On the bucket list of most people who live in Atlanta is running the Peachtree Road Race. Winding through Buckhead and Midtown, the 10K race is the largest in the world. It really is an experience worth having. I decided to make my attempt the summer after I had walked the Breast Cancer 3-Day in the Fall. I rationalized I had already gotten myself in “awesome” shape, so how hard could 10K really be?
The problem is that I hate running. I mean loathe, despise and every other negative word you can think of to use! For some unknown reason, I can walk for days, but running (at a slower pace than I walk, I might add) exhausts me after a block. Okay, it’s mainly mental exhaustion, but still, I am done after a few blocks.
My husband, on the other hand, was born to run. He can not run for years and go out and make a decent time in a race. I guess as a test of our marriage, we decided to run the Peachtree together. Now, my husband was a saint during the race. He would slow his pace to mine and when I would stop running to walk, he would wait for me to get up the gumption to run some more and then head off with me again.
At some point, we ran next to a couple very similar to us with one striking difference. The husband was not at all patient with his wife. He was constantly carping at her to stop being lazy and keep running. I guess he thought he was encouraging her, but frankly, I think she would have been justified to impose whatever penalty she felt like to shut him up!
Now while I am pretty sure they finished the race, I am almost positive her memories of the experience are not as positive as mine. There was no prize other than a t-shirt for finishing where we were in the pack and we both got those. I am also not so sure their relationship faired very well either. Plus, while I would love to run the Peachtree again, I am guessing the mere mention of the race, makes her a little queasy.
Being a parent is a lot like running a long race. There are days where the weather is great, everyone is healthy, your children are well behaved and singing “Church songs” around the house. Your husband, children and even random strangers seem to be cheering you on. It feels like those first few blocks of running. We have got this parenting thing down pat!
Then winter hits, the children are constantly sick, the car breaks down, the children fight so much you feel like you are a boxing referee and those report cards come home with grades much lower than you were expecting. Did I mention your middle child is lying constantly and the older one doesn’t want to go to Church? Everyone is criticizing you – your husband, the kids and random well-meaning strangers.You have hit the parenting “wall”. It just feels like everything you are doing is either wrong or what has worked for every other parent doesn’t begin to work for you. Running away from home rather than finishing the parenting race is beginning to look like a viable option!
Although some mothers have run away from home, I would not advise that as your best resource. The run-away does have a good point though. When you hit the wall in parenting, you have absolutely got to take a step or two back for a moment. The trick is to make sure the people and activities you choose are actually encouraging you to parent like Hannah rather than suggesting a less godly alternative. So what are some ways to re-fresh yourself and get a new perspective, while continuing to be the godly parent like we see in Hannah? Here are some of my favorites:
1. Have coffee with a godly parent whose children are grown and active Christians. Or even one whose children are several years older than yours, but exhibiting the types of behavior you would like to see in your children. Ask her to let you vent for thirty minutes and then ask her advice. More importantly, really listen to her advice and if it is godly (as I would hope it would be), strongly consider following it. Successful people learn to model their actions after other successful people. Why make your own mistakes when you can avoid them entirely by learning from others? Seems a lot less painful and tiring to me! Word of caution: Do not let the person tell you it doesn’t get any easier! I tell them to let me have my fantasy! Remember a parent is always a parent. Your stage looks easy to them as they have “mastered” it and moved on, while their current state of parenting is still being worked through and seems more difficult to them currently. Trust me, in some ways, things do get easier. In other ways, you will always be a parent and there will always be challenges of some sort in your journey. Focus on your current stage and the advice you are getting to help ease your way through it.
2. Read a book. Not just any book, although sometimes a nice escape to the world of Jane Austen is the only thing you need. If you are truly struggling with parenting and not just tired, find some good parenting books to help you. Focus on the Family has tons of resources and I have suggested parenting books I have found helpful on my journey. Bonus points if they handle the subject with a sense of humor. Having a sense of humor can get you through some of the rough patches of parenting. (That’s probably why The Cosby Show was such a hit!)
3. Take a walk or get a massage, then go somewhere where you can think without being interrupted. Turn off your phone and really analyze your parenting situation. Is your child really lying every day or did she just recently tell one particular lie that really made you angry? Does your child really hate church and God or did he just stay up way too late the night before? What are your priorities in parenting? What characteristics does each child have that are godly and which ones still need some correction and guidance? Are you getting all of the support with running the house and parenting that you need from your spouse and your children? What changes can be made to not only make you a more effective, godly parent, but one who is not exhausted in the process? If necessary, go home and discuss your thoughts with your spouse and your children. Put some things in place to relieve some of the pressure you have been feeling. Running the race is a lot easier if you have people running with you, cheering you on to the finish line.
4. People always say, you never finish parenting. In some ways, they are right. In other ways, the pressure you are feeling at this particular phase of your parenting journey will end. Either you will find new strategies which work better with this new stage of your child (why does it always seem when you finally figure out how to handle a stage with ease, your child enters a new one requiring totally new strategies?!) or your child will grow and mature out of the problems that currently cause you stress. In the rare case your parenting problems seem to be getting worse, please do not hesitate to get professional help. Certain life circumstances or genetic issues (like mental illness) are beyond the scope of your average parenting book or friendly, neighborhood, godly parent. There is no shame in admitting you need some professional assistance. Just make sure that if at all possible, you find a licensed Christian counselor to help you. It is important to make sure any advice you follow is given from a Biblical perspective. If your issues are more “garden variety”, just remember the saying “this is only for a season”! It has gotten many of us through tough times of all sorts in life. Somehow it is easier to know the race is only 10k and the end is in sight, rather than thinking it may just go on forever!
So if you have hit the “parenting wall” this week, find a friend, take a walk, read a book and just remember – for most of us, our children’s childhood passes by like the blinking of an eye. Twenty years from now, you may just miss the cute little mud tracks through your kitchen! You can finish the race and parent your children like Hannah to the very end! Please let me know in the comments below, what other things you have done to keep running the parenting race when you feel like you can’t go any farther. I may just need your advice myself in a few weeks!