A dear friend who is wiser than I and who I love and respect once told me, somewhat jokingly, that the hardest part of marriage is that no matter how hard you try you can’t make your husband do something.
That seems obvious, doesn’t it? Yet how much conflict stems from the fact that I just want my own way in my marriage and my family? Seriously, my world would be so much more peaceful if only everyone around me did exactly what I want, when I want, and how I want it done.
I say this facetiously because I know life doesn’t work like that and obviously I want my husband and children to be their own persons and not my robots (except some days). I’ve found that in marriage the heated discussions about big things like budget are few and far between and our arguments mostly focus around small differences in running a home, Why would you leave your coffee mug there? Would it kill you to close a cupboard after you open it?
No matter how hard we try (and believe me, we’ve tried!), we can’t change each other to fit our own habits and personalities.
The same goes for our children. I’m never going to be able to force them into my version of who I think they should be. And as I’ve come to see in my marriage, that we need our differences in order to be whole, my boys’ personalities are a good thing for our family.
Which leaves me with this conclusion: The only person I can change is me.
Now come on, I mean, I’ve always known that of course, but still I thought that if I nagged enough they would learn to put their wet boots on the drying rack after kicking them across the foyer.
And I know I can’t change them, but still, if I scold enough times they will stop spilling their water at every. single. meal.
And if I combat their whining with complaining of my own, then won’t they see how awful it sounds and stop the incessant late-afternoon whining?
I can’t do anything to make them change. I only can change myself. Which means that I can get ahead of their behavior. I can have them take off their wet boots in the hallway before they enter the apartment and kick them off. I can fill their water cups myself before they fill them to the top. I can control my own response to their whining and refuse to listen to that behavior.
Little Guy lives on his own timetable and it’s frustrating because we’re late everywhere because I’m always nagging him to move faster, or let me help him put on his coat and boots, or stop collecting rocks in the parking lot. I can’t change him. So instead, I can give us a ridiculous amount of time to get out of the apartment. Time for him to try to put his boots on himself and fail, refuse help, try again, and finally succeed. Time for him to walk down the many many stairs by himself, without holding my hand, singing and talking to himself, taking his own. sweet. time…
Time for him to open the parking lot door by himself, time for him to walk across the parking lot while examining every block of ice, every pile of snow, every rock he comes across. Time for him to buckle himself into the van…
Now of course, I don’t let my 3 year old run our family, but it makes for a happier boy and ultimately a happier mama if I let him be himself, doesn’t it?
Jesus commanded us to love and pray for our enemies. This makes sense now, because what else can we do? I can only change myself. And if I can pray for my enemies, then certainly I can love and pray for my children, right? And I wonder if my enemies are not so much on a larger scale like terrorists, and more like my 5 year old refusing to obey, or my 3 year old throwing a screaming tantrum in a store.
Lord help me, I can’t change them. But God can.
And so I pray.