So I’ve been all riled up about parenting issues for several weeks now. I kept thinking I’d write about it, but then I didn’t know really what to say. I certainly don’t have anything figured out, and how depressing is an inconclusive parenting blog? I don’t mind spilling my heart out with no conclusions, but honestly, I didn’t really have words for what I was feeling.
First of all, I want to express that the older Ryley gets, the more difficult parenting becomes. Of course it’s easier in some ways….like the fact that she can practically dress herself, and we can trust her to use a public restroom on her own. The physical work is less. But the mental and spiritual work….the work that really matters? Just gets harder.
I won’t bore you with too many details, but 3rd grade has been a tough year. Ryley is in trouble all. the. time. For talking, for reading when she’s not supposed to, for talking, for shouting out answers, for talking, for forgetting to bring items to class, etc. The teachers are constantly on her case for one thing or another. We have honestly always felt that she’s a little too high on their radar, but being teachers’ kids ourselves, both Ryan and I place a lot of value in classroom discipline, so we’ve had multiple meetings and e-mails to discuss the issues.
Finally, at our parent/teacher conference in March, Ryan asked the hard question.
“She gets a lot of strikes, and we’re wondering how she compares to the other kids. Do you give a lot of strikes to everybody? Or is her behavior worse than other kids’?”
“She’s pretty much worse than other kids.”
So there you have it. Our child is worse than other kids.
It took some time for that to sink in. Days, in fact. How could it be that our daughter has such a problem respecting authority? Why can she not control herself? We’ve met other kids in her class, and we’re not all that impressed. How are they managing to just slide through each day without getting in trouble? How can she be worse?
Then we went on vacation. You know how vacations are….You’re seeing people you haven’t seen in awhile (or ever), and you want your kid to “show well.” You want people to say, “Wow, your daughter is so well-behaved and pleasant!”
But each place we went, she picked fights. Her competitive nature came out, and she was confrontational with kids she had just met. These were things we hadn’t witnessed before! Suddenly, her many faults were glaring us in the face, on display for all our family and new friends to see. It suddenly hit me that because she is an only child, we haven’t seen a lot of her behavior around other kids. And she hasn’t played on a lot of “team” sports, so she doesn’t know how to “work together” or even “be a good sport” when she loses.
Suddenly we were seeing what the teachers see. And boy, was it depressing! We’ve raised a brat!
We got back from vacation, and Ryley ended up in the principal’s office the following Friday. There was no real big thing she did; it was the culmination of a lot of little things. None of them were serious at all. But when she got in the car that afternoon and announced she had gone to the principal’s office, my heart broke. I parked the car and marched back into the classroom to find out why. I wasn’t even sure whose side I was on. And I cried in front of the teacher. Yay!
Around this time, God impressed upon my heart that Ryley needed more of His Word in her life. She knows Bible stories, but we haven’t studied much about how God’s Word applies to our hearts.
So, because we’re always rushed in the mornings, we started keeping her Bible in the van and reading a chapter of Proverbs every day on the way to school. There is nothing like hearing her little voice stumble over “the wise man this” and “the foolish man that.” But she’s getting it. God’s Word never returns void.
“Mommy, I don’t like this,” she said the first morning. “It seems like everything they say the foolish man does is something that I do. It’s like it’s talking about me.”
But we kept going.
One scripture she read recently was “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” Ever since then, she “commits” her day to the Lord during her prayer every morning. And you know what? It’s working. She’s had seven good school days in a row!!!
I also started praying for her teachers (I know, a novel idea!), that they would have wisdom and discernment in every situation in their classroom. Being a teacher is a tough job, and it’s not one that I would want!
At the same time, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that we’ve been watching Ryley’s best friend “A” almost every Sunday since Christmas, because of her parents’ work schedules. It’s something we felt like God was telling us to do, so she goes to church with us and then spends the rest of the day with our family. It’s been interesting being this close to this little girl, because her faults have also become glaringly obvious. “A” is allowed to watch horror movies like “Poltergeist” and “The Ring” at home. She watches TV until she falls asleep at night, with very little supervision as to what she’s watching. There’s a strong attraction to sexuality and vampires and skulls and darkness, and it comes out in her play. Ryley gets frustrated with some of it, especially when she wants to watch something like “Tangled” or “Space Camp,” and “A” gets bored because of the lack of gore and violence. Not to mention, there are serious, deep attitude issues when she doesn’t get her way. Of course, there was the Girl Scout cookie booth debacle that almost did me in. And we can’t eat at our favorite “kids eat free” BBQ place on Sundays because “A” will put her head down on the table and refuse to speak for the duration of the meal. Yeah. Pleasant.
So this last weekend, we were celebrating the fact that Ryley didn’t get any strikes on Friday, and “A” said, “It’s funny that you get strikes all the time. I haven’t gotten a strike since 1st grade.”
Two years. How is that possible?
And that’s when it hit me that the teachers aren’t looking for the right things. They’re not looking to deal with the serious heart issues. They’re looking to punish only the things that disrupt their class, which apparently, is the epitome of our daughter.
Does Ryley have issues to deal with? Absolutely. She definitely needs to work on self-control and working well with others and being a good sport. She’s not perfect in the least. But I believe that, overall, she has light in her heart.
Talking in class and generally being over-exuberant to share her ideas is not going to land her in prison someday. Maybe it disrupts the class, but what about the kids who are sitting silently, letting their minds replay the horror movies they watched last night? What about the darkness lurking in the corners of the classroom? What about the attitude that is passed off as a girl who has a hard life so just let her sulk for a little bit? Why is the darkness being ignored, just because it’s more intangible?
Isn’t that just like the devil? Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.
They can slap Ryley with strikes, and we’ll keep working with her on those issues at home. After all, she is a sinner, in need of God’s forgiveness and mercy and correction.
But she has Light in her heart, and I refuse to believe that she’s the worst one of the bunch.