Monday, April 2, 2012

Once Upon A Tantrum

Both of my boys have always been ecstatic about bathtime. Until they turned two. Whoever named the "terrible twos" obviously had children like mine.  I'm not entirely sure what happened. One day they are splashing around, squirting little boats, and getting their superheroes lost in bubbles, the next day TERROR. One day, right around age two, Stinker simply refused to get in the bathtub. So I didn't force it.  I let him crawl into bed with a days worth of sweat and "boy-ness" and fall fast asleep. Day two rolls around and I run the bathwater. TERROR sets in immediately. First the refusal.  Then the shreiks and tears and wiggling to escape the bathrom entirely. I relented again and just washed the oldest monster, scrubbing the dirt away for the both of them. What's one more day? Maybe tomorrow will be better. . .  On Day three, we began the process again.  Night after night for at least a month we would go through the same motions.  Let me set the stage:  I ask Stinker to get in the bathtub, to which he politely replies, "I no want a bath." In my sweetest Mommy voice I explain that he is two years old and that he doesn't always get what he wants.  I tell him that baths are good for him and everyone has to take a bath.  He simply looks at me, totally taking it all in.

Not to be deterred, I try a new approach, excitedly exclaiming, "Come on honey!  Look at all the bubbles!  Let's play in the bubblebath!"  At this point, big crocodile tears start streaming down his face and the shreiking commences, "No bath, no bath, no bath!!!"

I ignore the tantrum, lift him to his feet and practically drag him down the hallway to the bathtub.  Fright turns to anger and then to infuriation. He makes his best "I hate you, Mom" face, turning beet red as I pick him up, kicking and screaming and eventually get him into the tub.  And then, a funny thing happens.  As he splashes water on himself, he remembers: Hey, I like the bath!  The bath is fun after all!

By the end of the whole process, Stinker likes the bath so much that he doesn't want to get out. After all, the bathtime struggle isn't really about the bath at all. It about obedience. Stinker is two years old and just simply doesn't want to obey. He thinks that he should be the one to decide whether he gets in the tub or not.  He is young and testing the boundaries. He's trying to figure out just how much control he has in his little life.  At this point, that's not much.

It's so hard to discipline him for his disobedience, though I know I'm doing the right thing by forcing him to obey.  It would be so much easier if he would just obey on his own. As I'm reminded nightly of his disobedience, I realize just how much little Stinker reminds me so much of myself.

I hate to think about how much I've dirtied my life up daily because of my disobedience.  I am so thankful that God, in His grace does not always allow me to win.  Because usually the fight is not really about what He is asking me to do.  It is not about the bathtub.  It is about me, trying to figure out just how much control I have over my little life.  At this point, not much.

I would love to say that I am an obedient child of God, but I would be lying to you. I don't always do what He asks of me. Though I am getting better day by day, there are moments that I shreik in TERROR at the unknown of life.  I kick and scream and try to wiggle free and escape his will just like a disobedient two-year-old, because at times, it seems just too much.

So God picks me up, exhausted from struggling and plops me in the center of His will for my life.  And then a funny thing happens. As I kick and scream and wail, I remember:  I like being in the center of God's will for my life. God's plan is usually pretty amazing, and usually a whole lot better than the one that I had planned.  I am so glad that He does not allow me to win. 

And so I will continue to win the nightly bath time struggle. And continue to remember to parent the way God is parenting me. With patience and gentleness and grace. Long live the "terrible twos".

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