conclusion that there is no more frustrating task in life than parenting a 2 year old. Every age of childhood comes with its own challenges, and it definitely doesn’t get easier. But I think the absolutely most frustrating thing on earth is to try to reason with a 2 year old. Especially in public.

Here is a quick snapshot of our week:

Saturday and Sunday – Visiting family at the farm. Two year old plays hard without enough sleep. Two year old becomes excessively whiny and refuses to do anything that she is asked to do. Multiple tantrums which involve screaming and throwing herself on the ground, or curling up in a ball and refusing to move when told to. Screams and fights for 10 minutes to avoid getting in the bath, screams and fights for 10 minutes because she doesn’t want to get out of the bath. Screams for 20 minutes because she doesn’t want to go to sleep in her bed. Take her out of her bed to rock (since I am an understanding mom and know it is not her fault that she’s so tired), 5 minutes later she asks to be put back in her bed. Grandparents looking on with a smug smile, probably thinking “you deserve this for what you did to us as a child.”

Monday – Excellent day at daycare. Take her to kids night at Chick-Fil-A since she had no potty accidents all day. Continually stands up in high chair (we are back to the high chair because she won’t stay in the booth/chair). Finally, after much bargaining and screaming, eats 2 chicken nuggets and 2 fries so she can go to the playroom. Hides in corner of playroom and poops in her panties. Throws a screaming fit in the bathroom because I suggest throwing the poopy panties away. I leave the bathroom with poopy panties in my pocket, and a 2 year old who has stiffened her entire body as tight as possible. Carry the boardlike, screaming child to the table, grab my purse, tell my husband to let her sister play and we’ll see them at home. Meanwhile, everyone stares at the exasperated lady with the screaming child.

Tuesday – Dinner at our friends’ house. Everything is going great. Then she poops in the panties again (because the potty is “yucky”). Throws another fit about the panties. They go in the trash anyway. Refuses to leave. Refuses to get in the van.

Wednesday – First ever horrible drop-off at daycare. She loves daycare. Today she just wanted to “GO HOME!” Full out screaming as loud as she could fit. Had to drag her by her arm into the building and then lean on the door to keep her from escaping. Her favorite teachers try to reason with her. Ms. Twila ends up carrying the board-like child into the classroom and reassuring me that she will be fine (which I know she will). All other parents are staring at me.

Here is what I have concluded: Two year olds are just as frustrated as we are. That’s the whole problem. They get upset and don’t know how to handle it. We can try to teach them how to say “I’m angry or I’m frustrated” and how to control their emotions, but they just have to learn how to control it on their own. Don’t we all? A short few minutes in time out in her crib and she’s ready to apologize and is back to her normal self. The problem is all those fits that take place in public. Where you can’t just let them cry it out for a few minutes, because everyone else is trying to eat, or shop, or work. Where you are afraid to really discipline your child, because other people might judge you. You’ll be criticized if you yell. Criticized if you spank. Criticized if you put them in time out. But you’ll probably be criticized if you don’t do anything also. Parents of two year olds can’t win.

So, here is where you find comfort and hope. Not everyone is staring at you. At least a few people around you have a 2 year old or recently raised one. Those people are like me. They feel for you. They know exactly how embarrassed and frustrated you are. I often just smile and say a little prayer for these poor moms and dads cause I know how bad it is. For the rest of you: Don’t stare. If it’s been awhile since you had a two year old, try to remember that your little angel did the same thing at some point. They all do. If you haven’t had kids, you have no idea what living with a two year old is like. Even the best parents out there will have to suffer through at least a few months of these “terrible twos”. So cut them some slack.

The only advice I have is this: Cut yourself some slack. All two year olds are going to do it. Don’t give in to their demands. Leave if you have to leave. If you can’t leave, bribe them if you have to. It’s a lot less embarrassing for your two year old to throw a fit in public than your five year old. So deal with it now. Persevere. Continue teaching and disciplining even though it seems like it isn’t doing any good. Say a little prayer and ask God to provide you with love, and kindness, and patience. Or at least the ability not to cry in public. It’ll be over before you know it. And remember that there are thousands of moms and dads out there going through the same thing, may be even sitting at the table right next to you saying a little prayer for you.

P.S. – I actually kind of hate the term “terrible twos”. Yes, parenting a two year old can be crazy frustrating on a daily basis. But the two year old isn’t terrible. They are wonderful, beautiful, smart, funny, cuddly, terrific little kids who are just trying to find their independance and figure life out. Cut them some slack too.