I have three wonderful children and one on the way. As any mother of multiple children will tell you, each child comes with their unique personality. It baffles me how children being raised the same way can bring such a different dynamic to the family unit. As it stands right now, my eldest is my most challenging child. I used to say that with frustration, but lately I’ve been feeling pretty darn grateful for the difficulties I face with her. It sounds strange, right? But over the past three years, what were once feelings of irritation in raising my eldest have now turned into appreciation for all that I’ve learned. This transformation did not come without cause.
Almost three years ago, I heard this talk by Lynn G. Robbins that I have referenced several times since. The portion of his talk that stuck with me and led to my change in perspective was this, “A sweet and obedient child will enroll a father or mother only in Parenting 101. If you are blessed with a child who tests your patience to the nth degree, you will be enrolled in Parenting 505…With which child will your patience, long-suffering, and other Christlike virtues most likely be tested, developed and refined? Could it be possible that you need this child as much as this child needs you?” Those words were enlightening to me.
My eldest is actually a really amazing little girl. It’s more my struggle in learning how to be a mother that leads she and I to butt heads so often. Also, it doesn’t help that she’s a lot like me. I’m still trying to figure out how to handle myself, let alone raise a mini-me. How do you teach a child to communicate calmly when you yourself are quick to escalate? Motherhood is just tough stuff and it gets more challenging when you’re raising the child who tends to test your patience to the nth degree.
I think about my various struggles with my eldest over the years and most every incident resulted in me learning a lesson. The most obvious lesson I’ve had to learn repeatedly is patience. I will likely be tested on this virtue until I leave this world. I am just not very patient. However, if I have made any improvement in this department, I owe it entirely to my eldest who has given me multiple instances to try and try again. I write these words with sincerity. Of course, in the middle of our battles, I could not tell you that I am grateful for her behavior nor my own. But reflecting on how far I’ve come through the years has humbled me.
Another thing that my eldest has taught me is how to refine myself to be the woman and mother that I want to be. Previously, I just sort of floated through life thinking I was a decent person and likable enough and that was that. I didn’t feel like I owed it to anyone to be the best version of myself. I wasn’t trying to be a lesser version of myself, I just hadn’t given it any thought one way or the other. That can change when you have a child, whether they be the prerequisite to Parenting 101 or Parenting 505. Realizing that I am the model for my children’s behavior has made me evaluate what kind of model I am giving them. Many of us are familiar with the saying, “When you point one finger, three fingers are pointing back at you.” I feel like all the disappointed finger pointing I have done towards my children has led me to really reflect on my role in their behavior. As a result, I’ve had the chance to work on my shortcomings.
That’s what I love about life. We can change and grow. There are exceptions to the rule, of course. The number one exception being that change will not happen if one does not truly want it to be so. But I believe that change can happen. I’ve seen it happen in my own life. I have terrible memories of how I would respond to my daughter when we didn’t see eye-to-eye. I still catch myself getting caught up in a moment and reverting back to my senseless yelling. I thought I was helping by scolding her so much that she would not want to ever see that side of me. But she’s taught me that my method does no good with her personality. I have had to humble myself. I continually pray for guidance on how to best raise her so that she can reach her full potential. What is more conducive to change and growth than humbling yourself and admitting that maybe you really don’t know what’s best? That’s what Parenting 505 can teach you. The child that enrolls you in Parenting 505 is the child that says, “Nope. You still have more to learn.”
Through out my learning process with my eldest, I have come to realize that the number one trigger to her poor behavior is when I’m not doing well personally. She feeds off of the vibe I’m sending out. This has been eye-opening for me, as I have to step back and try to find the true root of our struggle. Sometimes it’s my sincere irritation with one of her white lies and other times it’s ill-founded frustration that I take out on her because I’m stressed about something else. The latter being an unbecoming behavior that I long to change. And then I think again about Robbins words, “Could it be possible that you need this child as much as this child needs you?”
I’m realizing that I need my eldest more than she needs me. Being a mother to her has strengthened my resolve to be better and do better each day. I’m truly grateful that my eldest enrolled me in Parenting 505 and I pray that I don’t fail her or the class.