Parenting 101

The Lord is removing the last of the bitterness from my heart. For some reason in the past few weeks, I have had bitterness directed towards my children. For as long as I have been a mother, my children have been the most precious, enduring gift that I have ever encountered. They are as Lauryn Hill says, “The Sweetest Thing I’ve ever known…” But sometime in the last few weeks, I began to feel what many people have said for so long. I’ve begun to look at alternate paths my life could have taken without children. I’ve begun to value other views of success besides the one I currently hold.

The backdrop to this is that conflicts over the children precipitated my last divorce. The issues with the children weren’t the only issue, but they were the insurmountable issue. I felt that I had to be a full-time mother to all three children- period. On the other hand, my ex-husband felt that I should be able to divvy up time between him and the children with very little overlap, even in our home. Needless to say, being all things to all people but nothing to myself led to burn out, anger, and I suppose the seeds to this resentment that had just began to surface in the past few weeks.

What took the issue over the edge was one day when I asked the kids to make sure the house was clean. They were staying home while I was going to work and I came home Tuesday to find the house a mess. The kids were in their room, chillin’, watching TV like they were at Club Med. I was too tired and emotionally exhausted to say anything so I just cleaned up everything. I asked them the next day to make sure they cleaned up after themselves while I was at work and even called when I was on my way home and asked if everything was cleaned up. Imagine my utter surprise when I walked in the house and it was the same scene from the day before! I lost it. Something in my changed. I felt like the kids didn’t respect me and took my feelings and emotions for granted. A wall went up where I shut down some part of me that had always been connected. It was a “me” and “them” feeling. I was so hurt and angry. And their response was to go on like nothing happened afterwards, while I couldn’t have any healthy interactions with them for two or three days.

Finally after spending some time with my friend Ebony, Kalia came home and wrote me an apology letter. Kaissa never did apologize although she mentioned that she wrote me a poem but lost it before she could give it to me. I still kept the wall up until a few nights ago, when talking to my twin sister-in-laws, Aminah and Nzingha, I realized that I was still their mother, and that I had to still fight and struggle for the goodness that I know is within them. I have to hold on to the belief that this too shall pass and that they will acquire the skills necessary to clean up after themselves. What is so frustrating is that literally everyday my son leaves his dirty clothes in the bathroom after taking his nightly shower, my 2nd daughter leaves her shoes in the middle of the floor when she gets home and my oldest daughter has a pile of dirty clothes on the floor next to her bed. Daily. And I’m exhausted.

So, now I’m trying something new. I’m not sure what it is yet. After talking to Aminah and Nzingha I felt myself reconnecting with the kids yesterday. It doesn't take long to disconnect but it seems like it's such an effort to reconnect. How many people live with kids or spouses that it seems like are on a totally different wave length? How many people eat separately, pray separately, watch TV together but don't even have a conversation during the evening? Reconnecting is a process, but Aminah implored me to pray and ask God to show me how to get the kids to clean up after themselves. Funny, because I taught Vacation Bible School last week and I told the young people that God made us and he also made a manual, and if we ever had questions in terms of dealing with those things God made, we should consult the manual, and if we don’t find the answers, we should consult the maker. And someone else had to remind me of what I had said. So Lord, I’m asking you to continue to guide me in terms of raising my five children in the fear and admonition of you. Help me to make the right decisions, to be a good mother and provider and to walk uprightly before my children. Forgive me of my sins, especially for not forgiving them when they make mistakes. Teach me how to discipline them so they will be responsible for their clothes and room and shared spaces. Put in them the desire to be obedient not only to me but ultimately to you. And help me to teach them your ways and your will so they will write your words on the tablets of their hearts. In Jesus Name, Amen.