“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” – James 1:19,20
I have been learning quite a bit about myself lately. Reason: I have a toddler son! If you have/had one, you will be able to identify with what I am saying. I think parenting has this supernatural ability to reveal who you truly are. If you think you know yourself quite well, try raising a child. It’s shocking to see how different we really are.
Okay let me give you some backstory. My dad was a very strict disciplinarian when I was growing up – just like many 80’s dads. Not just me or my brother but even our neighbour kids were scared of him. The minute he came home, all our friends would scatter and vanish. He had a very manly-bassy voice which added to their terror. I remember my friends’ mothers using my dad’s name to discipline their own kids. Don’t get me wrong, my dad wasn’t a bad or a cruel man. But he had his own set of rules and he preferred it if they were followed ; which I thought was unreasonable at the time. Now when I look back- not so much. You can imagine my teenage years. The combination of a strict dad and a rebellious teenage daughter was, as you can imagine, a recipe for disaster!
As I grew older and wiser he eventually loosened his grip and gave me all the freedom I needed –to choose my preferred stream of education, career path and even my life partner. However, I do wish that he was a little gentler in enforcing the rules – and that is why I swore to myself early on in my life that “If I ever have a child, I will be a gentle and understanding mother. I will not get angry at my child unnecessarily.” That was the one rule I had!
Yes, you guessed it right. I have become just what I hoped I wouldn’t become – One Angry Mama! My husband and I were married for two plus years when we had our son. Before he was born, we hardly ever fought with each other. Have you met my husband? If the answer is yes, you know it’s possible! But, do you know how many times we fought after our son was born? Twenty five million times – well, you get my drift!
Now don’t think I have an extra difficult child. I honestly don’t. He is in fact one of the very few angel babies I have come across (so far 😛 ). He is just another toddler doing regular toddler things. – eating (hardly), sleeping, breaking things, putting his hand in the electric socket, climbing everywhere, hitting his head, playing with mud, falling, laughing, dancing etc. I, on the other hand am the one who needs real training. I have no idea how to respond calmly to many of the things he does. My default response is to shout at him- whether he is eating a bug off the floor or when he doesn’t sleep even after two hours of rocking and singing.
Recently, my ever so gracious and kind husband informed me that he discovered that he is an angry person too! Reason: He too has a toddler son. He is a seminary student who has a million responsibilities – attending class, writing assignments, giving tests, spending hours in the library, leadership roles on campus and in the local church, managing a household, being a husband and a dad. At the end of the day , he is exhausted from all the responsibilities and I am exhausted from, well, entertaining the toddler. I look forward to having my husband from the library everyday so that I can get some “me” time. My poor husband comes home and he wants the same thing. Now you see where the problem lies. We take our exhaustion and frustration out on our little 21 month old.
We, however, by the grace of God, realized that it is a huge problem. In a counselling module that he took, my husband learnt that ‘Anger’ is only a symptom of a deeper problem like pride, anxiety, fear, unfulfilled desires, misplaced priorities or even possessing an incorrect self-esteem. Suddenly we realized that it's not our toddler son who is the problem. We had to take a minute and shift our focus. We had to look at and evaluate ourselves and see how we can change our behaviour and not how to change our son's - after all he wasn't the problem to start with! My husband got some really great literature and even Godly counsel from some of the pastors and professors. He shared all his notes with me. We prayed and asked God to intervene in our lives, to show us the way to go, to counsel us how to be good parents.
We are still a long way from seeing lasting change, but at least we took the first step of recognizing there is a problem. I know it’s not going to be an easy journey. I know there is a very angry mama inside of me. But I also know that God knows us and cares for us and with the help of His Spirit living in us we can expect to see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in our marriage and in our parenting. My husband and I cannot do this on our own; the good thing is, we don’t have to!
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9,10
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