I Was the perfect parent before having children.
Yep, had all the answers to the walmart toy isle temper tantrum embarrassment. The restaurant booth turned trampoline dilemma. The perfectly timed airplane nothing short of demonic meltdown scene. And of course the infamous "my-next-door-neighbor's-
tomato-bush is my urinal" situation (True story.)
I had all the answers.
Until he was born.
He, with one slight devious but cute as all get out, grin, reached out his curious spirit and popped my 'know all the answer' parent bubble. Just like that and I went from having all the answers, to weeping before God while sitting Indian style in the middle of my once perfectly ordered kitchen--now leaking of spilled milk, infested with Cheerio remnants and littered with toilet paper tightly wrapped around the kitchen island, asking God "Why did You choose me for such a task? I don't have even one answer for this child!"
Oh, how my boy has humbled me.
How do you know if you have a strong willed child, you ask? If you're still in denial, I mean in questioning, after reading the above, than there's one more key into knowing whether you indeed have a strong willed child:
The Dobson book.
You know the one. The one someone mentions to you after sharing how your child climbed out of his crib at 2:am and snuck into the bathroom to grab the hairspray and thought it'd be a great idea to spray his sisters guinea pig's fur flat. And while at it, locate a permanent marker and proceed to paint the guinea pig red, but not before deciding to draw beautiful art work on her newly painted yellow bedroom wall-- all for a mesmerizing surprise for his family when they wake up. Yep, that'll be a pretty good indication.
But you've really made it into the strong-willed-child club when you have not one, but multiple "The Strong-Willed Child" books by Dr. James Dobson, sitting on your shelves. All of which are gifts from well meaning friends and family over the years. Each one, however, being used as a keen reminder I do not have a clue on how to parent this one. But just maybe, oh please let it be true, that Mr.Dobson might?
But as you already know, if you're a mama to a strong willed child-- yes THIS is the child that has the super natural ability to defy all reason and yank on the cords of your heart more than any other human being walking the face of this earth.
Isn't it this same child who just made you collapse and weep onto your husbands shoulder as he walked in the back door from work, because you didn't think you could parent for one.. more... millisecond?
Yep, it's this child who explodes your heart with one simple smile. With one sweet cuddle. With one tender "I wuv you mama with aw my hart" whisper. Why? Because a strong willed child has a humongous heart. And that, ultimately, is what makes parenting a strong willed child that much more difficult--Caught between two worlds of inexplicable love and pure chaos.
Last summer, with 13 years under my belt of still not having the answer for my strong willed child, I sat at the end of our family's cottage dock and began to write out my fairly typical and well known plead before God to help me parent my strong-willed child. And while in the moment, as my eyes dropped tears one by one onto the paper of my prayer journal, I flipped to the next and final page of the journal to finish writing my prayer over my son. What was waiting for me on the top of the very next page was something only God could have divinely orchestrated.
My son, when I first bought the journal three years prior, opened it up and wrote on top of the last page of my journal: "I love you mommy. Shea Lee 2013" and in that moment, while I was pleading to the Lord for direction, help, and answers over parenting him, he brought me back to the basic truth-- My child's heart is good..... and so very big.
And sometimes, having all the answers to this mommy thing isn't Gods intention at all. No, he desires more for me to seek His face instead of my own reason. To seek His heart, instead of my own opinions. To seek His advise instead of others' counsel. Yes, the Perfect Parent to my strong willed child, the One who wired him as he is- fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) is using my son as a means to keep me running, clinging, holding onto Him. Over and over, day after day, moment by moment.
You see, parenting a strong will child enables us parents to really see below the surface of our own heart. Like a cup holding pure water and another holding dirty water, we don't know what's in the cup until it spills over. Unbeknownst to me, I still had some dirty water lurking around in the depths of my self-righteous heart. Had my son not been the one chosen by God to tap on the cup of my heart just enough for the water to spill over to see what was really in it, I would of missed how dirty my perfectionist and judgmental heart really was.
A strong willed child has the supernatural ability to draw out the impurities of a mama heart like no other. And what normally could remain in hiding, untapped, unknown, festering and growing in the darkness of the heart, is now brought to the surface, to the light and into the hands of the One who can purify the water within--cleaning out the mama heart so that the blessing, the gift, the joy of her strong-willed child isn't missed for even a moment in time.
What I once thought could potentially kill me, soon became the very thing that saved me.
My dear strong-willed child, thank you for being you. The one sent to me to save me from the illusion of perfectionism - and catapult me into the reality of the Only One who is indeed the Perfect Parent.