When Parenting Knocks the Breath Out of You

The room was dark and we lay facing each other, toe to toe, so close I could feel his breath on my cheek. It was late and we were both tired from an exhausting week, but we needed this.

In the hush of pillow talk, he told me about a conversation with our son. I heard the uncertainty in his words, the way his sentences ended with a question mark. I listened to the voice of a father who loves deeply, but feels inadequate when he can’t protect his children from hurt.

I whispered back reassuring words and reminded him he was enough. And then I gave voice to my concern over our daughters, my own self-doubt and mom guilt. I forced down a sob, when I said the words, “this parenting thing is so hard.”

I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

And so we did the only thing we could think of-the only thing that really works, we prayed for our children together and fell asleep with their names on our lips, tangled arms and legs, in this together.

We have great kids-there’s no subliminal message here, but they are human and they push for freedom we aren’t ready to give, they say things that hurt, they are wounded by friends and face discouragement and failure. So, basically, we’re all a big human mess.

And we’re navigating this journey together, sometimes it’s loud and riveted with pain and it’s always messy.

During a particularly challenging day in which my entire clan was angry at me, I felt like God dropped this truth in my heart and now I’ve got a death grip on it:

Hard parenting doesn’t mean bad parenting. If often reflects good parenting.

Let’s face it, we’re sinners raising little sinners. That’s a whole lot of flesh. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.  And sometimes when it gets hard, it’s because they are fighting against us and ultimately God. And sometimes it’s just plain hard because it’s normal.

Hey you-yes you, that child who refuses to sleep and the one that sucks the very breath out of the room with her drama, that’s normal.

Fight on, weary soldier.

And have some sweet tea.

I was talking to a good friend the other day who has her first foster child (added to her three biological). She was talking of the uncertainty of it all and the mountain of unknowns, the fear and doubt. She said her husband reminded her that this new foster baby was just like their kids–all their children belong to God. They are all His and we are only promised this moment with them.

Simple. Profound.

I tucked that truth right next to the other:

My kids belong to God. He uses their trials to work in them just like He uses mine. 

And sometimes He uses this family thing to grow us all.

Comments

  1. 2

    Misty says

    The truth is, being a good parent is exhausting. I look at my kids and I pray that God will somehow equip me to raise them up to be the woman and man He intends them to be. I’m so ill prepared for this task. In so many other areas of my life, I am completely confident, but as a parent, I am very aware of my own failings. I think it’s because I recognize that this is the greatest ministry opportunity of my life.

    I am very grateful to have found your blog through Pinterest this evening. I’ve been encouraged.

  2. 3

    says

    Thank you! I needed this today. I currently have two non-sleepers and one drama queen, and your “hey you” paragraph hit me right in the gut (in a good way). Thanks.

  3. 4

    cheryl says

    “My kids belong to God. He uses their trials to work in them just like He uses mine. ”
    I am gonna copy and paste this into my parenting notebook. Great reminder!!

    thank you for sharing your heart with us. cause I know you aren’t gonna share your sweet tea!!! hehehe

  4. 5

    says

    Amazing thought for God to let us see him work in our kids through trials – so often we want to fix or help them avoid trials – Oh I pray that I walk with them and not stop them from experiencing Him because it’s hard for Me to watch them hurt.

  5. 7

    says

    It’s crazy that in the midst of all the drama that my preteen goes through, I have never consciously considered that God is shaping her, molding her, and growing her using those trials that she is going through. That she will come out of those trials stronger, and if handled correctly, with a closer relationship with God.
    Thank you for this post!
    I think I’ll go have some sweet tea:)

  6. 8

    Jami says

    Oh my Kristen. I am dealing with a very, very, very stubborn and defiant child right now. Every time I ask something of him, his immediate response is “no, I don’t want to.” I am at my wit’s end and feeling so downhearted right now. It is so hard to be strong, to not just throw my hands up in defeat. I pray for the right words, for the ability to connect with him and learn his “currency,” what works for him. I’m sure there is a lesson for me in it, too, but some days there is no comfort in that. Your statement of “just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent” gives me hope. I know parenting isn’t easy, but sometimes I just want to curl up in a ball. I know the hard work will pay off. I refuse to just let go and not be the parent I know he needs. I thank you for your encouragement, and for your real life experiences too. Thank you Kristen! <3

    • 8.1

      Susan says

      Can I encourage you? My best friend often says she was that difficult, stubborn child for many years and her parents stood strong, though exhausted. I was shocked because she has turned into a kind, loving, AMAZING woman who doesn’t show those characteristics at all. She thanks God for her parents and their determination with God’s hands to shape her. It is worth it!

  7. 9

    Kim says

    Kristen – so well spoken. And such a cute picture of your kids! I’ve been totally feeling the same way this week. Our 11 year olds twins (especially the girl) is really starting to face some peer pressure issues that I’m having a hard time dealing with. The difference in the three personalities is coming out so strong, but it’s showing me how they each are and will deal with those things. So hard not to be able to protect them when they make choices based on their tween (underdeveloped) brains.
    Thanks for your words and encouragement (and for being real).
    Love ya.

  8. 11

    says

    Most likely we’ve whispered the same words. I could relate entirely. Parenting is hard, and the way we handle things (besides prayer – a constant!), seems to always be in need of tweaking/changing. I’m glad that we’re not doing it alone and we can trust in Him.

  9. 13

    says

    “Let’s face it, we’re sinners raising little sinners.
    That’s a whole lot of flesh.
    Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.”

    Thanks for the reminder.
    This..should be a poster on Pinterest.

  10. 14

    says

    In a sea of perfect blogs filled with perfect people in their perfect homes, with perfect families doing perfect crafts while they perfectly parent, and change imperfect furniture perfect so they can make their homes even more perfect, and share it with the world on their perfect blogs, all the while living perfectly, I appreciate your honesty!

  11. 15

    says

    Thanks, needed to hear that from someone else. It is hard, scary and I often feel so out of my league. I never imagined that is how I would feel as a mom.

  12. 20

    says

    Your words brought tears to my eyes and encouragement to my heart: “Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. And sometimes when it gets hard, it’s because they are fighting against us and ultimately God. And sometimes it’s just plain hard because it’s normal.”

    Thank you for that hug!

    Deb Weaver
    thewordweaver.com

  13. 21

    says

    Wow! I so needed this today. I’ve got teenagers… if you can hang onto these truths as you hit this stage of life, you’ll do well!

    Be blessed!

    PS – For me, it’s iced coffee… double shots! Ha!

  14. 23

    Amy says

    Seriously! Are you peeking in my windows or something? Because my 5 month old hasn’t slept her whole life and my 3 almost 4 year old has become so dramatic that we don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve been so beaten down in the parenting realm lately. Thank you for these words. God knew I needed you to post this.

  15. 26

    Erin says

    Sinners raising sinners. So true and humbling. And so important that we admit to our children we are sinners and teach them they are sinners, all in need of grace. Train a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Thanks for the lesson today.

  16. 28

    says

    The best compliment I have ever received was from a friend who said, “You are such a devoted mother”. She didn’t say I was a great mother, or a creative mother, or an energetic mother…but I always remembered her words. Parenting is so hard, that all we can really do is strive to be devoted to God and to raising our children.

  17. 29

    says

    feeling you on this one tonight. we had our “at home date night” and spent time praying for situations for our kids… parenting is so hard! the love i have for these little ones is so great and yet i am so imperfect in my love. again and again i have to turn to Him and give them back into His hands and trust.

    my recent post: it’s all about perspective

  18. 30

    Stephanie says

    We are going thru some tough times with our oldest that just graduated high school. It’s been very difficult and my husband and I had been feeling a lot of guilt and asking ourselves what we did wrong that our son would treat us this way as he makes his run for “freedom”. Your statement of encouragement about hard seasons of parenting have been so encouraging to me in the last week. And I’ve used your statement to encourage my husband too. Thank you…

  19. 31

    Libbie Nouth says

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