Parenting an Out of the Box Child – Part 3

{If you are just joining, click the links over to Part 1 and Part 2 of this series to catch up!}

Can I tell you the MOST challenging part of parenting my Out of the Box Child(ren)?  it isn’t determining the root cause for each diagnosis, whether or not to use medication in our toolbox, or how diet and environment factor into the ever-changing behaviors of my children.

It’s Grace.

It’s knowing how and when to impart consequence and when to lavish on Grace.

Much of the struggle with #1 Girl is Impulsivity.  I have to say that the impulsivity often leads to sinful choices – and balancing my response as a parent with Grace – while NOT avoiding the sinful aspect – is really my biggest parenting challenge.

It is both heart-wrenching and frustrating.

There are the critics who espouse MORE discipline.  There are critics who denounce medication, which really only restrains ADHD to a dull roar, but allows her to function well at school.  I am required to spend extra time reviewing homework and school work and answering phone calls & texts about her work (or lack thereof), AND am supposed to have extra energy for the daily attitude and shifts in energy and focus and effort – AND be gracious and loving and nurturing, while still maintaining a home environment that displays Jesus Christ.  And teach her responsibility and consequences.  And pour out grace and love.

How?  How do I do that?  So many days, I am At. A. Loss.  I just don’t know.  It isn’t about loving my child.  It isn’t about wanting what’s best for her.

It’s resigning myself to whatever it is that GOD has for her.

And sometimes it means I lay down on the altar for sacrifice.  And sometimes, I just don’t want to.  I want to be able to go into our bathroom, play some soft music, run a hot bubble bath, sip a large glass of iced raspberry tea and read an epic novel without interruption or fear of what might happen if I relax for even two seconds.

2015-04-23 06.32.40The same child who sweetly prepared a breakfast of waffles with chocolate chips & strawberries and a cup of coffee to surprise me – is the same child who finished off the rest of the bag of chocolate chips later that same night in secret.  If I had bet money it was going to happen, I would be rich.  As soon as I saw my breakfast plate, I knew what was coming and hated myself for being discouraged about the likely outcome instead of enjoying the sweet moment…

Parenting an Out-of-the-Box Child has broken me in so many ways.  

And that is why I am writing this.  Not because I have figured out HOW to navigate this parenting road.  But because it’s part of who I am and where God has put me, and I need to be real about it as I seek His Grace daily.  Or hourly.  Or minutely.  You know what I mean.

Maybe someone reading can relate to this.  Maybe someone reading can share their lessons learned through this.  Maybe you feel like you can’t take another minute of this and needs someone to walk the path with them.  No one child or parent is like another – but our journeys may take us down the same road and we can encourage one another and lift each other up.

Because as often as I seek to live out grace to my children, I am bathed in Grace by my Father.  Some days, I wish I could just put her out in front of me into His fountain of grace and let it pour over her.  I don’t always cooperate and am not always fit for His use as an instrument of Grace.

What I am learning the most in all of this, is that I am DESPERATE for His Grace more than for anything else.  And if I can let Him use me, it’s what I hope she learns from my life – that SHE needs His Grace every day too!

Parenting An Out of the Box Child – Part 2

New here?  Click here to read Part 1 of this series.

I. Was. Lost. in my parenting journey and I found myself wondering all the how’s and why’s that come with ADHD.  Frankly, I still feel lost in my journey most days.  Is this ADHD thing my fault?  is it her fault?  Is she just reacting to my failure to discipline enough? or to discipline too much?  Could I have prevented it?  Is it totally neurological? Behavioral? Environmental?  It sure seems like God handed me something I could NOT HANDLE and I couldn’t figure out why.

Just like my out of the box child cannot be so easily contained, no one formula or strategy will work exclusively in my ability to parent her.

My every move – at times – seems to be counterproductive more often than not.  Boundaries are very difficult to establish with her.  Consequences are difficult to not only dole out but for her to respond to.  Reactivity – of which both she & I are guilty – is our worst enemy.  Knowing which battle is worth fighting – and which is worth letting go – is never easily identified.

The truth is:  some days, loving her is hard.  

And the guilt that courses through me when I think that, let alone say it, is devastating.  I don’t mean feeling affectionate for her. Or being willing to throw myself in front of a bus for her.  I mean being willing to lay down my life in the daily living so she can know how much I love her.  And even more so how much God loves her and has a plan for her.

Loving her is exhausting.  Draining.  And more often than not, I feel like I fail her miserably.  My ugliness shoots straight to the surface in the face of her defiance. It bounces right against my tightly-stretched nerves – and I lose myself in an avalanche of impatience.  And fatigue.  And fear.

This child that wants to go toe-to-toe with me over which shoes to wear to school is really desperate for something steady and sure.  And many days, that’s. not. me.  I am so broken by this realization.  In the rare moments of quiet I am able to snag in my hectic days, I cry out to God to make me better for her sake, but only after I beg for more peace and less chaos for my sake.

And more often than not, I hear Him whisper to my wildly-beating heart that HE has a plan for her.  It may not be the plan I envisioned or imagined for her – but His plan is to take her strength and use it for HIS glory.

This scares me to my bones.  Some of the godliest people I know have a wild, spirited child who was raised to know and love God. But the child grew up and made different choices.  And as an adult, that child wrestles with substance abuse.  Crime & prison terms. Broken lives.  Broken bodies.

Not every case.  But more than I am comfortable with.  My heart is wrenched for the possibilities.  For all three of my children.

Because I have no guarantees in this parenting business.  The reality of parenting children is harder than I ever possibly imagined it could be.  And God is teaching me in this parenting journey, as much as He desires to teach them.  And to speak to their hearts Himself.  Dying to ME is the hardest part.  Dying to me and letting God become my child’s steady and sure is like watching her climb a tightrope a bajillion feet above the ground with no {apparent} safety net.  And it is as much a test of my FAITH as a test of my love.

I don’t always know what that means.  I don’t always know what it looks like.  I don’t know what it will look like 10 minutes from now, let alone 10 years from now.  I want a formula that FIXES our problem.  But there isn’t one.

I just know that I have to desperately lean harder into God so she can see that He is MY steady and sure, too.  That in my weakness, HE is where I go.  He is where I turn. And He is always there for me, even when I fail.  It is exquisitely painful.  To be broken out in front of my children.  And when I struggle to yield to Him, it is even more painful for them.

I get Sarah Mae’s statement:

ultimately, the most important thing is laying our children at the foot of the cross and praying that Jesus will call them to Him.

And there is the ultimate sacrifice in parenting.  Not learning methods or means to raise a child, but learning how to lay each child down at the foot of the Cross and LEAVE her there to hear the Savior’s call…

Do you struggle in parenting an Out-of-the-Box-Child?

Parenting an Out of the Box Child – Intro

When you first become a parent, it is natural to have hopes and dreams for your child.  Some of those hopes and dreams guide decisions and choices as a parent, and some of those hopes and dreams fade away.

Once we get to know that tiny bundle that comes home with us – hopefully, we learn how to adapt our personalities, bents, and inclinations to the personalities, bents, and inclinations God has given our children.

Being a parent is hard.  Parenting an Out of the Box Child, though, can present a whole different horizon than ever imagined.

An Out of the Box Child, for my intent and purposes, includes a child who might:

  • Be labeled “Strong Willed” or a “Discipline problem”
  • Be Diagnosed with a neurological condition such as ADHD, Asperger’s or Autism
  • Have a physical condition which presents challenges in the regular activities of daily living
  • Just like to dance on the outside of any regular or “normal” lines that are deemed acceptable in general

An Out of the Box Child may or may not have any specific condition, but may just flutter or charge through life with an outlook that completely puzzles, overwhelms, or mystifies his/her parents, teachers, siblings, and others.

God has created a whole wide range of personalities.  I’ve seen them categorized into 4 broad generalizations (choleric, sanguine, melancholy, and phlegmatic, for example).  I’ve also seen them arranged in a more detailed list including up to 16 psychological types (In this case, I am an ENFP).  Even this is just a reflection of parts of me, and does not define me as an individual…

The idea is that we are each individuals with strengths and weaknesses, flaws and virtues, styles and preferences.  When we marry, it can be a challenge to meld those individuals together in a peaceful life of harmony.  And when those two individuals are blessed with a child – who looks like one and acts “just like” the other (or both), it becomes a whole different challenge to parent that child well.

With love and fairness. Without unrealistic expectations or unfair demands.  With a desire to train them to know and love God, while understanding the individual personality and responding accordingly.

That would explain the thousands upon thousands of books with parenting advice, parenting plans, parenting styles, and stories of parenting “failures” and “successes.”  But I am still early on in my journey and although I have learned a lot – I still have so much to learn.

Parenting is about being who I am and becoming who I need to be in relationship to each child God gives me.  Parenting is about each individual God has blessed me with to raise – as both an opportunity to bless and be blessed in this relationship.  And to bring blessing to the world.

I was inspired to write about this topic by reading Sarah Mae’s Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe again.  And then after I wrote this (but before this post was actually published), I read Sally Clarkson’s blog post about her son Nathan and smiled because it is exactly WHY I am writing this…

I will have more posts on this topic next THIS week.  (Really.  They are written.  And scheduled).  And will continue to write about this subject because it is part of the journey God has led me on, and I know I am not alone…