Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Bringing Up Isaac
Before I had kids (BIHD), I had many ideas about how things would go when I was a parent. I believed that if parents had clear expectations and were consistent, the children would fall into place and be model citizens. It worked great until Isaac was about 18 months old...then it happened. He became aware of his own wants and desires. It has been a struggle for me ever since. Phrases that I used to dismiss as excuses now apply to my son: "All boy." "High energy." Never let anyone tell you that God doesn't have a sense of humor, albeit a twisted one.
I can clearly remember while on vacation one summer, I saw a toddler-age boy walking around Mackinaw City with his parents. Without warning, he suddenly jumped into a nearby puddle left by the recent rain. His parents had no time to react other than to prevent him from doing it again. The words "...such a boy..." drifted to us as we passed by. I remember thinking something along the lines of, "Just because he's a boy doesn't mean you let him get away with bad behavior." How little I knew. I would never have dreamed that one day I'd be taking a picture like this and stating that I view my job as one where I kept him from truly hurting himself in his adventures. That would be the kind of permissiveness that would lead to a wild child. My idea of what qualifies as "permissive" has changed, but not easily.
A war has been raging inside of me. It's a battle that isn't quite finished, but nearly. The opposing sides are my expectations before Isaac and my reality with Isaac. I have these expectations of a child who instinctively knows what is his to touch and what isn't chooses correctly; a child who will sit quietly and play with the same toy for a half hour; a child who sees what his peers are doing and follows their lead. My reality does not equal my expectations. For several months now, this war has been fought, and it has not been pleasant. It was getting to the point that I was so disappointed all the time that I started doubting myself and getting resentful towards Isaac. I was getting after him all the time, frustrated and angry. I no longer enjoyed my little boy, and it was breaking my heart. My boy, who I loved so much at first sight, who I'd felt I'd known forever the moment I saw him. In my effort to mold my child into my own expectations, I was beginning to damage what God had given me.
Terry tried to tell me to "let up on the leash" a little...but I was convinced that I had to be more strict, more controlling, more consistent. The more I pressed, the harder he fought, so that even something so simple as a trip to the bathroom became a power struggle. It was wearing me out. The mental fatigue was more than I could stand. And like I said, I just didn't like being a parent.
And so, I started looking for other opinions. I looked to our children's ministry leader, who said he was a typical boy. I talked to friends who are good mothers and who have many more children than I do, they said let go a little, he's fine. I talked to parents of boys like Isaac. One, my former pastor's wife, has two sons my age. The younger was like Isaac. Jeanette had differing expectations too. She said at one point her husband said, "Enough. You don't correct him anymore, he's mine." I totally understood. I think that's when my reality started to win over my expectations.
Do I mean that I'm not going to correct him anymore? Nope. Does that mean I'm going to let him "run wild"? Not a chance. He's curious and energetic and I cannot stop him from being so, nor do I want to. I'm going to let up on the leash, a little at a time. I'm going to start enjoying those attributes that have been giving me a headache lately. And when the time comes for correction...like his insistence in harassing family pets, or getting out of bed at night...then I will discipline in the most realistic and loving way I can. I am not, however, going to keep trying to mold him into what I think he should be. That's not my job. My job is to take this gift that God has given me and help him to become the best man he can be.
Isaac turned three over a week ago. My little guy won't be little much longer. It's been pretty rocky between us lately. I'm sure that there will be more bumps along the way. But after some attitude adjustments on my part, there is joy between us again.