It started a few weeks ago and at first, it really frustrated me. What in the world? He was doing so well just going straight to bed! Then, of course, my mind raced to after the baby is born, oh my word, what if he's up at all hours after the baby is born! Has he forgotten everything?? What are we supposed to do?? The tricky part of his new little habit is that he is not angry, fussy, whining, or defiant when he does it. He simply opens the door and smiles, waiting to see our response. Because honestly, sometimes our response is nice. It's fine for him to get out of bed after naps and in the morning, right?
After he started getting up, I started walking over to him, sternly correcting him, and hoisting him back to bed myself. After the second or third time, I would be frustrated. And then I would be frustrated that I was so frustrated, because really, the offense wasn't THAT awful. Didn't all of us get out of bed throughout our childhoods? I mean, really. He isn't smoking pot or writing on the wall with a Sharpie.
One evening a few weeks ago, he did it again. And as I was about to get up, my husband gently put his hand on my leg to stop me. Then he quietly but firmly said, "Cub, go to bed. Close the door."
And, oh my word, the boy did it. He turned back around, disappeared behind his door, shoved his door closed, and we didn't hear a peep again all night. I couldn't believe it. And I REALLY couldn't believe that it hadn't dawned on me to simply ask him to go back to bed. But, sleeping in the big boy bed is a freedom, and with freedom comes responsibility. And in my frenzied mind, I was trying to control a situation that required a bit more grace ... and freedom.
Now, he still gets out of bed. But it's usually only once. And we tell him to go back to bed and he does. No fit, no crying, no whining. And I'm totally fine with that. When he comes out and we're all smiles, he knows it's the right time to get up. When he comes out and we're stern, he knows he should go back to bed.
Now. What's funny about this post is that I have a completely different direction that I'm wanting to go in. So, bear with me.
I try hard to have an obedient child. My husband and I both work at knowing Cub's personality and knowing how to respond to it. I think most parents do. What I've realized is that it is very, very easy to get caught up in the pride of having an obedient child. Patting your back when they obey, you know? And then when he doesn't obey or has several instances where he doesn't obey, I find myself saying, "Well, we had a bad day today", as if the ENTIRE DAY went to pot because he didn't obey. It's as if I lump in the times he did obey with the times he did not, and if the disobedient times outnumber the obedient times, then shoot, it was a BAD DAY.
Then last night a lightbulb came on.
I'm in a Bible Study on Wednesday nights. I'm going to be honest here--my motivation for doing my study each week has pretty much plummeted through the floor. I enjoy the study, but I've had a hard time connecting with it. Probably because I have, you know, some other things occupying my mind. Like trying to remember how to swaddle.
But last night I got into a really neat discussion with some veteran moms and how hard it can be to see grown children struggle with issues and insecurities--feeling that you are responsible for them, and that if you had only done things differently, maybe they wouldn't be struggling now. And suddenly it dawned on me. I said, "Even if you raised your kids to be the most obedient, respectful, pleasant kids in the world, their need for Christ would still be the same as if they had come from an abusive and neglectful home." And I realized that I can try as hard as I want to, but I can never raise my children in a way that will make them need Christ less. In fact, the more I shelter them or the more I try to make their lives cushy and seamless, the less they will think they need Him.
I guess I'm saying that I feel relieved. It is our responsibility to train a child in the way he or she should go and the driving force behind that is the condition of their heart. God cares more that they are struggling and striving to know more about Him than whether or not they come every single time they are called. Yes, obedience is incredibly important, but if we are only teaching our kids behavior rather than intent, then we're missing the mark. And I want my kids to know that they will always be struggling and striving. We're never there. We never fully understand grace, unconditional love, or redemption. They are the mysteries we study our entire lives. It is okay to not know everything.
I remind myself of that every day.
So, as Cub peeks his head around the corner when he's gotten out of bed, I sternly tell him to go back to bed, and I stifle giggles as he obeys and he toddles back to bed. He's just doing what we say. And I love that he is. But I pray that I will relish in the struggles that lie ahead, too, because those will be the areas where he will see Christ the most, and he will learn the most.
And I will keep learning, too.