It was one of those days. Everything seemed to be going wrong. The laundry needed putting away, the read aloud book stack sat untouched. And I could forget all about coloring with the kids like I said I would.
The whole afternoon had been consumed by a preschooler’s epic, marathon meltdown.
I had tried all of my best parenting tools. Connection, correction, a gospel-centered pep-talk. Still, here we were, two hours into meltdown-mode, no better off than where we started.
Remember how easy parenting seemed before you had kids?
Hours into this parent/child showdown, there was a moment of calm. Was the meltdown resolved, or was this the eye of the hurricane? I wasn’t sure, all I knew was that it was time to start making dinner. As I pulled veggies from the crisper, a little voice squeaked, “Can I help?”
The preschooler who had just made the last several hours feel like a scene from The Exorcist wanted to assist with dinner prep.
The rational parts of me said, “No. Not a chance. No way. You do your thing, I’m going to do mine.” But my heart felt a divine nudge.
Through clenched teeth, I smiled and eeked out a “Yes, go wash your hands.”
Practically, there wasn’t much this small child could assist with. But I concocted a few unnecessary steps (“Put these chopped carrots into a neat pile,” “You’re my special kidney bean can holder!”). With each completed task, her demeanor changed. Soon she was beaming at her sense of accomplishment, gratified by loving her family in a practical and productive way.
As we worked with our hands to serve our family, our purposes aligned. Wordlessly, our hearts began to soften towards each other. Within minutes, her best traits were on full display. Like the clouds had parted and the warm sun shone through.
Perhaps it’s an overstatement to categorize allowing a cute kid to help make minestrone as “dying to self.” But all moms recognize the endless slew of daily choices we make to say no to our preferences in favor of connecting with our kids. When we do, our hearts and theirs find delight.
There’s a reason God instructed His people to disciple their kids all the time. “When you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up…” It’s probably because our squirrelly little people are not perpetually receptive to good truth. The soil isn’t always fertile. Even adults forget much of what we take in. Our kids are the same.
Parents never know which of our instruction and bits of wisdom will stick inside those precious minds we’ve been called to shepherd. Sometimes I worry that my best stuff is wasted on tantruming ears. “Baby, this speech right now is totally profound, I even wove in a little Cain and Abel. Stop screaming so you can hear it!”
But when we abide in Jesus, He redeems every tantrum. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. He uses the simplest, everyday moments as opportunities to connect with our kids and reflect His character to them.
Maybe I thought my words were on-point, but perhaps what this child needed was to feel included, valued and productive—without any words at all. The Spirit nudged my heart and I responded.
It wasn’t the discipleship hack of “magical minestrone.” Rather, it was the fruit of a submissive heart, yielding to the work God will do through His Spirit as we quietly abide in Him. It was the over-and-over, everydayness of motherhood—when we die to self and find that life more abundant is in front of our eyes. In His timing, not ours.
When we set our ambition to please the God who called us to this work. We choose to faithfully draw near, even when we want to check out. The rest is up to Him.
Molly DeFrank is a mom and foster mom to five kids under ten. She writes about faith and motherhood—the hilarious and the hard; the fun and the maddening; the beauty and the blunders. She loves to share encouragement and laughter with women just like her. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, or her website, www.mollydefrank.com.