Poor child. Knowing no other way to relieve her anger, she stomped with both feet and all her might. She jumped to give more force to the stomping. It was a knees-to-chest kind of jumping; the higher the jump, the greater the outlet for her rage. She even climbed a few stairs to add some altitude and force to her stomps.
This was not a two-year-old in a tantrum. This was a young mother in her late twenties. To be exact, this was me.
“Slow to anger” is not among my top ten descriptions. But why was I so stompin’ mad?
From day one we have read to our children. Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Duckings was a favorite. Because of that book, much of my excitement in visiting Boston was anticipating the Public Garden, the swan boats, the corner of Beacon and Charles Streets where Michael the policeman helped Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings cross. I would walk where they walked and see what they saw!
Here is an excerpt:
“Take good care of the ducklings.”
“Don’t you worry,” said Mrs. Mallard. “I know all about bringing up children.” And she did.
She taught them how to swim and dive.
She taught them to walk in a line, to come when they were called, and to keep a safe distance from bikes and scooters and wheels.
When at last she felt perfectly satisfied with them, she said one morning: “Come along, children. Follow me.” Before you could wink an eyelash Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack fell into line, just as they had been taught.
– from Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
Our eighteen-month-old was on the mellow side. He generally obeyed and was often quietly content. But for a several-month period, he would not come when I said to come. On The Day of the Stomping I knelt at the door with his shoes, ready to put them on him and get in the car.
“Please come, and I’ll put on your shoes.”
He looked at me, unmoving. My blood, quick to boil, was already bubbling.
“Come here,” I repeated. Still he did not come.
I will spare you all the details (except the stomping described above). I became angry whenever I said to come and he didn’t, because I would recall Make Way for Ducklings.
Mrs. Mallard taught them to “come when they were called”. And “before you could wink an eyelash” all the ducklings obeyed, falling into line “just as they had been taught.”
My child would not come when he was called! I thought, If Mrs. Mallard can do it, why can’t I? Frustration and anger followed, sure and quick.
I wish I had slowed down long enough to say to myself, “Um, Monica? You’re comparing yourself to a duck.”
Frankly, I compared myself to real human mothers, too.
Thank God, since then He has given me grace to know that parenthood is not a comparison game. I have been on both sides of that ugly kind of comparison. Those experiences were neither edifying nor fruitful, whether on the giving or the receiving end.
To combat this wrong thinking, the Lord has given me two favorite parenting passages:
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle… But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
– 1 Corinthians 15:9-10
Paul says he is unfit to be called an apostle. Yet, he is an apostle! Similarly, I am unfit to be a mother, yet three souls living in this home make it an undeniable fact: I am a mother. By the grace of God, I am what I am. And so I labor all the more, while knowing it is God’s grace with me.
Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
– 2 Corinthians 3:5-6
Such a tremendous task and calling, parenthood. Yet I know from these words that I do not operate because I am adequate; God is adequate.
Once again, Scripture to the rescue. My parenting principles come from God’s Word, not from comparing myself to other parents, and certainly not from a picture book about fictional ducks in Boston.
Now I have not one but three sons. By the grace of God. And though I no longer use Mrs. Mallard as my standard…
…I do pray that each of my boys will come when he is called.
Father, thank you for the awesome blessing of parenthood. Thank you that you desire a relationship with each of my children. Thank You, Lord, for saying, “Come, follow Me.” I pray they will come when You call.
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