The wisest of women builds her house,
but folly with her own hands tears it down. (Prov. 14:1)
As mommy missionaries a lot of our parenting takes place in the context of ministry to college students and young adults. The other night I was at a baby shower for one of our EDGE’rs, Rachel Weakly, and we had a great prayer time for her and baby Audrey. She is just beginning this journey of parenting in the context of campus ministry.
At the shower we were each given a piece of paper with a Bible verse and a spiritual quality to pray for her and Audrey. Mine was self-control. So I have been thinking a lot about that and how important developing self-control in myself and in my kids has been.
One of the biggest surprises when you become a parent is that you no longer are able to do things when, where, or how you want. For example, all of my life I had been a “wake up and get immediately in the shower” kind of person. After I had Tom, I realized that foundational part of my routine was no longer a given. Quite a shock.
Then, when the kids are little, you find that the demands are constant. If they are awake, they need you. They are so cute, and precious and adorable…but so needy. They need need need need you. And if they don’t need you, they want to be near you.
God has used these constant pressures of parenting to cultivate self control in my life, both in myself and in my kids. It didn’t look pretty in the process though.
God Cultivating Self-Control in Me
I remember one day in Wisconsin I took all three kids to a home improvement store. Rachel was an infant in a car seat, Kayla was 2 ½ and Tom was 5 ½. As we left the store, it began to pour down rain. I ran to the car carrying Rachel in the car seat, and held Kayla’s hand with my other free hand. I needed Tom to carry something, but I don’t remember what it was. All I know is that when I reached the van, I looked back and there was Tom standing in the middle of the parking lot and he had dropped the item I needed him to carry and it was lying in a puddle.
I went berserk. I began screaming at him and yelling and yelling and yelling. I was tired, the rain was pouring down, I had just needed him to do one thing; he didn’t do it; and I lost it.
Tom just stood there in the pouring rain and took it while I screamed at him.
I got everyone loaded in the car and I sat there in the driver’s seat, shaking with anger.
And then I realized what I had done.
In all of my mom adult power, I had lost every shred of self-control I possessed and had just ripped my five year old to emotional bits and he was powerless to do anything about it. He couldn’t even look at me reproachfully, because when you are five, Mom is always right.
That incident is frozen in my mind; I wish I could go back and redo that day. It kills me to think that I would treat my precious son in such a way.
But what I realized in that incident was that as a mom of young children, I had absolutely no accountability. It was just me and the kids, all day, with no one but them to witness my behavior or words, and they had to take whatever I dished out.
When kids get older, they know when Mom is Behaving Badly. As you are yelling at them, or having a breakdown, or shouting at the stupid driver in front of you, you are very aware by their silence or the look in their eyes that they know (and you know) that you are sinning and acting terribly.
When my kids reached that age, I had accountability. I had people with me who knew when I was being ridiculous. I couldn’t get away with bad behavior.
But when the kids are little, you can.
When I looked in the rearview mirror as I backed my enormous van out of the Menard’s parking lot, I saw Tom’s eyes and I vowed to myself that I would never allow myself to lose control like that again.
Not to say that I would never lose control again in my power. But I knew that as a believer, with the Holy Spirit living inside of me, that self-control was a fruit of the Spirit and that by God’s power I would have it, and that it was a discipline that needed to be cultivated in my life specifically in the area of parenting.
I think that there are many many areas in our lives where we say, “Sinning in this way is not an option in my life.” There are specific behaviors and activities that as a Christian you make the bigger decision not to do, and it cuts out all of the little ones. For instance, before that day, it was easy for me to justify speaking to the kids in anger and to give myself a list of excuses: I’m overtired! They are being obnoxious! I’m stressed about money! Norman’s been out of town for three days!! But if I told myself that it is not okay to yell in anger, no matter what, then I knew that it was always wrong. And to be clear, I am speaking about yelling in anger. When Rachel walked out in front of a car, or grabbed onto the garage door as it was going up…I was definitely yelling!!!
That is what happened to me that day in the parking lot. I committed before the Lord that screaming and yelling in anger at my kids was not an option, ever, no matter what. I had to make that commitment firmly to myself, and draw a line in the sand because, as I said, there was no accountability anywhere else.
I want to be clear that yelling at Tom that day in the parking lot was not an isolated incident. There were many times that I lost my temper and yelled at the kids. That day at Menards was just one of my worst; and it was what God used to make me see I had to make a change in my life. Making that big decision ruled out all of the smaller decisions that usually led to justifying bad behavior. It was a turning point where God was clearly cultivating self-control in my life.
Next Monday Katie will share with us how they developed self control in their kids and included students in on their parenting. Here is a sneak peek at part two – Cultivating Self-Control in my Children – “My mom always said that there was no one she loved in the world like her kids, and she wanted other people to love her kids. That motivated her to teach us…” Trust me, you don’t want to miss it!
Katie and Norm have been on staff since 1998 in WI and now minister in IL. This past year was her first year of parenting to not have a kiddo at home full time! They have been married for 20 years and have 4 children ages 7-18, 2 boys and 2 girls. Katie brings wonderful and focused perspective on what truly matters as she is battling breast cancer for the third time in 6 years.
Katie highlights for us the importance of self-control in parenting -I’m sure we all have our own Menards stories and times of God cultivating change. I know I do! What stood out to you in this piece? What encouraged your heart?