It is easy to get caught in the parenting trap of only seeing the struggle that lies before you. It is hard to remember the days before the current trials that consume us, and hard to imagine a day when that particular challenge is resolved and but a faint distant memory.
While we are living in the middle of it, it seems so very big.
I remember it beginning from the moment I brought Grace home from the hospital…those long, sleepless nights and numb days where I moved like a zombie through the early months of parenting. I thought I’d never be rested again. I thought she would never sleep through the night, and the mission of getting her to sleep became the focus of all my time and energy as I talked to other moms, read parenting books and tried every “solution,” no matter how bizarre, in the hopes I could make her sleep.
In the middle of that season of parenting I couldn’t see past the sleeplessness and fatigue, and I thought the day she slept through the night would never come.
Then there was the potty-training season of life when all my minutes revolved around toilets. Once again I was well equipped to face this parenting challenge like a BOSS. I did my research, I read my books, I had picked the minds of my mommy friends and I was going to do this and do it well. I had the musical potty-chair that rewarded a deposit with a cheery little tune, a sticker chart hung on the wall, and a Rubbermaid filled with M&Ms was ready to be used as incentive.
I began when Grace was 18 months, convinced that being the little over-achiever she was she would get this whole potty thing in no time. It didn’t go as smoothly as planned. The singing toilet freaked her out and she had more fun covering her belly with stickers than placing them on the chart. My plan to have her potty-trained before Molly’s birth was quickly “flushed” and I ended up eating the whole tub of reward M&Ms in discouragement.
For the next year and a half I kept trying and she continued to resist, until one day she initiated the effort and in a matter of days was fully potty trained.
Once again I was lost in that season’s struggle, unable to see past the frustration of unsuccessful attempts at potty-training, certain she would be wearing a diaper as we packed her up for college.
I’m happy to report that she is a diaper-free high school senior.
Those fears were unfounded.
Over the years this pattern has continued to repeat itself in my life. It seems that regardless of the many struggles and challenging seasons I overcome in our parenting journey, when I step into the arena to battle the next “Goliath” my faith waivers, my fears grow, and uncertainty threatens to drown me. I get lost in the current struggle and can’t see past the worries surrounding me. I can’t seem to remember the successes of yesterday or find the hope in tomorrow. I am trapped in the struggles of today.
Do You Know:
The word “Remember” appears 148 times in the Bible.
It is a word I always take note of when I stumble across it in my reading, because I know it is followed by words of importance. The Lord knows how, in our human frailty, we have a tendency to forget the lessons of yesterday.
We forget the answered prayers, the life wins, the blessings.
These memories of answered prayers are lost all the more easily when life is hard.
The struggles of the moment can become blinders on our souls, keeping us focused on the trials, unable to see past the challenge of today.
So, how do we pull those blinders off…
How do we free ourselves from the hopelessness and fears that consume us today?
We count our blessings,
We reflect on the answered prayers and miracles we have experienced in the past,
And we record our journey.
We write it down…the good, the bad and the ugly, so that when we can’t see past the struggles of today we can go back and read the stories of God’s goodness…our personal stories of God’s goodness. We can remember the hopelessness and fears we felt during previously hard seasons of our life and realize that we did survive! We can read the writings of our younger selves who will testify to us that, “this too shall pass.”
And when we struggle to remember, God will graciously remind us.
I had two of these timely reminders just this week as I’ve found myself struggling with the need to see the forest from the trees.
I am drowning in the parenting struggles of raising a son with attachment issues and all that that entails. I found myself lost in fear and discouragement and couldn’t find the hope, and then God answered. He didn’t lift the burdens of today, but he did remind me how He had lifted the burdens of yesterday, which was just what I needed to continue on.
One reminder came in the form of a phone call from a family friend that I haven’t been in contact with in 10 years. She called looking for resources for her son who she suspects has Selective Mutism. He is 3 years old and in the process of being evaluated. As she shared his story I was transported back to Rusty at age 3 and the hopelessness and fear I felt in that season of parenting as we struggled to get Rusty the help he needed to live a normal life. The struggle lasted years and the road to recovery was a long one as we attended conferences, utilized specialists, and sought out the strategies needed to help Rusty overcome the immense anxiety that made him unable to communicate with anyone outside his immediate family.
The journey toward spoken word took Rusty 5 years, and when we were living it, it consumed my thoughts, prayers, time and energy. I worried that he would never be verbal.
Now I look at him and all he has accomplished, and all that he does, and I stand in awe of the miracle that has transpired with this young man. I watch him talk to strangers and laugh with friends and don’t give it a second thought. I guess I have come to take Rusty’s voice for granted. I had forgotten how overwhelming and scary the “what ifs” of that season were until I was sharing our story with that friend.
I also had the unique experience of back to back IEP meetings for two of my children this past week. My first meeting was for Tyler. We met over the phone (teachers, principal, and myself) to address Tyler’s learning disabilities and the struggles he faces due to early childhood neglect. Like many of these hard parenting seasons of life I find myself, especially amid weariness, struggling to find the hope. His obstacles are SO BIG and his progress, SO SLOW, that I wonder if he will ever be able to be an independent learner.
The following day I participated in Gracie’s final IEP meeting. This is her senior year and so her annual IEP meetings are coming to a close. In her meeting Grace sat in with her special education teacher, principal, guidance counselor, and myself.
It was in that meeting I was given the gift of remembrance.
We went over her progress, noting the scores in her initial evaluation at age 10. She has grown so much, from reading at a 1st grade level at that first evaluation where she was diagnosed with Dyslexia, to where she is now as a president of National Honor Society with a 4.0 GPA. In the midst of the struggles to teach her to read I worried she would never be able to succeed in school, much less go on to higher education. I couldn’t see past the daily struggle of working on that same set of sight words day after day. It all seemed so hopeless.
I had forgotten how hard those early elementary years of teaching were as I worked with two daughters with Dyslexia. I was convinced they would never be strong, independent readers. Now both are successful scholars and voracious readers despite the struggles they still battle daily living with Dyslexia. They have learned to take that disability and make it work for them as a unique ability, and Grace intends to go to school to become a special education teacher so that she can help other children find the hidden abilities so often masked as disabilities.
As I sat in that final IEP meeting I remembered.
I remembered those same feelings of fear, worry and discouragement that I felt 8 years ago with Grace, that I feel as I struggle daily to find that magic key that will unlock a love of learning in Tyler. I had an epiphany as I realized that when Grace was Tyler’s age she was struggling with the same reading challenges and reading at the same level as he currently is. I had forgotten. That remembrance was a gift. I was able to see God’s hand in her journey and it strengthened my faith in God’s plan and hand in Tyler’s journey. He will be fine. I just needed to step back from the problem to see the hope that is most easily found when we look at the big picture.
We all find ourselves in seasons of hopelessness, worry and fear. Sometimes these struggles are the BIG things… like a life-threatening illness, loss of a job, or the death of a loved one.
Sometimes it is the smaller challenges, that can be so life consuming, that seem ENORMOUS!
Either way it is important to take a step back, gain perspective, reflect on past struggles or the hard seasons we have navigated that are but a faint memory now, and realize that this too shall pass.
It is but a season.
Eventually that child will sleep through the night, stop biting the other kids in nursery, will use the potty, learn to read, or navigate the roads around town safely and independently. I promise that day will come…
They ALWAYS come,
But if by chance I am wrong, I’m happy to report there is the option of adult diapers for your graduating senior.
It will all be just fine.
God’s got this!