My daughter has very definite ideas. For instance, she asked me a couple of weeks ago, “How could someone be human and not love My Little Pony?” Those were her exact words. On another occasion we were watching the Wiggles’ sing “Uncle Noah’s Ark.” At the end, as they sing, “All were there on Uncle Noah’s ark,” Anthony asks, “but what about the unicorn?” The mackerdoodle turned to me and said, “Mama. Noah was real. Unicorns are not real so they weren’t on the ark. I tell him that every time, but he keeps singing it.”
Now I can hardly fault her for having strong opinions about inconsequential things when I happen to have a theology of mustard, but I’m coming up against a real challenge as a mother, and I have to believe that I’m not the only one who is facing, and has faced, and will face this issue.
Along with strong opinions on things like My Little Pony and the Wiggles’ seeming lack of desire to learn theological truth, the mackerdoodle also has a tendency to define my requests of her by her idea of what I’ve said, rather than by my words. One example is the command, “Eat your supper.” She will often respond with “But I ate some of it.” or most of it, or x many bites.
Yesterday we were working on organizing the toy room, which included moving the children’s books from the milk crates in which they had been previously stored onto some new (to us) bookshelves. I tasked the children with bringing me the books and I was putting them on the shelves. The cheesedoodle did as I asked, finding two or three books at a time, and bringing them to me, then going back for some more. The mackerdoodle created an elaborate system in her own mind of how the task was to be completed. There had to be a minimum of five books in each stack she brought. They had to be stacked on top of a large book (which made sense) but they couldn’t slide or shift while she carried them – they had to remain in exactly the same position as when she stacked them. The task she had laid out before herself was essentially an impossible one when factoring in her small arms, the power of gravity and her limited comprehension of the physics at work. She quickly dissolved into tears, saying, “But I can’t obey mama! It’s too hard! I can’t obey!”
I have a two fold problem here:
First: this is indicative of everyone’s sin nature. We build for ourselves elaborate systems to define obedience, and then complain that obedience is too heavy and too hard.
Secondly: I see this particular habit in my own life. I hate it and I don’t know how to address it. When I see it in my daughter’s life, I am driven by that same hatred/impotence and it translates to her , not as grace, but as more burden, more law. I say, “Just bring me the books and forget about your system!” “Listen to my words, not the words you think I’m saying.” “Obey me, not your idea!” It doesn’t work for my own heart, why do I think it will work for hers?
So when you come face to face with your own sin in your children, how do you deal with it? How do you preach the gospel to them instead of just laying on them your own self burdening system? How do you correct something in your children you have been unable to master in your own life?
Yesterday I failed, and Jonathan had to take over the task of the books with the children. I don’t want to keep failing her and I don’t want to create a rift in our relationship in which she feels the double weight of her own self condemnation piled with the condemnation of her mother. I want her to see the glory of the cross and the beauty of obedience that stems from gratitude.
I want her to be a better woman than I am, and I have to realize that I can’t do that. Only Jesus can do that. In the end, I can point her to the cross, only Jesus can shape and change her heart.