Sunday, September 19, 2010

Parental Shifts

Parental Shifts:

This year has been a year of major changes in our house. Chris came home from Iraq to no job, Ted passed away, and Chris is getting into a new business.

In all of this, Chris has been home a lot more, so there have been some subtle and some not-so-subtle changes in our house. Chris being home means more time with Daddy for our monkeys. This is huge because before it seemed as if Dad was never home enough and everyone couldn't seem to gain enough of his attention. Now as he is home more, it means things are different. It's much harder to make Mom's life difficult because Daddy is home to back her up. This also means that Elizabeth has lost the battle of the food and begun eating almost everything you put in front of her. There are still a few things she balks at, but in comparison to previously, I will gladly take it.

Another change is in the dynamic of the house. Before Chris left I was pretty much a single parent even though he was home on Sunday's all day. Chris worked second shift (not because he loved it, it just happened to be necessary and the only shift available) and so it was the three girls against me. I often second guessed myself - a lot. Especially when it came to Sarah. Sarah's a good kid, but she is still a kid and does things that a normal kid will do from time to time. So I often felt as if I was losing my mind and like maybe it was just me being overly harsh or critical. I know that there are some in our families who have thought that and when you have all those people choosing the kid over backing you up, it makes you think you might not be a good parent. With Chris finally home to see everything, I know it's not just me. Am I still the one who tackles a lot of stuff, yes, but he's there to back me up and help me out a lot more often than before. That is extremely important since we know that within the next two years he will most likely be picked up for redeployment. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when and knowing that he sees it all now and will back me up regardless of the situation, helps the girls and it helps me. I don't think "Thank you" quite covers it.

So on one hand I have a child who is from a different home and so she's literally learning our rules and structure and discipline as a foreign language to her and is playing catch up in this area. Add to this that I am not her biological mother and it makes life interesting at times. Then there is Elizabeth. Elizabeth is 9 yrs old and while Sarah could have waited for her own bus by age 9 yrs old w/o me standing there, that is simply not an option. With Elizabeth's special needs comes a challenge in the fact, that she has little to almost no impulse control and has very little sense of fear. So even though she would love me to let her go to her bus stop alone, it's not an option right now - especially since it requires crossings the street twice to get to her bus stop.

For Elizabeth, the challenges ahead are a different arena than those Sarah and Rebekah who by societal standards fit into a "normal" category. They will never struggle academically or socially like Elizabeth and yet she is in a league all her own - she has an amazing imagination and I can see her creating computer programs or video games or art. . . she loves art.

Last but most definitely not least is Rebekah. She is gaining the benefit of Chris and I learning from Sarah and Elizabeth. By the time that she reaches her teens we will hopefully be more deft at the fine art of navigating puberty and adolescence. Heaven knows we have made our fair share of mistakes with Sarah - ironically mistakes that will not pertain to Elizabeth or Beka because we don't have the challenge of another parent in the mix. And yet, I also think Beka will be the one we will need to watch closely more than Elizabeth. Being as sharp as she is, I foresee her trying to pull a lot of stuff over our eyes. Where Elizabeth has little sense of physical danger but fears social situations and large groups - Rebekah has little fear of social situations but is afraid of zoo animals, tornado sirens, vacuum cleaners, strangers she doesn't know (although not introducing herself and us to other children). In some ways she might be safe from danger because she has more sense than to dive off of cliff whereas Elizabeth would leap off of the top step and expect us to catch her.

It is amazing in all of this how difficult it is to find that happy medium between dictatorship and being without rules altogether. I know people who think we have too many rules for Sarah and our girls, but I also know this . . . being a parent isn't a popularity contest. Loving your child means you have to love them enough to let them not always like you. It means loving them enough to be a "no" parent - a parent willing to say no and not allowing their Id to rule when they want to go out and do things that are not a good idea. It means you ask the tough questions and at times wonder if you should reconsider even though you know you have to stand firm. It means teaching your children to be respectful of their elders, to obey the rules, and that rules are there not to stop them from having fun, but to keep them safe.

It reminds me of how God created a series of rules in the Torah for the Children of Israel. These laws were not meant to restrict and confine them so much as to give them structure, discipline and keep them safe. For example: forbidding them from eating pork - back during that time, pigs often had parasites in them and you couldn't always cook them enough to kill the parasites. Do not worship idols, so you don't lose your focus on God. Do not work on the Sabbath - it gave them one day to completely rest and become prepared for the coming work of the week. He even promised them in Jeremiah that he knew the plans he had for them - plans for their benefit not for their harm. That doesn't mean it's easy to follow the rules, nor is it easy to be the one dishing out the discipline. I don't know a parent who enjoys hearing their child cry because they have been punished (okay not one who doesn't abuse their child). And while I know my daughters may not always like our rules, I also know that our rules are for their benefit, not for their harm or from a lack of love. Quite the opposite. . . someday they will understand that. At least I hope so.

I hope you all have a good week.
Love in Christ,

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