Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Book #74

In the end, Drew was the only son who accompanied me to Cultus and he did so with much resentment. I thought the addition of his friend, Matt, would make the whole excursion fun and summer-like and light-hearted, but I was wrong. Again.

He reminded me, loudly, and with great passion, that I am manipulative and controlling and he was tired of me interfering with his life. He then listed all my sins, again (he’s memorized the original list and adds to it, daily), which include:

- I forced him to go to Stillwood Camp last summer
- I signed him up for a 6 week evening volleyball skills class
- When he was in kindergarten I enrolled him in a 8 week gym-time class
with other 4 & 5 year olds
- I took him camping on the long weekend in July
- I made him go on a missions trip to Mexico
- When he was 7, I put him on a t-ball team with other 7 year olds
- I make him come up to the cabin

Truly, this list goes on and on.

As he left to lay on the dock, he leaned over and hissed in my ear, “I am never coming here again.” His anger at me is oozing out of every pore.

“God? Please give me the strength to finish this job of parenting that started 21 years ago. I am tired. Be the parent that my kids need, as I am so not up to the task. Step in wherever I am failing. I know you love them even more than I do, so I trust that You know what’s best for them.”

With both boys at the dock, I set about cleaning up a largely ignored deck. What with all the medical drama we’ve had over the past 2 seasons, and with my dad no longer capable of cabin-maintenance, things are slowly deteriorating. None of us has the time to repaint, pressure-wash, prune or repair. We are an exhausted (lazy?) bunch. I too, am not prepared to tackle anything significant, but I can rearrange the chairs, clean off the table-tops, wipe down the railing and address the flowerpots that I planted up for mother’s day.

They are a straggly mess. Watering has been sporadic, fertilizing non-existent, weeds are flourishing, and everything needs to be deadheaded. I water the completely parched containers first, then go back and add nutrients. I pull out the weeds that have deeply taken root and are stubborn. I snip back all the straggly ends and finally clip off all the blooms that have long since turned brown. They don’t look as good as my pots at home, but they look better and now have a fighting chance of surviving till the next time I make it up here. These pots will always look like a part time gardener took care of them.
I don’t want my kids to look like a part time parent raised them.
I’ve read enough books and sat through enough parenting seminars to know that gardening and pruning are great metaphors for parenting. I know that.
I know that IN MY HEAD. But my heart is struggling with parenting. Because my heart has been hurt with rejection, I am scared that if I prune too severely, or rip out weeds that are too deeply rooted, the geraniums will stop blooming. The geraniums will die. My kids’ love for me will die. They would rather live elsewhere (and they do have options) than be fertilized, watered, pruned and weeded.
There was a period in my life (a 3 – 4 years long period) that I stopped reading my Bible because all I got out of it was a long list of things I had failed at. All I read were long passages outlining things that I should be, and wasn’t. (Patient, kind, forgiving, rising up at 6 to buy and sell foreign properties.) I still have problems with that. It’s a struggle for me to see the story of God’s love… I get all caught up in feeling guilty about not being good enough.
And it was for that reason, that I stopped reading parenting books, too. They didn’t inspire me to be better at it. They illuminated all the ways I’d failed so far. It’s a terrible burden to carry around the luggage of failure. Failure at being a wife. Failure at being a parent. Failure at being thin and fit. Failure at keeping a house clean. Once I get started, that luggage multiples, and before I know it, I have a 7 piece matching set of Samsonite travel bags all weighing me down. .
After my100th blow up with Max yesterday, I realized I can’t keep hiding behind the “I’m out of steam” excuse for not being more proactive in my role as his parent. So, the last thing I threw into my truck before leaving was “Boundaries for Children”. And after I finished reading Glittering Images, I prepared to be hammered over the head with lists of things I should have done years ago.

In between making hotdogs, sweeping the deck, folding towels and glancing at the lake, I read 156 pages. And the number one, over-riding theme that I keep hearing (and I realize this may not be the number one over-riding theme that they were writing…) is that kids are going to rebel loudly, continually, and without filters. They will declare their hatred of you and your rules with zeal and enthusiasm.

And parents? Can’t let their children’s reactions affect them. I think every chapter talks about parents getting support, getting community, getting encouragement, getting their fun, getting their self-esteem from OTHER relationships. If a parent’s only source of love and entertainment is their children, they will be starving and depleted long before their kids have left their teens. Because kids? Don’t want to be responsible for their parent’s happiness.

And the advice they give over and over? Don’t give up. Kids will push and shove at whatever limits and rules you establish. They will do it 1,000 times. Be firm 1,001 times. So, here’s me being firm. My children will be fertilized by a fulltime gardener whether they like it or not. I am still the boss around here.

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