We were out of milk. We needed milk, a can of tomatoes, and shampoo. And a birthday card. And maybe something fun while we’re out. It was a Monday morning with nowhere we needed to be, I just might even get a chance to browse.
Is this plan unreasonable? A morning Target run after I drop our oldest off at school, just long enough to grab a few groceries and scan the clearance aisle. Don’t I deserve new gloves, maybe a scarf to go with them, and three minutes to enjoy deliberating over the color?
But before we had even left home that Monday I knew that it was going to be one of those days. First aggressive combat was needed to get out the door, and then there were emphatic opinions about the music in the car and the situation did not improve when we got to Target but only grew louder and more persistent, quickly inspiring the younger sister to do likewise. And nothing can ruin a sweet deal on layering tanks like two irrational children in the cart.
I was angry. By the time we left the store I wanted to wail, as well. There was a time when I would have been embarrassed by the behavior, or stressed-out, but on this day I was just mad. Didn’t I deserve thirty minutes to shop? The whole way home I fumed and when we walked in the door I sent one to her rocking chair to chill out, and to give myself a chance to calm down as well. I knew that she needed discipline, but I needed to think first.
I have three very different daughters and I haven’t always understood their reactions or what triggers them. To my great regret I have in the past reacted out of my own frustration rather than understanding.
I know by now that this child is easily over-stimulated. She hates the bright lights and distractions in a store, she always has. We’d had an especially busy weekend which is always extra hard on this child who prefers home and quiet. On this Monday morning I’d have been wiser to grab the milk and leave rather than wandering the aisles.
Of course our children need to learn to obey, but there is another equally essential principal which is “Fathers, do not exasperate your children” (Ephesians 6:4).
It helps to remember that I am still a work in progress, that I can be irrational and triggered by small things. Think of the things we depend on heavily, and how we might react if they were taken from us: our morning coffee, our internet connection, hair gel; if I as a grown adult have certain things that I need to cope with life, why would I expect my four year old to be able to pull herself together when she feels overwhelmed?
“You’re at your wits about what to do. You don’t want her to become a wild out-of-control teenager, but discipline is not working, in fact, she laughs in the face of discipline . . . I mean, what do you do with a child like that? Well, I’ll tell you what I’m learning.You love them like mad.More specifically, Tell your little one that they are a delight. Sometimes with this one, the words have to come first. I was not delighting my darling Caroline, but I said the words to her, “you, Caroline, are a delight!” and in my head I would pray, ‘Oh Father, please make these words true.’ And He did.”
As parents we are given the responsibility to correct, train, discipline. Yes. But these flow out of our delight in them. They do not earn our delight. They are a delight because God created them. Because He delights in them. Even in their wild moments. Even when they meltdown at Target.
Somehow in my mess God is ever patient and merciful toward me; slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. If only I could parent my children as graciously as my Heavenly Father does me.
Later I went to her rocking in her rocking chair, gathered her onto my lap and told her, “Annie, you are a delight. You make me so happy. Do you know that?” We didn’t need to talk anymore about our angry morning. Later she came to me, “Mom I’m not going to throw fits anymore. I’m never going to do that.” She has promised this before, and so I smiled and hugged her and said, “you know what Annie, even if you do I will still always, always love you.”
“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zepheniah 3:17
(originally published in the Budget- this is the blog version.)