The Referee

Why would anyone want to be a referee? The entire job consists of constantly waiting for someone to do something wrong, so you can correct them. I dunno, maybe I’m missing something, but it seems to be a horrid job, if you ask me. There’s lots of whistle-blowing, arms waving, running around, and breaking up fights. Plus, the outfit is super ugly.

Plus, the outfit is super ugly.

Well, that’s what I felt like today—a referee. Lots of correcting, running around, and breaking up fights. My outfit (which consisted of black leggings, a tank top and my “Run Detroit” sweatshirt) was, indeed, ugly. I didn’t even comb my hair. I think I brushed my teeth? Yes, question mark. The field I was in charge of today was my home. The players, my children. “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’,” kids,” I patiently reminded my little ballers. This seemed not matter. One second Michaela was screaming about an unseen owie, the next Boaz was peeing on the floor (we are potty-training). One minute we move the ball to the 50 yard line—a fun time during an art project—the next we have an interception and the ball run into the end zone of the other team when Boaz starts walloping his sister on the head. Before I could blow my whistle, allow a time out for one offense, we were off to the next. Exhausting and disappointing are the two descriptives I have for this scenario.

Days like this make me want to give up. Throw in the towel. Turn tail and run. Now that I work part-time, I really look forward to the days I have at home with my babies. Maybe the three days at work somehow magically make me forget the actual chaos that awaits me. But, whatever the case, when Thursday arrives, it brings with it excitement and hope of a blessed time with my babes. This lasts for exactly 22.3 seconds, at which time I am reminded I live with little sinners that I have the task of teaching how to live in the civilized world. Maybe those three days away I build up my expectations way too high. But is it too much to hope for a sweet time together? Is it wrong to expect to get through one meal without someone crying, throwing up or having to go poop? Shouldn’t I look forward to actually playing a whole game with the Littles and everyone enjoying it? I don’t know, I really don’t think those are high expectations. But I just don’t want to live in the realm of Exhausted and Disappointed any more.

Is it wrong to expect to get through one meal without someone crying, throwing up or having to go poop?

What kept me going today, what made me not throw in the towel (other than the fact I’m the one in charge of keeping them alive until I can tag-team Dan at 5:30) was the little itty-bitty bit of preaching I did to myself. Now, it was pretty hard to muster, cuz I was all settled in to be mopey and bad-attitudey, but I managed to pull off a few niglets of “c’mon girl, remember who you are.” Somewhere in the recesses of my mommy brain I remembered reading somewhere that God doesn’t ask us to be “successful” (whatever that means). He asks us to be faithful. Be a faithful mom, Amanda. Just keep loving these little hooligans as much as you can. Maybe what that looks like is giving MYSELF a time out so I don’t explode on the babes. Maybe that looks like me going through the motions silently, but with kisses on the tops of their heads. Maybe it means we let go of the hope of a blissful afternoon and just have an afternoon.

God doesn’t ask us to be successful, He asks us to be faithful

What faithfulness ended up looking like tonight was a really great conversation with my daughter. I had decided to throw myself into something I know I’m good at and can complete—cleaning my house. I had just finished scrubbing out the refrigerator and had started to prep the floors to be mopped when I heard the pitter patter of little feet up from nap. It was Michaela, and she asked what she could do to help. I put her on dusting duty and away she went. As I watched my little girl work by my side, I started to see that today isn’t a failure. My grandma used to say, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!” And how I think this correlates is to say, don’t assume the whole entire day is a wash just because there’s a few (or a million) trying moments. Keep on keeping on. So, I turned to my babe and said, “Michaela, I’m sorry for yelling earlier. I just want so much for us to be happy when we are all together. It makes mommy feel so sad when you act like you are not happy with whatever mommy has planned for us to have fun doing.” And then, my four-year-old looked at me and replied, “Mommy, I just love being with you. Just because I ask to do another special thing all together after we have just done one, doesn’t mean I didn’t love the first special thing we just did. Maybe we should pray for each other right now?”

THIS. This was said from my FOUR-YEAR-OLD. So, we prayed for each other, hugged, and went back to cleaning. I am a blessed woman. My girl is getting it. Somehow, somewhere between the battles I break up and the pee I mop up and the owies I kiss and bandage, my babies are somehow seeing Jesus. I’m pretty sure it has zero to do with my dazzling skills and all to do with His grace and glory. But they’re getting it. Praise GOD.

About an hour after this Michaela made herself throw up at the dinner table because she did not want to eat the nutritious chicken soup I had spent hours making.

But, even this darker parenting moment was easier for me to glide through because I’d had a little fresh wind the hour before. I had seen God working, He had reminded me faithfulness is the goal, and so onward we went.

Then I fell asleep at 7:30pm. This refereeing stuff is hard.

Be the Constant

The screaming reached a pitch only recognizable to neighborhood dogs. Any moment, I was sure a DCFS worker would come pounding on my door. A strange banging noise rang out from my daughter’s room. What had sent my three-year-old into this rage? I no longer remember the particular thing that did it this time, however I can tell you it was probably something as simple as telling her to get ready for nap time. Or go brush her teeth. Or just a little two-letter word—NO. Anything that was contrary to her plan for the moment could have done it. To make matters worse, Daddy was away on Air Force Chaplaincy orders for the summer, so that meant her usual expectations for life had been disrupted. A dear friend of mine had come over that morning for a walk, get me out of the house for a breath of fresh air, when this tantrum took place. I sent my little urchin to her room to think about having a happy heart when the screaming and banging commenced. It did not sound like hearts were getting happy. All of a sudden a certain panic overcame the screaming, and a little, “Help me!” came from her room. My friend was first on her feet and in my daughter’s room to find Michaela had pulled a dresser over and was holding it up by her feet.
A few thoughts went through my mind at that moment simultaneously: Wow, my daughter is unbelievably strong. Wow, thank you God for not letting it crush her. BAH, I KNEW WE SHOULD HAVE ANCHORED THAT DRESSER TO THE WALL!! I yanked the dresser up, and grabbed Michaela to give her lots of snuggles and hugs. My shaky breath began to return to normal. Uh, is this what everyone’s three-year-old tantrums look like?
I wish I could tell you after that the rest of the summer was a breeze. That she had gotten out her uglies, and we finished Operation Survive Without Daddy just fine. However, that would be a lie. Some days were lovely. Sometimes Michaela was so well-behaved it made me doubt that the tantrums had ever happened. Then, the Rage Monster came for another visit. In these moments, I looked at myself for fault. What in the world was I doing wrong? Why couldn’t I get my daughter’s behavior under control? How come other moms seem to have an eternal supply house of patience and love when I feel like any minute MY Rage Monster would explode on her? I started to beat myself up pretty badly.
Then I was reminded of algebra. Now, you should know I vehemently hate math. (Ironically enough, I was nominated class treasurer in high school. It’s a wonder we made it to our senior trip with a dollar to our name). So, there I was sitting there beating myself up about my daughter’s poor behavior when high school algebra was brought to mind. I don’t remember much of what Mr. Walker taught us, however I do remember this:
A constant is a fixed number or value. It is a number that you are sure of.
A variable is a symbol for a number we don’t know yet.
I heard a Still, Small Voice whisper to me, “Amanda, be the constant.” In this real life equation I am the constant. My daughter is the variable. I am the fixed value. She is what we don’t know yet, what’s still in motion, still becoming who she’s made to be.
The dictionary describes variable as being “inconstant, fickle, or having much variation or diversity.” One other time in my life God has brought the constant and variable to mind. I was on a train. Listening to some praise and worship music, pouring my heart out to God in my prayer journal. It was not that long after I’d had my miscarriage, and I was struggling. I felt like God had left me all alone. I was begging Him to please just talk to me! Please, let me know You haven’t forgotten me! And then, He said it to me. “Amanda, I Am the constant. You are the variable, my child. I do not change. Never have, never will. I am some One you may be sure of. It is you, my daughter, that has been the variable. While I have stayed the same, dear, you have wandered from my voice. Come back into communion with me.” And with that, I rested in the arms of my Jesus once again.
Pastor Ritch Boerckel of Bethany Baptist Church in Edwards, Illinois, reminded parents one Sunday morning that we are often a child’s first picture, first example of Jesus. Think about that for a second. Our little ones’ first impressions of Jesus come from how we portray Him. That’s why I encourage you to be the constant. Be the faithful one in the equation between you and your child. Even when your kid is acting completely horrid, remain firm and steady, unchanging. This is how they will come to know you and what to expect from you. Trust is developed. And ultimately, this is how we can point their hearts to Jesus.
How have you been the constant in your child’s life?