I was laying on my best friend's couch. Lately, I feel drained. Maybe that is just the busyness spring, maybe it is something more. Regardless of the reason, I am beat.
Sometimes on Sundays, we have a little time to visit, she and I. We look forward to talking with face to face and the words flow fast and furious from both of us. Daily phone conversations are fine but time is what we need. So, there I was, relaxing a minute and telling her about a frustrating event in our home.
You see, we have this drain. It is the tub drain in the bathroom my children use. And it no longer works. About a week and a half ago, it suddenly and inexplicably stopped draining... mid-shower. Now, I have been at this parenting stuff for long enough to know that something went down that drain and that the child who was in the shower at the time it stopped working likely knows exactly what that thing is. But, no matter how we ask, we cannot seem to get to the bottom of that dilemma. Which is how I found myself laying exhausted on my best friend's couch, talking it out.
While I was there, Mark texted me from home and said he believed that whatever went down the drain was plastic. Red plastic. I sent him back questions and tried to understand how anything red and plastic would be small enough to fit down that drain. He answered with only two words.
Sharing this with my friend, she asked the logical question I was desperately trying to avoid.
"Why would one of your children break something and send it down the drain?"
My answer came from years of lessons, parenting lessons, living-with-lots-of-kids lessons.
"I no longer ever ask why."
Seems like I could spend years seeking after that answer...
"Why did you push your sister?"
"Why didn't you tell the truth?"
"Why did you trade your sandwich for Oreos?" (Okay, that one I actually understand.)
"Why didn't you study for your test?"
"Why did you hide this paper?"
"Why is there candy in your room?"
"Why did you speak unkindly to your brother?"
"Why did you misbehave in Sunday school?"
But, the answer is always the same. "I don't know." And that does not help at all.
Sometimes I still slip and find myself asking, for 2 millionth time, why in the world something surprising has happened. Because the truth is, I really want to know. I want to know why crazy things occur and why they misbehave and why they do not do what I said to do when I said it needed to be done. And as the words escape my mouth, I can feel the frustration rising and I know that the answer just will not come. And the truth is, even if it did, it would not matter.
Because why something happened is just not the point.
Of course I want to be understanding. Sometimes kids just do things, just because they are kids. Sometimes you have a bad day. Some of my kids have struggles. Sometimes this is the why behind the things that happen at home. But, it is not the explanation. And I can be loving and understanding and compassionate and still know the why is not the point.
The point is that I am their momma. And Mark is their daddy. And the buck stops here. What we say goes. Period. So knowing why they do something matters a whole lot less than actually getting up off our butts to make sure that they know that doing right and choosing right is what we expect today. And tomorrow. And from now on. Yes, they will make mistakes. But, it is our job to help them learn from them. It is our job to focus, not on what leads them astray, but on what will lead them forward.
-You will be kind to your siblings.
-You will speak the truth.
-You will eat what we send in your lunchbox.
-You will be held accountable for your test and your papers and the state of your room.
-You will speak and act kindly.
-You will behave with and without me.
-And... you will not break plastic and send it down the drain.
Sometimes parenting is hard. OFTEN, parenting is hard. But, I want to remember that there is much to distract me from the work I must do with my kids. I want to know why it all happens and that question still plays in my head. But, with all my might I am fighting the asking because that seems to offer some reason for something that should have never happened at all.
And maybe, just maybe, when I am tempted to ask, I need to see that as a reminder instead. There is a teaching moment at hand when I want to ask why. It is a time for me to see, though I may have taught it many times before, that I need to teach my child right from wrong, blessing from curse, good choice from bad. Again. And again. Even when I am tired.
That is what really matters. It matters that I show up. It matters that I don't give up. It matters that I focus on helping them choose because the days that I have with them are few. And when they are grown and they make their choices and their lives are rolling onward and upward, I want to know that I did what I could to help them to be ready for what lies ahead. Knowing why will not mean anything then. What will matter is that we have used these days to teach them, to talk with them, to love them, to mentor them, to pray with and for them and to raise them to do what is right and good.
I won't always get that right. I will fail and miss opportunities and act out of frustration and find myself drained. Which, really, is all okay. As long as I get back up, rejoin the game, resume the lesson, and keep on going. Getting stuck in the mire is normal. Staying there means I am missing the chance to come alongside one of my four and teach what needs to be taught. There is joy hidden deep in that work, for me and for all of them.
This job is big but I want to remember that these four children were entrusted to me. And not only do I adore them but I also want to do right by them.
Even when there is plastic down the drain.
Blessings on your day.
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