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Parenting: Aka, The Blind Leading the Blind
My Biggest Weakness
I've painted multi-scene murals and written custom wedding songs and coordinated an entire month of themed events. I've written Christmas plays that made me cry.
But--and I'm going to be vulnerable here--having dinner on the table at the same time every night feels like trying to run a marathon without legs.
It's like a surprise to me every day at 5pm when people are hungry. I’ve actually set an alarm on my phone that says, “Realize people eat dinner.”
It’s like Groundhog Day, except I’m the only one who forgets stuff.
I’ve learned over the years to appreciate that God made me a poetic, artistic person. But sometimes I talk to Him about it. Couldn’t He trade something out for one tiny little practical skill? I mean, as nice as it is to notice that the moon looks like a giant clipped toenail floating in the sky, it’s just not that…. useful.
People used to tell me they wished they were more creative or artistic. They would mention their stick figure drawings while looking longingly at my painting of clouds that looked kinda like actual clouds. I love to be verbally affirmed, but sometimes I’ve wished I could explain that I would give anything to be on time, remember to drink water, manage more than one person's expectations, or do a hundred other “normal” things that others do easily.
I mean, somehow my children wear clothes and eat breakfast and get to where they need to go, and my house does not look like an episode of Hoarders, so that’s good. But all these “normal” things require superhuman effort.
I sit down at the computer to write a 300-page book, and it happens.
I sit down at the computer to make a schedule, and I feel like my head is imploding.
I’ve never been officially diagnosed, but I’ve been learning about ADHD recently. Apparently, ADHD looks different in different people. I’m not hyperactive, but I can have trouble turning off my brain. I don’t have trouble paying attention, but I have trouble not paying attention. That’s why I can work on a project for 14 hours straight without feeling fatigued… but can’t do something every day for 3 minutes.
I have learned tricks for this. Some are healthy.
Routine cleaning and tidying is boring. Boring things feel impossible for people with ADHD because ADHD brains like to totally ignore boring things. It's like they don't exist. Like dinner. Unless I take measures, I save all my household management for weekend clean-a-thons.
So, I started watching Hoarders to scare myself into cleaning on a daily basis. Fear and intimidation worked for a while. But Hoarders made me too cranky, so I moved on to option #2.
Option #2 was to rearrange all my furniture every time I wanted to clean. Somehow, that made dusting more fun.
I have clocked more hours praying about becoming a responsible, civilized person than I can keep track of. And I do believe God is answering.
Lately, I'm trying efficiency as a strategy. I keep our possessions to a minimum and our organizing systems simple. I also use a kitchen timer to help myself stay on task. My kids have one chore per week so I don’t forget who is supposed to be doing the dishes.
We’re making progress.
A Blessing and a Curse
The way my brain works has been a blessing and a curse as we serve as gospel seed sowers overseas. It’s a curse because I’ve had to set up a house more times than I can count on one hand, and it takes me literal years to get systems set up. (My mother-in-law can do this in five minutes. I want to be her when I grow up!)
My brain is also a blessing overseas. Because I’m a good problem-solver; empathetic; hopeful; and I like lots of changes and challenges. I can see potential everywhere I look, and potential is exciting and engaging.
The other day, though, I was really feeling the weakness of this creative/potentially ADHD brain of mine. So, I prayer journaled. And I told God how sorry I feel for my children. Because I have to teach them how to do things I don’t know how to do. Talk about the blind leading the blind.
I drew a picture of myself looking up at a giant mountain with a tiny flag at the top. On either side of me stood my children, holding my hands, also looking up. A feeling of overwhelm came over me. The blind leading the blind, I thought again. Trying to teach my kids to be organized and motivated when I’m still figuring it out myself.
Sometimes the weight of my own ideals feels like it will crush me. I know how I want things to be, how I want me to be. The perfect life I want to give my children is like this big, beautiful mountain, but I don't have what it takes to climb it.
I drew my feet without shoes.
Just then, my husband Joshua hopped up on the bed next to me and looked at my drawing.
“What’s that?” He asked.
“Me and the kids,” I said.
“Looks like an adventure,” he said.
I stared at him for a moment. Then I stared at my picture. He was right. I had drawn an adventure.
Talk about reframing!
I spent the next fifteen minutes giving us backpacks and hats and filling in trees and a stream and a steep, winding path. And I thought about the way that parenting always feels, in some ways, like the blind leading the blind.
Because we all have infirmities, differences, and weaknesses. None of us has all the answers. We don’t always know what to do or what to say or where we’re going. Sometimes we’re wrong. We are humans who must backtrack, apologize, start over, and try again.
Maybe I’m trying to lead my children in the wrong thing, I thought to myself. Maybe I’m trying to lead them to be perfect when instead I could lead them to Jesus.
Changing the Goal of Parental Leadership
Jesus is the one I ask for help when I lose things. Like my patience. Or my pantyhose. I mean, maybe that is too mundane for Him, but I figure He knows where it is so I may as well ask Him. He is the one who knows where everything is and when everything is supposed to happen. He knows my potential, my weaknesses, my strengths. He knows me on a genetic, cellular, molecular, electrical-impulse-chemical-wavelength level.
Maybe I feel like the blind leading the blind because I’ve been trying to create perfect children who don’t make mistakes or have weaknesses that must be compensated for. Perhaps, subconsciously, I’ve hoped they would grow up to be just a little more perfect than I am.
So I’ve been disappointed. Because I’m not perfect enough to teach them to be perfect.
But I am imperfect enough to teach them how to take their flaws by the horns and ride them. I'm flawed enough to know that I need Jesus to come and find me and point my messy, artistic self in the right direction every day. I've faced enough obstacles to teach my kids to do hard things.
And maybe that lesson is even more important than not being surprised by dinner every day.
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A Little Extra
"When life is good and we have no problems, we can almost let ourselves believe we have no need for God. But in my experience, sometimes the richest blessings come through pain and hard things." — Anne Graham Lotz
“I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” — 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
“Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful.” — Annette Funicello