Several months back, a friend of mine was mentioning how her little boy has this warrior spirit about him. He’s just like a bull in a china cabinet, head strong, and ruff and tough. The concept of “warrior” never really struck me as intriguing, but as I listened to her talk, she said something that changed my entire perspective, she said, “I know he’s tough to parent, but he has a warrior spirit that I don’t want to break, because I know he’ll need it one day.”
It’s along the same lines of things I’ve told my mom for the past year or so. Raising a strong willed child (not a brat, just a strong willed younger child), is incredibly hard, but at the same time, you know that they were born leaders with a leadership mentality. The difficulty is making them understand that they cannot lead unless they learn how to follow and take direction. How else will they understand how to do things if they don’t learn and listen? But, that’s like trying to herd cats—trying to get them to understand what you’re trying to explain to them—and they think you’re speaking a third world language that hasn’t yet been discovered by English speaking people.
I was in the store this past Summer, and my son wanted to argue with me about something that I can’t even remember now. I rolled my eyes at him and simply stopped talking, because I refuse to argue with a child. That has been something that I’ve set a standard of from day one. I will not argue with you, you either do it, or you don’t, and you suffer the consequence when we get home or when company leaves our home. Plain and simple.
Anyhow, he continued to talk, and talk, and talk….explaining to me why he was right and I was wrong. I continued to ignore him. He wasn’t doing it in a condescending way, he just knew he was right, even though he wasn’t completely right.
Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
Listen, people, I get you’re trying to be nice but I will ninja chop you if you don’t give me some warning, just saying.
So I felt this hand on my shoulder and I quickly turned around, knowing that my, then, six year old wasn’t tall enough or had hands big enough for it to be him. There was an older lady standing there smiling, she must have been in her 70s or 80s, but she was young at heart, you could tell. I had walked right past her in my frustration and didn’t even realize there was someone else in the aisle with us. I was so frustrated with my child.
I put on my Christian-like attitude and smiled and said, “oh hello! Do you need help with something?” Her smile got even bigger and she said, “no, but you do.”
You could have bought me for a penny. I was embarrassed and angry and humiliated all at one time. I was embarrassed because someone was confronting me in public—was I a bad parent? I was angry because my kid was acting like a you know what—she must be thinking he’s a brat and wants to school me in parenting. And I was humiliated because I wanted to give this old lady a piece of my mind, and that’s just not something anybody wants to say about a 70 year old grandma. How rude.
Again, with the smile. I’m not sure she ever stopped smiling, but I had to look away from her 100 times in that split second to collect a thought, and every time I looked back at her, she was steadfast in that smile.
I raised my eyebrows and said, “oh?” She patted my shoulder and said something that began changing my outlook on this strong willed child that stood beside me. Maybe God knew I needed her, in fact, I’m sure He did. She proceeded to look over at my son and then back at me saying [and I paraphrase]….., you know, I raised a boy just like him, and it doesn’t seem like it was long ago. That boy would argue with me about everything. I’d put him on restriction and tell him he was disrespectful, and he’d go outside for the rest of the day just so I could find some peace and quiet to get my housework done. Do you like to go outside boy?
Junior smiled and very gently shook his head yes and said “yes ma’am”—more likely out of amazement that this woman was talking to him for no reason, and also the fact that she had a presence that simply commanded respect. I chuckled because she referred to him as boy, which is such an older term when used in that context. She smiled again and looked me in the eye, finishing her thought….
Good! Anyway, that’s beside the point. As she threw up her hands and shrugged. The point of me interrupting your grocery trip was to tell you something I feel like one mother can say to another, and it should be done more often in today’s ultra-sensitive world. I never had a daughter, just a son. What a trying first 10 years that was. But it gets easier. Your son has a character trait that is a gift, I know, because I raised one just like him. I’ve been watching you the entire way down this aisle. It’s normal, though frustrating. But it gets easier when you realize that his character will destine him for great things. Do you want to know where my boy is now?
We shook our heads, now intrigued by her story…we had no clue where this “boy” was now, but we wanted to know.
He’s a missionary in the middle east, and has been for over 20 years, because He felt God calling him to do something greater. When his father and I questioned his decision to up-root his family and take them into one of the most dangerous areas in the world, he wasn’t having any of it. I was reminded of the memories of when he was so set in his ways as a young boy, that no one could change his mind. And I knew that he was given that spirit for such a time as this. He’s changed so many lives, and we would have talked him out of it. You remember the story of Esther? For such a time as this, and times change so much, and so do our children and the way they change the world.
I think my heart stopped. I know my brain stopped working, because I just looked at her dumbfounded. She must have thought I was insane. Here this woman had poured her heart out to me and all I could do was stand there with my mouth wide open.
In a brief moment I felt sorry for her, and how she must worry about her child and grandchildren being in such a hateful region of that continent. How devastating it must be to know their likelihood of being killed for being Christians is of greater likelihood than some of the soldiers protecting certain cities over there.
The next moment I thought, wow, what a woman of faith, to tell a story like that not even knowing if I were a Christian or not.
I didn’t know what to say. So I just said, wow, that’s incredible. She shook her head in pride with agreement, and gently patted my son on the back saying, you’re raising a fine young man. You may not realize it yet, though I’m sure you do, but with a little polishing up, and a lot of patience, he’s going to be a gem…and a warrior….I just know it.
There was that word again. Warrior….
And just like that, she was off on her way down the baking aisle, putting flour into her basket. And I just stood there looking into my basket as if there were a bottomless pit.
We were quiet the rest of the trip through the store and on the way home. I don’t know why he was quiet, but he just was. It was as if we had been in the presence of greatness, or as if a parent had scolded us both, but in a good way. In some way, I like to think that she spoke life into him without him even realizing it. That she called out of him what she saw, not what his mom saw, the same way God calls us who we are, before we are.
We got home and he helped me unload the groceries just like he always does—without me asking or begging him to. And as I watched him go unlock the front door and take groceries inside, I turned my head to the side in disbelief of what my focus had been on all morning before our chat in the grocery store.
My focus wasn’t on my child’s needs. It wasn’t on why he was acting the way he was or why he said the things he said. My focus was on getting out of the house on time, running 100 mph through the grocery store so that we could get back in time for me to make a phone call to an important client, and then good grief, the house needed cleaning too. My focus on how I felt, how he was treating me, how I felt disrespected and angry. Without reminding myself that I’m the parent—a child has no control over how I feel. I do. I’m in control of that. I’m the teacher, he’s the student.
And here he was, taking groceries into the house without me ever asking him, because he knew that mom had a lot on her plate that day, and because he’d been trained to do so.
Who was being the butt head now….
More recently, I made a note to myself to pay attention to the things he does regularly that I might not be aware of. Like cleaning up the new bathroom sink when he’s made a muddy mess from being outside. Or by making himself lunch. Or by waking up, pulling his clothes on, and feeding the animals once the sun comes up. I studied him through out the day, paying attention to the way he would interact with his friends next door, or just playing with his imagination.
Do you know what I discovered?
I discovered that he has Christ like morals beyond what I realized. Of course he has his failing moments, everyone does. But I focused on those a whole lot more than the others.
I discovered that he is independent and prideful, but willing to take the back seat for those younger than him, or the least of these.
I discovered that he sticks up for his friends that are getting picked on by the bigger kids, and he doesn’t take no for an answer, even if the bigger kids are bigger than him. He likes the think that he could take them on if he had to. And who am I to say he couldn’t….
I discovered that he’s gentle and mindful of smaller children who aren’t necessarily paying attention to what’s around them that could be harmful. On multiple occasions he has spared them from getting hurt or from getting into trouble.
I discovered he’s a no drama kid, and he can’t handle it well. And that’s ok.
I discovered that he gets angry when he can’t get things to work the way he wants them to, but he’ll sit there and figure it out until it starts working.
I discovered that he loves to fix things.
I discovered that he doesn’t give up. Ever.
I discovered that he does things without being asked to, yet I focus on the things I’ve asked him to do that he doesn’t do.
I discovered that I’ve raised a mighty fine child. And while he might be rough around the edges, we have another 11 years with him before he leaves this house. Maybe more. His training doesn’t end any time soon. I’d say for 7 years of life, he’s doing a pretty good job.
But even more so, I discovered a whole lot about myself as a mom. We beat ourselves up and tear ourselves down, when if we just quieted the world around us, and looked at our kids rather than our computers and cell phones, we might see just how great they are.
He goes through phases, all kids do. They reach ages and hormone levels where they test waters, where they see what their limits are with mom and dad, and where they can grow and excel.
Our society wants all of our children to act the same. Sit down, shut up, do what you’re told, and then, you’re labeled the perfect child. But what a boring world we would live in if all children were the same, and ultimately, grow up to be adults that are the same.
We are often so concerned about having the perfect child, that we forget that we are not the perfect parent. What an absurd expectation, to put such a limitation on a human being. I don’t even dare put it on myself.
We are concerned with how people see our children, what people think about our children, and what people think about us. When we should be more concerned with training out children, seeing their flaws, and teaching them how to be contributing individuals to society. Yet, we can’t forget that sometimes, we’re raising warriors. Leaders. Future men that will raise up in a time of need and they will not waver in their faith or morals or convictions when the time comes. Even daughter warriors, for that matter.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing an experiment on my child, and I am intrigued by the outcome of it. When his time isn’t being filled with useless information, like video games and electronics, his focus is better.
When my focus is on him—when I am not short tempered and annoyed with having to stop and be bothered with him—he excels. When I am not distracted by “better things” or “more important things” — his attitude is to a minimum, and though he’s still head strong. He might be strong willed still, but the level of respect is so much higher.
When my focus is on things that are happening around us, or in my life, or with work, or with an annoyance with someone else—he becomes irritated, equally as annoyed, frustrated, and angered.
Why is that?
It’s because in life, I am a wife, then a mom, then everything else. When my prioritizes are disorganized, there is chaos. As a wife and mom, I set the tone. I cannot simply blame my child for his attitude. I must take some form of responsibility as well. After all, I’m the teacher, he’s the student.
As I prioritize motherhood and life, I have noticed it takes me away from things that fill my own life with annoyance and anger. Or things that are simply time fillers, not priorities. And as I pour into my son more, the outcome is greater. He’s still head strong. He’s still a warrior soul. But who am I to tame that?
There’s a difference in allowing your child to be disrespectful, allowing your child to find their voice, and allowing your child to be undisciplined. We are finding a happy medium through it all.
But it begins with understanding that you can not approach it from a standpoint of “I’m the parent and you’re the child and I control you.” Because strong willed children will simply become enraged and frustrated. We are discovering that it comes from a standpoint of, “let me teach you, and then, you can teach me”. Or by expressing an earnest empathy to understanding their frustration, and finding a better way.
They say the best way to learn is to teach. And we are finding this incredibly true for ourselves and our own child. But as we embrace the task of training a child that has a big character, we remember this scripture…