Dare to discipline

Caleb is our eldest. Our eagerly awaited, longed for firstborn.

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

I think the term is ‘strong-willed’ but we prefer to say he has great spirit; Caleb loves life, people and adventure and has energy that could solve the oil crisis. This child was born for wide-open spaces and so he pushes every boundary he comes across. I am so proud of him and so exhausted by him. Even the laid-back, extraordinarily patient Jayber gets pushed beyond endurance as time and again Caleb cartwheels over the lines we draw for him.

It’s hard on the firstborns. They may get more one-on-one time than any other child in the family but they also get all our ‘practice’ parenting. Let’s face it, we’ve never done this before and we haven’t a clue. Seems like we spend a lot of time going back to the drawing board as each new discipline strategy bites the dust. We dip in and out of countless parenting books, swop battle plans with other maxed out parents, consult our child psychologist and drink a lot of wine. It’s trial and error and we just pray that the errors don’t leave too much damage.

It’s hard on the parents. We have these 2 paradigms of parenting that we try and steer a course through; if I’m too tough with him I’ll crush his spirit, if I am too lenient he’ll get out of control. It’s fear based parenting and I’d like to dump it please. I end up dis-empowered and second guessing myself whatever I do.

And so here we are with the current working theory. I try and be firm with Cabes and make the boundaries clear (which is good), but I’m also trying to learn to treat him with compassion, (which is really, really hard when he is driving me nuts and I could cheerfully put him on the next plane to his grandparents), to pay attention to his heart and what he is feeling underneath all the behaviour, to respect his needs and desires more than my need for perfect behaviour and control.

Parenting is a journey of repentance and grace. Of getting it wrong and starting fresh. I’m not good at it. I prefer to keep thinking I’m right until I feel really guilty and then beat myself up about it: woe is me, I’m the worst mother in the world. So I’ve thought of another mantra that every parent needs to get tattooed somewhere, right alongside “This too will pass’ :

‘My love is more powerful than I know or understand’.

It is the soil in which they grow and flourish, the wall that protects them from the worst of their mother’s legalism and perfectionism. It is the covenant I made with them when they were in the womb with God himself as the witness. I will fail them, I will fuck it up but I will love them and that will be enough.

My love is more powerful than I know or understand.

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