Motherhood

The Good, Bad, & Ugly of Raising a Strong Willed Child

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By:  Audrey Huck
Here we were again; another day of seemingly constant battles. Feeling desperate, I glance at the clock. 9:00 am. Only nine in the morning and already we’ve had three knock out battles. Only nine in the morning and I’ve already begun crying, dreading another day of seemingly constant tantrums and battles of wills. Only nine in the morning and my regular mantra of “Lord, help!” has escaped my lips more times than I can count.
When I first became a parent, I naively felt like I had things pretty much under control. After all, as one of nine children and having spent years of babysitting, nannying, and finally educating children I had received a wellspring of hands on experience in the duties of caring for, teaching, and disciplining children. Motherhood felt like a natural fit as I saw the fruition of my greatest dreams come true. In fact, as my husband and I prepared to leave the hospital with our newborn daughter the nurse commented that we were two of the most comfortable first time parents she had ever seen.
And even though there were struggles during that first 18 months, most especially with juggling the challenges of motherhood while working full time, that confidence largely continued. My daughter was an easy baby. She was rarely fussy, began conversing with us early on, and actually asked to be put to sleep when she was ready for nap-time or bedtime. I don’t mean to imply that she was/is perfect, but I understood how to guide and discipline her, rarely feeling I was “in over my head.”
And then 18 months and a few weeks later we were blessed with our precious son. Each child is completely unique and it became apparent early on that he would be radically different from his sister. Almost instantly our little man showed signs of his great determination. He could break out of a swaddle (no matter how tight) by the time he was three weeks old; he rolled over for the first time at 2 months, and was walking at 9 1/2 months old. He remains a bundle of passion and energy, wholeheartedly entering into every emotion he feels and occupation he undertakes. This means he can be the greatest of lovers, the most delightful bundle of giggles and fun, or (more frequently then not) an unmovable force of anger and frustration when things don’t go his way. His little body is literally overcome by his emotions, having to be expressed outwardly in some way what he feels inside. When he’s happy, he is continuously hugging and kissing you, and when he is angry or frustrated he has to strike out at someone or something—even if it’s himself.
Though not even two years old, our son lives by one philosophy: If I try hard enough, it will happen. I’ve seen this time and time again. A few weeks ago he continued to try to climb up the slide for nearly twenty minutes until he eventually succeeded. If someone closes a door on him, he will continue to run into it, like a battering ram, until it either opens or he is physically removed. When put in timeout, he throws out his arms and says, “Why?!” And much to his mother’s horror, we’ve already had to transition him into a big boy bed to prevent him from breaking his neck while climbing up and throwing himself down from the crib. He has no fear; nothing holds him back from achieving his goals.
For me as a parent, this is both awe-inspiring and terrifying all at the same time. I remind myself over and over again that his determination, strength of character, and passion will all be tools that will enable him to succeed in adulthood; that if I can teach him to channel his intensity, rather than trying to stifle it, he will soar; that these are the qualities which characterize great men and women.

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But there-in lies the rub, for it is my job to help him positively express these emotions and qualities; to help him positively channel his emotions. How can I get through to him when his anger engulfs him? How can I communicate more effectively with him, helping him understand the ‘why’ behind the consequence or decision? How can I prevent my own temper from flaring when I feel overwhelmed and grow tired of the fight? In those moments when I desperately want him to just comply, rather than question and struggle.
Perhaps the hardest thing of all about having a strong willed child is what it reveals about us, the parent. Nothing brings out your own hidden vices like a child, especially a strong willed one. There is no room for selfishness, pride, and impatience when raising children; no place to hide our secret vanities. They inevitably come out when we are tired and emotions are flying high. And our children learn far more from these outbursts and ways of dealing with stress than anything else we tell them.
And though I’ve jokingly said, “He’s either going to break or make me,” there is truth to this statement. Raising a strong willed child brings you to your knees like nothing else. In those moments when I feel at an utter loss, or worse those moments when I fail, I go to my Heavenly Father begging for his grace and wisdom. And in the process, I’m forced to battle with my own demons which prevent me from loving and disciplining my child the way he needs and deserves.

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Raising children whatever their natural disposition isn’t easy. We are all works in progress and–because of our fallen nature–we are all born with certain inclinations toward sin. Maybe it’s more obvious in your strong willed little one, but it is there in us all. And truth be told, though I have my moments of feeling defeated and overwhelmed, I wouldn’t have my headstrong boy any other way because then he wouldn’t be my boy. And though tempers can get ugly, and we have our bad days, the good far outweighs the bad. We’re helping each other get to heaven, and that’s what it’s all about.

Motherhood

I Couldn’t Fathom

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By:  Sherry Clair
(Continued from: I Didn’t Want Him)

We shared the news with family and began moving forward; however my anger at God had not dissipated and I reminded Him often. Just over six month pregnant, I was taking a moment to mentally glare and grumble at God. I was suddenly so overwhelmed with such a fierce love, a severe longing and desire to have my baby that it brought me to my knees, sobbing. I wasn’t frightened by his movement anymore; I was terrified of never feeling it again. I wasn’t overwhelmed at the possibility of difficulties in the future but overcome with the absolute want and need to have a future with this baby. For Abi to hold her brother, for josh to meet his son, to hold him in his arms and tuck my nose into his neck and breathe in the scent that would be so uniquely Gabe. I WANTED my baby. I knelt begging for forgiveness and praying for my son. I was no longer angry, but I still wanted to understand why? The answer that I FELT was clear, Lazarus. I found a bible and began to read.

Lazarus and his two sisters; Mary and Martha were beloved friends of Jesus and he often stayed with the family when his travels brought him through Bethany. Martha often served as hostess and Mary spent time listening and learning from Jesus. Mary even acted with extravagant abandon and devotion, when she used perfume, costing a year’s worth of wages, to wash Jesus’ feet, unknowingly anointing and preparing him for his upcoming burial.

In John chapter 11 we discover that Lazarus has fallen ill, his condition is so concerning that the sisters send word, imploring Jesus to return and heal their brother. Despite the fact that Jesus loved the family very much, he remained where he was for two additional days stating in verse 4 that “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death, no, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this”.

When Jesus decided the time was right for him to return to Bethany, the disciples attempted to dissuade him, expressing their concern over the risk that he was taking traveling through the area where so many were scheming for his destruction. Jesus was unmoved and shared with them in verse 11 “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up” seeing the disciples confusion he continued “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes I am glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come let’s go see him.” When Jesus arrived in Bethany he was told that Lazarus had been in the grave for four days; by all appearances he was too late.

I stopped and reread; Jesus loved this family, but didn’t go to them, he let Lazarus die. I didn’t understand, Jesus had SAID that his sickness wouldn’t end in death. I could understand why leaving the work God had given him might not have been possible, but I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t have healed Lazarus anyway. In Matthew chapter 8 a centurion came to Jesus requesting he heal his servant, who was in bed at home. He knew that Jesus had the authority to just speak and it would be done. If Jesus did it for the centurion’s servant why didn’t He do it for Lazarus?

I kept reading; understandably Mary and Martha were devastated. Not only had they lost their brother, but I imagine that they may have felt a loss of hope. If they believed that their brother would not perish due to the awesome authority of Jesus, it must have come as an even bigger shock when he did succumb to his illness. Mary, Martha, their family and the community were grieving the loss of their loved one when Jesus arrived. Martha and Mary, each in turn, went to him saying “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died”. To them, the chance for a miracle had passed away when their brother breathed his last breath. It must have been so difficult for them to understand, why a man who had performed countless miracles and had the authority to make the lame walk, give sight to the blind and a voice to the mute, let someone he loved perish.

Jesus knew Mary and Martha’s hearts; he knew that they believed the time had passed to heal Lazarus. Mary, Martha and the entire community stood wailing and grieving over the loss of their loved one. As Jesus stood witnessing this overwhelming grief, he was deeply moved and became very troubled in his spirit. John 11:33 describes his feelings as “a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled”. I couldn’t understand why Jesus could be angry with Mary and Martha, he was the one who let Lazarus die. I am sure that he felt some frustration over the disbelief that he was witnessing in Mary and Martha, but maybe His feelings weren’t directed only towards those that were present. I believe that it was toward death itself; the pain and sorrow that had to be caused to ultimately bring glory to God.

Jesus was so troubled within his spirit over the situation that Verse 35 says that He wept. Jesus wasn’t weeping over the death of Lazarus, he KNEW that Lazarus had to die and be raised from the dead. He was weeping with and for those that he loved. Understanding the way Jesus felt standing outside Lazarus’s tomb, I was able to understand the grief that He must have felt when we received Gabe’s diagnosis; the sorrow that he had to have had over my devastation and anger when my prayer hadn’t been answered. How wrong I had been that day when I turned my eyes towards Heaven imagining a heartless and detached God, His heart had to be aching as much or more than mine at my sorrow and despair. It didn’t bring God any joy to not send the answer we were expecting.

Verse 39 finds Jesus going to the tomb and demanding that the stone be rolled away. His request met resistance from a concerned Martha, who still didn’t understand what was about to occur. She responded “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible”. Jesus must have been further troubled knowing Martha was almost unknowingly refusing a miracle because she was concerned about the smell. Jesus could only respond to Martha by saying “didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believed”. In verse 41 Jesus turned his face towards heaven and said “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Verse 43 then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out”.

Lazarus was dead; his heart had stopped pumping blood to his organs causing them to shut down and stop working all together, the blood pooled in his body becoming thick and stagnant. He was not breathing; no oxygen was being shuttled to and from the lungs. Lazarus had been taken and prepared according to Jewish customs. His body cold and firm, wrapped from head to toe in burial cloth, laid inside a cave, covered with a large rock and left to decay for four days. Jesus called out to him, called him to draw breath and life back into body, for his heart to beat again; Lazarus stood and exited the tomb.

I don’t know why Gabe has Down syndrome; I don’t know why God chose this path for my family. I don’t know why bad things happen or why sometimes God doesn’t heed our call for help or rapidly answer our prayers. But I do that know Lazarus died. Jesus didn’t heal him from his illness; he grieved with and for those he loved. I also know that Jesus made an opportunity by not healing Lazarus; He had an opportunity to bring Glory to God.

Gabe is perfect; he is smart, strong and so sweet. He is joyous, inquisitive and gentle. He was born without complication and has had none of the medical issues and conditions that are so common for individuals with Down syndrome. He is growing and meeting his milestones. God didn’t miss an opportunity, he made one. When I look at Gabe I am reminded of Lazarus, I am reminded each day that of the opportunity that God has given us; one that has strengthened our faith, taught us unconditional love, and has brought Him Glory.

…I don’t know what your thoughts are, that’s a blessing and a curse. Maybe you’re in a similar situation, maybe you’re facing a prenatal or birth diagnosis of Down syndrome, or any situation that you just can’t seem to understand. You may not be the only one thinking the things your thinking, no matter how bad they may sound in your head. You know my thoughts now, and I hope you know that you’re not alone…