Growth Spurts!

So, in thinking of how to respond to a couple of the comments on my last post about the crazy- town activities at our house, I realized that there is a lot to say. It is not that I have this material mastered by any stretch of the imagination, but I do spend a lot of time thinking about it! It is actually something that I work on every day, so I may as well just share some things that have been helpful to our family as we navigate these busy years.

If you are just joining us, I have four little dinks, and our oldest and wisest will be five in the late fall. So no, I do not magically coast through the days with tender smile on my face bringing cookies on doilies to the children who are wearing tastefully chosen ensembles, and sitting on a monogrammed picnic blanket. You are more likely to find me calling a meeting to discuss the use of the shower curtain as a hand towel ( a meeting conducted while trying to chip up Cheerios that have dried on the floor under the table), or trying to explain why I put an end to pulling each other around at breakneck speeds on a tablecloth tied to a jump rope.

Life is not smooth or scenic a lot of the time, but it is happy and funny, and full of things I never expected but couldn’t live without. Probably the most helpful things that I concentrate on are perspective adjustments. When there is a behavioral problem, a disobedience issue, or a particularly difficult or tiring stretch with my children, I know it is time for a perspective adjustment. Time to sit down, think about what is going on, look at my initial reaction to it honestly, and then turn that reaction  on its head. So far, I haven’t found a situation where this did not clean everything up quickly. Here are a few examples, based on my own real-life encounters with young children!Daphne was still two, and Titus woke up with a dirty diaper. I went in to change him stealthily while Chloe still slept.  I was still clinging to the hope of longer naps when Daphne appeared in the door. I shook my head at her, and whispered “no”, “stay out!” My meaning was not unclear, and she was looking right at me. Then, she looked at Titus, danced into the room loudly singing “Hey Titus- man! Look at you big guy! I love you Titus-man!” Needless to say, Chloe’s head popped right up, and naps were over. Now, my initial reaction to this was definitely annoyance, and thinking about how badly we needed to crack down on a child that would blatantly ignore me and disobey. But, as I thought about what had actually gone on, I realized that I had done exactly what she did. I knew God told me to be patient and I heard Him clearly – there was no doubt about it. Then I thought “He’ll understand if I lose it because He’ll see why I did.” Daphne thought, “Mom doesn’t want me to come in, but she won’t mind as soon as she sees why. I am just going to go be sweet to Titus.” So there we were, both of us disobeying  to the exact same extent.

All I needed right then was to see that she was not the big “S” sinner, while I was the still- godly but annoyed mother. We were together in our mis-step. I don’t know if she knew I was irritated with her, but I apologized, and then talked to her about listening to Mama right away. The truth is, it wasn’t a big thing, it just felt like it was because it was messing with the naps. It would have been unkind and unreasonable for me to bring out the law on her, while tenderly dealing with myself.

Example two is more of a regular occurrence over here. It seems like we just find a routine and things are fairly manageable. I am feeling pretty good about the laundry, about the discipline, and about the whole situation. Then it seems like we wake up one morning and nothing works anymore. The babies are not interested in their toys, the big girls are listless, bored, and  usually demanding a lot more of something, like talking, or concentrated play, or they are just begging me for something “special” to do. Usually a project.I don’t know what they are talking about – being caught up on the laundry is special!

This is a feeling that almost always accompanies some kind of change. Someone giving up the need for a nap, someone learning to run, someone finding out they can climb up onto the table, the big girls discovering they can tie things together, or what have you. Anyway, this can be very frustrating. Kids alternately bouncing off the wall and fussing with each other, or getting into things you don’t want them doing, demanding something of you that you were not prepared to give.

Whenever this happens, this ambiguous restlessness in the house, I try to think of it as a growth spurt. It is like all my children have a growth spurt at the same time and develop new needs. This is only a problem when Mom doesn’t have a growth spurt herself. Even more of a problem when Mom refuses to have one, and demands that everyone else get back into clothes that are too tight.

This is another example of a time when the children’s attitudes are tethered to mine. If I pray for a growth spurt, for ideas on how to help them, to make this a fun new phase, and to appreciate their new needs, then the change on my part usually clears up a lot of things! I am not saying that this eliminates the need for discipline, but it makes it gloriously clear cut and sweet. My attitude is no longer a player, and it is no longer a big “situation” but just normal life.  You know those pain scales at the hospital (you know what I mean – they rate your pain from 1 to 10)? Well, pretend that you are screaming “13, 13! 15!” What that should tell you is that it is time to re-start the whole thing, stop screaming, and just accept the fact that this is now the new 1. Start over, and accept the new “normal.” I promise, that mental change will actually change how you feel.

My husband has emphasized something with our children that has been a huge blessing to all of us. That something is fellowship. As we have worked with them to sit through the service in church, this has been his theme song.  We stay in fellowship, and that is all. Basically, if one of the kids is disobeying, they are disciplined for breaking fellowship, and we make sure that we are back in it. This has had a far greater impact on everything than I would have expected. We discipline to get into fellowship. This means that we do a lot more discipline for attitudes than for “busy-ness.”  This also means that we have to keep our own attitudes spot on. We will not discipline a child if we are annoyed, irritated, or just fed up.

This doesn’t mean they don’t get disciplined, it just means that we do too, and we get it first. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. While this seems painfully basic, it makes a big difference. I try to remember that my relationship to my children will, Lord willing, be one of friendship far longer than it is one of authority. This is a short phase – this phase where we wield the rod. Most of their lives we should be friends. As time goes by, and my authority is removed out of areas of their lives (what they wear, what they watch, how they deal with each other), I want a firm foundation of friendship to be in place. My authority over them should not be the basis of our relationship – because if it is, letting go of my  authority would be letting go of them. But if the basis of our relationship is friendship, then releasing my authority in areas will release our relationship to friendship in that area.

I certainly hope that when my daughters are free to dress themselves, that will lead to lots of fun shopping trips, and far more fellowship over clothing than we have now. I clearly remember my Dad telling us that we were allowed to watch whatever movies we wanted to. I think if anything, that started the discussions with him about everything we watched – in painstaking detail, looking for feedback from him. He had already established a relationship of friendship (and trusted counselor) with us, and releasing his authority just enhanced that. So strive to befriend your children. Enter into their little needs and struggles, and don’t always zoom in with a paddle, or if you do, make sure that you are the first in line.

If God is (and He is) willing to enter into our struggles, and carry them for us, then we need to imitate that kindness to our children. He doesn’t get frustrated with us for tracking our dirt into His house, so how much more should we show kindness when our children just dumped out all the legos, even if it was into the bathtub?

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36 thoughts on “Growth Spurts!

  1. I’m reminded of when Jesus told his disciples, “I no longer call you servants, but friends.” The goal is achieving mature fellowship. Discipline is one of the means, not the end.

    I don’t have any children, of course, but I do love learning stuff that sets my thinking straight on all sorts of family matters, because the principles can always be extrapolated to other relationships. I wouldn’t be surprised if I found some means of applying this principle before too long. Ha…as I was typing that sentence, I already thought of one!

  2. This is so helpful today… my 15 month old just figured out how to climb on the table, and has an irresistible infatuation with the salt, so I keep hopping up in the middle of nursing my 3 month old and running in the kitchen to haul him down and take away the salt shaker. Add in a rough nap time, and a minor headache, and…and… 😉

    I guess we’re going through a growth spurt!

  3. This is very good, and enlightening. My children are farther apart in age then yours are, however, I still see those “growth spurts.” It seems that the 15 year old and the 10 year old and 5 year old and the 22 month old all seem to have one at the same time. And yes, I do get frustrated but not like I used to. I’m mellowing but I would really like to get MUCH better in this area.

    Concerning friendship with children: I never grew up that way so I really had no idea how parents can be good friends with their kids in a God-honoring way where they still had their parental authority until I started reading your mom’s books and listening (and reading) to your dad. I had only seen one extreme or another, either complete and total authority even when the kids are grown up (as in the Middle Eastern culture) or a teenage like relationship where there is even disrespect of parental authority.

    As the Lord has sanctified me in this area I have been able to do it better with my 10 year old than my 15 year old (although that is coming along nicely by the grace of God also). I noticed when I started asking my older girls what they thought about a particular outfit I had on they became more interested in what i thought about what they were wearing. These days it’s normal around our house for me to ask the older two their opinion about an article of clothing. Clothing has become a joy, not an issue.

    I admire what you are doing and the wisdom that God has given you through your upbringing. Praise be to God who alone is worthy of glory as He raises young families that do battle in such a joyous way. :-)

  4. Thank you Rachel. I was just going to do a blog post on such matters. But, I will just give a link here! I’m going to read your post again & again. It is a blessing. Truly!

  5. Thank you. I needed several spankings today. :0) And I do zoom in with the paddle swinging, figuratively of course, at everyone except myself, feeling perfectly justified. Thank you for the blunt and loving reproof.

    My 4 children (2-8) will thank you, too, probably tomorrow afternoon around 4:30 when the witching hour seems to start around here.

    Blessings on your little crew.

    Kathleen

  6. This really blessed me as I walk through a more challenging season with my three little girls. Lots of food for thought! Thank you!

  7. “It is like all my children have a growth spurt at the same time and develop new needs. This is only a problem when Mom doesn’t have a growth spurt herself. Even more of a problem when Mom refuses to have one, and demands that everyone else get back into clothes that are too tight.”
    Oh, darn it, there you go convicting me again:o)!
    This post is very timely, as my husband and I have been talking about this very thing and trying to find balace.
    “Fellowship”, I think that’s the glue we were looking for!
    Thanks!

  8. I just read that twice. Brilliant!
    It’s really a tremendous blessing for many many women that you and your family share your experiences so generously and so articulately.
    My kids are (mostly) older than yours, and I have had so many moments over the years that were similar to the ones you describe. I love to see how God can take these confounding moments in our lives, when I am often thinking that the children are the ones who should be growing up, and He tenderly shows us that it is us, the BIG folk, who have some maturing to do.
    Thank you so much for sharing what He has taught you.

  9. This has rocked my world. I confess my irritation/frustration/anger all the time, but my perspective still needs that huge shift you mention. There should be more resources for helping mothers of young children struggle against anger. I’m starting to think it’s fairly common. Thank you.

    (Rachel, I think we have mutual friends in Adam and Jess Loffbomm? We’re friends from Nashville).

  10. Thank you, Rachel (and Nancy as well- I forgot to thank you for you “quick” response in the last post). I wish I had a way with words the way you all do, but all I can really think to say is that the last two posts have been very timely (that happens around here quite a bit, it seems!), convicting, and very helpful.

  11. Thank you for this post Rachel – it is excellent! Truly you have been given much. What a wonderful thing it is that you can encourage so many women through this blog as well as make them laugh out loud in the midst of it!

  12. I really loved this post! So much wisdom. I wish so much that I had known these things 20 years ago when my older children were the age of yours. I kept expecting life to be a quiet pond where I could peacefully float my little boat; now I know it’s more like a rafting trip. I just paddle the best that I can and don’t expect anything to stay the same!

  13. Oh Rachel, what a good post! The point about friendship and fellowship with our children is especially insightful and instructive. Thank you for sharing your practical examples, they are very helpful.

  14. To all the lovely ladies (and gentlemen),

    I would like to leave a note of thanks to all of you–writers and readers alike. It has been such a pleasure catching glimpses of the everyday lives of others who are in Christ, funny to realize that I am not the only one nursing my child as I am reading. This blog is a fount of blessings and edification, a safe haven for weary hearts who are longing for a lasting rest.

  15. Katie-
    That is so funny that you know the Loffbomms! I have only seen them one time (although my husband was in high school with Jessica), when we spent a New Year’s Eve together several years ago. Say “hi” from us if you see them!

  16. Kathleen-
    I laughed at you calling 4:30 the witching hour, but isn’t that the truth! There is just something magical about Mom trying to make dinner. Emphasis on “trying”!

  17. Rachel, God bless you and your little ones. What a fabulous reminder during these tender years with little ones.

  18. I will have to be contrarian on this.

    I never (even to this day at almost 60) wanted my father or mother to be my friends. I have always thought that my father or mother was/is deserving of a significantly higher level of honor and esteem over friends. Scripture, whereby we are labeled with great honor and privilege to be called sons of God, the fact that the Decalogue elevates parents into a high position of esteem, and that we pray to our Father, may not be proof texts; they do establish my position.

    Yes, we are called friends by The Eternal Son; nonetheless The Son always obediently does the will of The Father.

  19. This was a great post! Very encouraging and exactly what I needed to read as we transition from a glorious 10 day vacation in Washington state to real life in a very hot Texas. Time to re-read Nancy’s posts on contentment!! 😉

  20. Gray-
    I would certainly say that friendships come in all shapes and sizes, and I would not expect a parent/child relationship to turn into a friendship of peers all of the sudden. But friendship is undeniably the word for the (very sweet) relationship I now enjoy with my Mom, and hope to share with my kids also. By using the word “Friendship”, I certainly don’t mean to imply an evaporation of honor or respect.

  21. What a great post! One of my husband’s favorite reminders about kids is “Where no oxen, the bed is clean; but much increase is by the strength of an ox.” (Proverbs 14:4). The baby oxen can make a big mess–but imagine how strong they will be when they grow up!

  22. Wow, really good post. So often I read books and totally agree with the theology but wonder…OK, how does this look in real life? How do you live this out daily in my house? This idea of fellowship was one of those.
    You have answered those questions. Thanks from a mom with 5 little….darlings! 😉

  23. Hi Rachel,
    I am hosting a “Sugar and Spice” Baby shower for my sister in law. When thinking of decorations I remembered the giant cupcake that you had in your shop. I would love it if you could tell me how you made yours!

    Thanks
    Missy Hawley (Lilliput)

  24. This post was great. I’ve read it a few times now, and have taken to spanking myself first. The spankings that follow my own seem to be much sweeter and amazingly, much more effective.

    Duh.

  25. Thank you so much for this. I almost want to print it out and pin it on the refrigerator so that I can keep re-reading it throughout the day! I’m a parent of four kids and have been doing the parent-thing for about 11 years now.. and this is about the wisest parenting advice I’ve ever read. Thank you, thank you.

  26. Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of thanks and approbation. It is truly much easier to have a proper perspective on parenting when we see God’s relationship with us reflected in our relationship to our children.

    I also wanted to offer a word of encouragement to those with an extremely low cumulative wisdom level among their offspring. With faithful training and natural maturation, it really does not take long at all for everything to get a good bit easier.

    I’m due with our sixth in a few weeks, and my oldest will be nine in November. The phase where we had three or four little ones (and the oldest was four or five) was much harder than the last couple years have been with five progeny around the house. The white water rafting metaphor in an earlier comment remains accurate, but the class of the rapids seems to drop quickly after those few critical years! :-)

  27. Very helpful and encouraging words. When my fifteen year old read this she said,”Wow, she really sounds like her Dad; all those great analogies” So how about that for a great compliment! :)

  28. Some people have a gift (I think) of saying things, putting ideas together that form encouraging blessings for all. I really appreciate you sharing these ideas and blessing us. I really needed to hear this. I look forward to passing this post on to some friends back in Kansas.
    Thanks!

  29. A week and a half later, my mind is still coming back to this post. I’ve found myself often, when tempted to complain, saying, “Nope…this is just the new 1. This is normal. You can deal with this.”

  30. I just read this entry over the weekend and wanted to thank you for writing it — very very helpful. I have three young boys — 3, 1 1/2, and 6 months and am in the throws of constant change (“growth spurts”) — and this was exhorting and encouraging for me. thanks.

  31. I just sent this to a friend, which caused me to reread it. Thank you again. I should print this and put it in the stack of things to constantly be rereading. I love the pain scale illustration. Thanks!

  32. I’m just now reading this, browsing through archives as I struggle with a very independent 3 year old. I’m trying to find answers for what to do, and more and more realizing that the problem is what I’VE been doing wrong. I already knew this, I guess, I just had it in the back of my mind, and not the front where it belongs. There are SO many wonderful posts on here, from all of you, that I think will be very helpful. The particular part about disciplining for breaking the fellowship is a real eye-opener, as well as keeping our own attitude in check. I still have a small family, a 3yr-old girl, a 13m-old girl, and one in utero, 16 weeks along. But I still find myself exhausted and grumpy and with very little patience. My girls are night-and-day different, and I have had people tell me the oldest has more of a boy’s temperament than a girls. Anyway, all that to say, I’ve sort of been “at a loss”… all the while I guess knowing in the depths of my mind, where I bury the things I don’t like to think about, that I for sure need to deal with myself FIRST. And pray that the rest follows. Thanks so much for the encouragement, it was just what I needed to kick my butt in gear. :)

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