"I hate you and I want to go live with Dad!!"
This was screamed at me by my almost six year old tonight in retaliation for a time-out (he smacked his brother). From the minute J walked out the door, I expected to hear those words from at least one of my children at some point, but to be honest, I thought I had at least ten years before having that discussion. Ouch!
I sent Junior up to his room to cool off but was very troubled. I know he is reacting as many kids would, but the request hit too close to home in terms of an attitude I most definitely don't want him to adopt. One of the problems with having one parent elsewhere is that kids feel they have an "escape route" if life starts to be hard where they are. And it doesn't really help that J's isn't really a home for them. They have a room and it's where Dad is, but every weekend so far has been non-stop fun. I know this because after every "dad weekend" we have some serious behavior bootcamp around here as they have to come back to reality. I can guarantee that their lives are going to be hard sometimes living with me. They will have chores and they will have to attend church and they will have rules and consequences. They are less likely to notice the love and the sacrifice and acts of service until much later. I don't want my kids to grow up with the notion that if they don't like where they are, they can bail for what feels easier rather than do the work to fix their situation. That attitude has already broken our family. I know Junior is too young to have any real meaning attached to what he said, but given that he has started that line of thought so young I feel like I need to be proactive.
A year or so ago, J came home with a story about an acquaintance whose father would tell them when they left the house each day to "do hard things." Not "I love you," not "be careful," not "be good" although I think each of those was implied in the suggestion to "do hard things." We loved it at the time and now that I remember it, I am going to adopt it. Some families come up with a theme for the year. I want this to be my family's theme for life. If there is nothing else I can teach or show as a mother, it would be to always tackle the hard things. I know that this will require a lot of teaching by example on my part and it will definitely be a challenge. Especially now. Sometimes, doing what is hard is a choice that you know will benefit you, like dieting or exercising or walking away from that wild party or a bad situation. Other times, hard things are going to come your way because of factors that are out of your control, and in that case, you should practice meeting those things head on with grace, doing the best you can. If you think about it, most things that are difficult to do are things that will build you in some way. If you are ever in doubt which road to take, there is a good chance that the harder one is the one that is best for you. It is human nature to want to have things be easy and to want to take the easier way and I am no hypocrite. I don't think a day has gone by that I haven't wished that this cup would pass from me. But at the same time, I am aware of how this experience is changing me. I hope for a day where I can be grateful for my trials. Right now, I will settle for understanding that they are strengthening even while they are excruciating. It isn't called "the refiner's fire" for nothing and as my last post demonstrates all too clearly, I am not always on top of meeting my challenges head on. I am trying though.
After awhile, I went upstairs to talk to Junior and had the first of what I imagine will be a million disussions about how quitting something is not an option. About how hurtful it is when you tell people you want to leave them. About how it is important to stand your ground and fix the situation rather than running away. About accepting when you have done wrong and try to fix it. At no point did I mention his dad's decision and that will never be part of the speech. I also realize that most of that lecture probably went right over his head, but maybe if I start at six, by the time he is 18 he will understand what is and is not acceptable for him to be a good man. My kids may not listen, but I am going to tell them anyway "Do Hard Things." It is very likely that it is something they will make fun of behind my back as they grow (crazy old mom...it won't stop me though :-)
As for me, I am going to start practicing doing the (little) hard things everyday. Try it! Take the time to get to bed earlier like you keep promising yourself. Read the scriptures, go to the gym rather than let yourself be talked out of it, visit that neighbor you have been meaning to drop in on, get your homework done early, go on that diet you have been promising yourself. Do whatever it takes to seek that faith or that testimony, carve out time to practice that hobby, go for that job you have been dreaming about, have that conversation you have been dreading, give that forgiveness you have been withholding. Take the harder road in your life. God knows that our experience here is not easy. It isn't supposed to be. "Adam fell that men might be, and men are, that they might have joy." Nothing was easy in the Garden of Eden because nothing was hard. A vacation isn't relaxing unless you have been working hard. A rest does you no good unless you are tired. We are blessed when we do the things that can strengthen us as people both physically and spiritually. Consider your soul and your resolve as you would a muscle and work it out regularly. Don't let it atrophy. Doing hard things brings humility and humility is essential to growth. If we are compelled to be humble, we are blessed for enduring it well. If we gain humility on our own, we are blessed for our obedience. Nobody ever got anywhere by sitting back and wishing that things were different or that their life would change. Maybe the idea is that the more you practice, what seemed "hard" before will eventually no longer phase you. If I could wish one concept for my kids to really understand before something in life breaks them down, it would be this motto. It applies to both the big and the little things.
Now excuse me, I am going for a run since I have been trying to talk myself out of it all night :-)