Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Make Mine A Double

I once sent the following to my friend, Michelle, in an e-mail when she discovered that her 2nd child, a boy, had obviously decided not to follow in the same path as his calmer, more complacent sister. I often pull it back up and read my own words to get through the day.

After 17 years of parenting "spirited" boys, I can shed a little light on this subject for you. It may not be pretty, but it will be truthful.

Terrible twos are non-existent. It's the threes that will kill you. It is just one, long war - battle after battle strung together by beads of chaos, frustration, love, laughter, rage, angst, tears, self-pity, prayer, and immeasurable amounts of joy.

Kiss any type of peace goodbye for a long time. Just do it now and come to terms with it or you will find yourself in a futile cycle of seeking something that cannot be sought and then the disappointment that will always follow. Your life will be in chaos. Welcome it, invite it in for tea. It will be there whether you do or not. You might as well become friends.

Do not have unrealistic expectations for a certain outcome when embarking on any type of outing. For this will only set you up for the inevitable fall when exactly what you didn't expect to happen happens. If you have low expectations, the fall is much shorter; and, therefore, less painful. Low expectations can almost always be met. And then you can celebrate your small victory and all will be happy! Always celebrate the small victories, sometimes they must carry you for weeks.

Do not take your spirited child's behavior personally because it is not a reflection of you or your parenting. It is a reflection of a whole different set of ideas that your child was born with and will spend his life in pursuit of. You will not be privy to this list, you will only have the privilege of dealing with the aftermath. Your role in this is to try to drive this wild, runaway train to an acceptable destination and keep it from wrecking along the way. You must also realize that you do not get the final decision on that destination, you may only guide it in a direction that is not harmful to it or anyone else. This is where daily prayer and complete faith in God come in.

Understand that in every mess, every seemingly bad decision, every obscure action, this child has a purpose in mind. Most of the time (if not all) this purpose will not be parallel to your own. This will frustrate you to the point of absurdity. You will have thoughts you never knew your mind could conceive. You will talk out loud to yourself to keep from snapping from reality.

And finally, also know this: you will love this child to within an inch of his life. He will test the absolute boundaries of your soul, but your love for him will stretch even further. I promise you will survive this.

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