My son slammed his fingers down the guitar strings enthusiastically while I stared at my computer screen, eyes glazed over, trying to come up with words to type out. Being a working parent while also working on a master’s degree is challenging and exhausting. I mustered up all the patience left in me to say, “Please either play the guitar in your room or stop playing it because it’s too loud out here.”
My son picked up his guitar and strolled, as if in slow motion, the 6 feet over to his bedroom door. Standing in his doorway, he slammed his fingers down the guitar strings again. I jumped, whipped around, and gave him the notorious mom look. He shrugged and said, “What? I’m in my room.“
Again, with a sliver of patience, I replied, “With the door shut so that it’s not still loud out here.” He sighed loudly. Deciding just to put the guitar away, he sat on the couch, placed the guitar in its cloth case, and zipped it shut. I didn’t expect what happened next. With the guitar still in its case, he cradled it in his arms and started slapping the side of the guitar to make music while singing loudly and tapping his foot to the beat.
Now, insert the mom look again. “What? The guitar is put away,” he said defiantly. In defeat, I lowered my head onto my desk, taking a few deep breaths before talking with him again.
This is my strong-willed child, the child with a natural talent for turning any small request into a power struggle. The child that tests my parenting and regularly has me questioning if I’m even doing any of this parenting stuff right. For this child, I have left doctors’ offices in tears, hung up the phone shaking in anger, walked away from social workers thoroughly discouraged and devastated, and had parent/teacher conferences when there seemed like no good solution to escalating behaviors. I have advocated for him until I was blue in the face, sometimes with no tangible results. But at least he was thankful for my help, right? Wrong.
If you’ve ever parented a special needs child, or any child for that matter, you probably know that none of this is about you or for your satisfaction. You give your life and do everything for them, but they still stomp away and scream that they hate you when things aren’t going their way. Their limited brains don’t yet understand things like gratitude or how your rules keep them safe. They don’t yet have all the knowledge that you have to work with when making decisions.
I see this as a parallel to my relationship with God. Sometimes instead of just listening to His guidelines for my life, I like to toe the line. Let’s see how close I can get to the line without actually crossing over it. Meanwhile, I’m missing the whole point because my heart isn’t in the right place of trying to please Him. Instead, like my son, I’m trying to see what I can get away with without having to suffer any consequences. It seems I have to learn all my lessons the hard way.
Yet, God continues to advocate and care for me, just like I do with my children. He understands that I don’t understand. He knows my limited knowledge stunts my decision-making abilities. He knows I will make poor choices sometimes because I don’t know everything He knows. He knows I struggle to be obedient if I don’t understand the why behind something. You see, I’m one of God’s strong-willed children. Yet, He continues to forgive, redirect, and restore. He’s still working on me. Maybe He is using this strong-willed child to refine me.