Sunday, August 17, 2014

Parenting By Heart

 Above all else, guard your heart, 
for everything you do flows from it. (Prov 4:23)

Adoption and foster care people who follow Karyn Purvis probably know the statistics.

Scientists say that when dealing with children from hard places, it takes four-hundred repetitions of a new behavior to change the chemistry and wiring of the brain from old patterns.

Four-hundred, people.

Four zero zero.

I think I might die.

Truly this fact makes my heart race and sweat pool under my armpits.

For me, it's a 911 run-out-into-the-middle-of-the-street panic attack if I'm only focused on science and numbers.

Putting the numbers on the back burner, what does this really look like in real life?

It's like this ... my day beginning with answering Little Bitty's first request of the day.  As the sun rises and the rooster crows, she daily makes bizarre breakfast requests.  Currently it is popcorn and cookies.  So, I yawn and give her a choice of two acceptable breakfast items:  you may chose either yogurt or waffles.

Okay, I know this seems so simple, but doing this can be maddening.


Because when I'm without coffee or kindness, I want to say, HELLO it's the same every day!  You can't have the cookies now!

Days also include other repetitions, with eye contact, that she is to ask Mommy or Daddy for a drink or snack or to put her clothes on or to go outside (on and on...) instead of asking her big brothers or sister. 

When she runs to the other kids (or a random person) when she's hurt, I obviously have to step in again.

Reminding her I'm the mom.

It also involves pulling her aside at the grocery store, playground, our driveway, and everywhere else... to refresh her memory that she must ask permission before speaking to strangers.

Because she thinks everyone is a friend.  And girlfriend is extra friendly.

An outing involves me intentionally guiding her back to my lap, my eyes, my arms, rather than those of strangers or even friends.

Our days are still infused with questions and confusion about her past and future.

And a regular assault of moments that need affirmation and coming up with answers to hard questions that sometimes don't have answers.

Has it gotten easier?

No.  Because new circumstances have picked the scab of her expectations of what her future may look like.

There's a regular oozing of raw wounds, exposed and throbbing with more discussions and loud expressions of anger.

And I wonder how in the world am I going to handle four-hundred repetitions?

The purposeful involvement of meeting her needs and building trust?

Many days I handle it completely wrong.

Frustrated to be repeating myself for the hundredth time (this applies to all my kids).

With all our sin issues stirred into the mix, this is a recipe for disaster.

Sin swelling above the rafters of our home.

It's often too much to handle.  And I want to climb in a boat without paddles and float down the the streets overflowing with our sin...never to return.

My repetitive parenting style seems to be frustration and messing up.  Yet, there lies the beauty.  The truth is, I can't handle it on my own.  And I'll never get it exactly right.

But, He will.

I had a shift in thinking this weekend.

A parenting conference with Paul Tripp challenged us on many issues.  (Side note:  yes, I was a complete stalker and followed him out so I could talk to him first and get a picture.  Total groupie.)

I was particularly convicted how I view parenting as a set number of hours in a day.  And Dr. Tripp reminded us that it is not to be done on our time-table or at our convenience.

All the little moments should be viewed instead with awe at the Creator, who is giving us the privilege of showing our children how much they need rescue.  A Savior.

All my heart issues can lead to a dismissive approach-- a quick snapping of fingers and sending them to their rooms, while never addressing their heart or mine.

So, as I lose it for the five-millionth time.  Or roll my eyes because one child is still needling me way past their bedtime, my heart is the issue.  And often, depending on the situation, their heart is the issue as well.

Instead of screaming or throwing up my hands, my prayer should be for MY Rescuer to come quickly to change my heart in that space.

To equip me to parent with an open heart and untightened fists.

With soft eyes and a tender heart...whether it is the repetitive nature of Little Bitty's needs or the whiny child in the backseat.

Dr. Tripp's exhortation was to see each little conflict as a ministry opportunity-- all divine appointments by a God who orders our days.

I'll be honest, the idea of four-hundred repetitions still totally undoes me.

Sends me into a spiral of unbelief and despair when I'm not looking to Him.

By His grace, I can cling to Him.

My repetitive parenting style of blowing it over and over again is not the same as my Father's.  He dances to a rhythm of grace which forgives and equips over and over.  

He is the only place I can take my children for heart change.

My days are often too much for me to bear.  But He can bear the weight.

Because He's here in this home.  In my heart.  In this space.

And He's not leaving.

So I say, BRING IT!

Four-hundred times, four-thousand times, four million times.

My Savior can handle it.

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Beth Templeton said...

I have also learned that parenting is so much more about me receiving as a child from my Father than me doing it right with my children. Great post!!

Melanie Singleton said...

Yes Beth! Thankful we have a tender loving Father we can trust to parent us as well as our kids! Thank you for your reply.