Sunday, August 28, 2011

Parenting a Fallen Soul

As Elias grows, I always say that he gets more fun to parent because he's learning how to express himself and communicate better, his level of understanding is always increasing, and his personality blossoms as he begins to discover his likes and dislikes.  However, something I've really been grappling with this week is that as his personality strengths blossom, we also begin to see his weaknesses and flaws.  Now, before any doting grandparents protest, I have a wonderful, brilliant, beautiful child who I'm very proud of.  BUT he is still a human, and he DOES have flaws.  Some of them are inborn in his personality, and others were made by the environment he has grown up in.  Most are a combination of both.

What has had me really worrying about them right now, though, is next week he starts "school," a Mother's Day Out program at a local church that he'll go to for 3 hours two days a week.  Being an only child who has always been at home with Mommy, he doesn't have much exposure to other kids, or even adults for that matter, and he desperately needs the social instruction that a school environment will give him.  However, I'm concerned about how he'll do, and I'm just afraid it's going to be a difficult adjustment for his teachers and classmates to teach him the appropriate ways to behave in the classroom setting.  Elias isn't a difficult or disruptive child, but he just wants to do his own thing - play by himself his own way.  So we'll just have to see how long it takes for him to get that he's supposed to listen to the teachers, do what they say, and treat his classmates with respect.  I can tell him all day long that he needs to do those things, but it won't mean anything to him until he's put in the situation to actually put those principles into practice.

So worrying about how he's going to do in the classroom has brought to my attention a lot of his selfish and disobedient tendencies that Justin and I have learned how to cope with at home, but his teachers may not be ready for.  I've been fretting about what we could've or should've done differently to raise him better or teach him better, to work harder to get him used to playing with other kids, to teach him about respecting other people.  But the fact remains that he is who he is now, and nothing I do in the next week is going to change how his first day at school goes.  So fretting is clearly not the answer here.  But I believe there is also a deeper issue here, and that's what I'm really trying to grapple with now.

The truth is that my son is a human soul, born sinful and fallen just like the rest of mankind.  Without the redeeming power of Christ and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, he WILL be selfish, disobedient, and sinful.  Justin & I can (and will) teach him about the proper way to behave as a functional member of society, but even more important than manipulating his behavior is discipling his heart, teaching him about sin and his need for a Savior, and introducing him to the marvelous hope of God's grace.  Before he was born, we read the book Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp (read my first review here), and I'm working on reading it again - although it was instructive the first time I read it, I can actually put it into practice now.

I recognize that only God can save, can actually change Elias' sinful nature and instead give him the mind of Christ, can actually cause Elias to WANT to be good, kind, respectful, and generous.  On the other hand, it is Justin's and my responsibility as his parents to teach him what is right, to train him in the way he should go, to teach him the truth of the Gospel, and to model for him the Christian life.

Honestly, I'm pretty overwhelmed at the thought.  I often still struggle with my own selfishness, so how on earth am I going to teach Elias that he shouldn't be selfish?  Truly, I don't have much of an answer to that besides lots of prayer and relying on God's grace.  The gravity of the responsibility of being a mother has just become heavily real to me this week, and I'm just sharing about it here.  Motherhood is becoming much less about teaching him basic survival and instead teaching him eternal truths.  That's a big deal, and I just want to do it well.


Ashley Haupt said...

I worked my way through Tedd Tripp's book sloooowly over the last year and finished it this summer. It left me feeling heavy and overwhelmed, too, with the responsibility I hold as a parent. I am planning on checking into Elise Fiztpatrick's book "Give Them Grace," which also focuses on pointing your kids to Christ in your parenting. Thanks for sharing, Joni!

Jessica said...

I remember when I made that parenting transition and the overwhelming feeling.

The only piece of advice I have is to ask forgiveness often. I find that I mess up with my kids pretty often: put unfair expectations on them, loose my temper with them, react instead of listen, etc.

When those things happen, I try to be intentional about modeling confession, and give them a chance to practice grace. I feel like if my kids can grow up with confession, grace, and forgiveness as the norm, responding to God might come more easily.

Who knows if it will work. But it's all I got right now. And recognize that God is ultimately going to raise my child. Takes some of the pressure off.

Andrew's Mommy said...

Hi, Joni!

Andrew has been in school for 2 years now and Nathan is starting next week! It's so interesting how differently I look at the transition with the second child!

Elias will do so well. Sure, kids are all "finicky" about things but preschool is such a fun place that they tend to do what everyone else is doing without much question. They also will have teachers who are used to kids and who seem to know "kid magic" in getting them to do what they need them to do.

I hope you can find time to enjoy a coffee or a walk alone once he starts. Pray for him, his teachers, and his classmates... and send him on in! It will be FANTASTIc!!

You are such a wonderful and real mom! You will love those few hours a week to feel like your old self! :)


Suze said...

Also, he's 3. Acting selfish and defiant is totally natural for a 3yo. From my standpoint, I don't call it sinfulness, I call it natural human behavior in child development. But of course whatever way you choose to teach him kindness and generosity and respect, the important thing is that he learns those things! And it sounds like you are :)