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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Perfect Parents: Good Children?

"You'd better watch out. You'd better not pout. You'd better not cry … He's going to find out who's naughty or nice .... He knows if you've been bad or good --- so be good, for goodness sake!"

"I'm gettin nothin for Christmas. Mommy and Daddy are mad. I'm gettin' nothin for Christmas; cause I ain't been nothin but bad!"

Well, it is the day before Christmas Eve --- the weekend before Christmas. Our ten year old son apparently hasn't heard these songs. Or maybe he just doesn't believe them.

It has, in the past, been my experience that children tend to try to act better the closer it gets to Christmas. They put on their best behavior, hoping to be worthy of all that stash they want Santa to leave underneath their tree.

But my son has never been much of a follower. He tends to march to the beat of a different drummer. Put another way, his behavior this year has been horrible. The closer we get to Christmas, the more obnoxious he has become.

Last night, we went driving around to look at Christmas lights. They were beautiful. We came home early. He did his best to be rebellious, disobedient, annoying and just downright bratty. I was so sick of him I wanted to push him out of the car and speed away.

Mind you, I love this child. I am blessed to call him my son. It's just that there are times when I don't much like him. This would be one of those times. He had been bratty all day. Everything we asked of him turned into an argument.

This child can even be arguing about arguing! "Look, I am not going to argue with you about this." His response, "I'm not arguing, I'm just saying ..." And he can argue about virtually anything. No topic is too minute to form an argument around. No subject is too petty.

One of his favorite tactics is to not answer a direct question. "Did you take the trash out, as your mother asked you to?" "Dad, I want peanut butter on my sandwich for lunch." "That's not the question I asked you, son. Did you take the trash out?" "It didn't seem that full to me."

"Again, son, that's not the question. Your mother asked you to take the trash out. Apparently she thought it was full enough. Did you take it out?" "Fine! I'll take it out! Will that make you happy?" "Yes, son, it will. Thank you."

You see, this is exhausting. I hate having these conversations so many times in one day. We had a full day of it yesterday, and today was much the same. He does what he wants, when he wants and it is a battle to get his cooperation on just about anything. This kid can even pick apart a slice of cheese pizza (which he did for dinner tonight).

I realized this afternoon that I was angry. I was mad. The more I thought about it, the madder I got. The strange thing was that I realized I wasn't even mad at my rebellious, belligerent, disobedient, argumentative son.

So what was I mad at? Well, I work in a recovery ministry, with a lot of people who have heart-breaking stories. I've met lots of people who had parents that were not so good. In fact, many of them have had parents who were horrible. Despite some wretched upbringings, many of these people turn out to be wonderful people, with kind hearts and a sincere desire to know the Lord, do what's right in life and be genuine.

So the thing I notice is that one doesn't have to have good parents to turn out good. At the same time, I notice that parents like ourselves, who knock ourselves out for our children, are not a guarantee of good children. This really ticks me off!

We are parents who take their parenting seriously, and study parenting techniques, get coaching and seek to hone their skills continuously. We are parents who pray for their children, confess our sins as parents and ask God to lead our parenting. When the child is so annoying that you want to push them from the car and speed away --- we instead pray and ask God to help us respond more appropriately.

Quite frankly, I'm convinced that there could be no more sincere parenting effort put forth than the one we are putting forth right now. The travesty is that this doesn't necessarily produce solid citizens. It can co-exist with a child who acts like a spoiled brat (as mine has been this weekend).

This afternoon, as I processed my feelings and tried to figure out why I was so mad, I realized that I am mad at life. It makes me angry that life isn't fair. It annoys the heck out of me that we humans have to put up with each other's character defects.

So here we sit at Christmas, celebrating the birth of a Savior. How ironic it is then that our bratty children can serve as a reminder of how much we need a Savior!

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