Thursday, January 16, 2014

Offering Grace: Parenting Lessons Learned from my 'Tween

When I became a mother for the first time at the age of 28, I did not think past those baby stages.  The early days were all about learning my child, trying to master (like there IS such a thing) feedings, sleep schedules, teething, and on and on.  My daughter and I lived in this wonderful little world where I was her everything and I could protect her to the best of my abilities. 

The elementary years have been fairly easy. Of course we have had our share of battle of the wills, tears over homework or trying new activities.  But my daughter, she has been pretty easy.  I was still her world and to me she would look for answers, explanations, comfort.

And now we have begun the TWEEN years. 

Never did I even consider what “tween” even really meant when I cuddled my little girl in my arms almost eleven years ago as a newborn.  But everyday I am witnessing just why this is an INBE”TWEEN” phase in her life; a transition from being a child to being a teenager.  A phase in her life where she is breaking from, testing out the waters of independence and just beginning to find her self apart from me.  

It is downright tumultuous at times.
If you have or have had a daughter past the age of nine, you know exactly what I am talking about.  One minute she is playing sweetly with her American Girl dolls and the next she is slamming doors and sobbing uncontrollably with no clear explanation of why.   The sassy attitude, eye rolling, huffing; this cannot possibly be my mild mannered little girl?!  Oh how there are days when I miss that little baby.  Those easier days where she did not talk back nor question her world outside of the one I created for her.
The other day, for whatever reason (need their even BE a reason), my oldest daughter started arguing, very unreasonably mind you, with me.  And then the tears began to flow.  I felt the panic rise up inside of me as I scanned my mental parental manual (the one that I have been praying would just appear inside of my mind since becoming a parent) for the right response.  The right words to get her to just STOP this nonsensical drama and speak reasonably with me.  The right actions of discipline to get her to understand that she cannot react to me, or anyone for that matter, like that.  This behavior absurd! 
And then it dawned on me that I am STILL working on handling my own moods, my own hormonal fluctuations that seem to come out of nowhere (well, maybe every 28 days), and my own reactions to stress.  Here I am, 28 years older than this little girl who is just beginning her journey into womanhood, and I DO NOT HAVE MY CRAP TOGETHER.   

That realization brought me to my knees in humbling submission. 

It has taken me 28 years of learning my moods, myself, my hormones, and what works for me in managing them to get even the slightest grasp on them all and here I am expecting a girl not yet eleven to have it all together?! 

Something tells me the hardest of the parenting years has just begun. 

I have to start to offer my daughter grace. 

Did you know that grace is mentioned 156 times in the New Testament, taking on a special redemptive sense in which God makes available His favor on behalf of sinners, who actually do not deserve it. 

Let that one soak in a minute.

Sinners who DO NOT DESERVE IT.

Sinners like me who fly off the handle, snapping at my loved ones when I cannot handle my own stress and my own crap.  Sinners like my daughter who slams her door in utter frustration with the roller coaster of emotions that are hitting her out of nowhere.  Sinners like you and me, my friend, who screw up every day in so many ways. 

God has shown me grace more times that I can even count.  More times that I am even aware of.  He is my parent, gently guiding me through this life, picking me up again, and again, and again, when I fall, when I fail, when I screw it all up. 

He gifted me as a mother with children to raise and expects me to follow His lead, His perfect example, and do the same.  With grace.

This new phase in my parenting journey, I can tell you already, will be one of the most challenging for me.  I no longer have little babies that I create a little world for where mommy is their everything.  I have children who are trying to figure out just who they are independent from their dad and me and how to handle life.

It will take a lot of humbling, a lot of prayer, and I am sure, a lot of apologies.  But I am vowing to start to show compassion.  And with God’s help and guidance, to show grace.

Will you join me in doing the same?