Thankfully, My Kids Don’t Listen

I’m sick of repeating myself over and over. My kids never obey the first time. It’s frustrating obviously, a recipe for insanity for sure. There are some days I lose it.

“Why don’t you listen to me the first time!” I shout angrily, unable to control myself.

After they reluctantly drag themselves to complete the specific task, be it putting their shoes in the bucket by the front door, coming inside, picking up clothes off the floor, feeding the dog, or brushing their teeth, I have yet to hear them come and apologize for their listless behavior.

“Sorry mom,” would be nice once in a while.

Now, before you start recommending your parenting books or giving me your tips on helping kids to listen, I have done my share of research. I’ve scoured the pages of many parenting books and I’m coming to a different conclusion on the matter.

My growing empathy for my children, and their lack of desire to do exactly what I say when I say it, has my attention. The hypocrisy of it all is undeniable.

Unless I’m following a new recipe or need to find my way in a different city or want to avoid a speeding ticket, strict instructions don’t sit right with me either. At least not anymore.

Up until the last few years, I prided myself in being the good girl. Doing exactly what the teacher asked, completing every assignment on time, obeying my parents while I lived under their roof, never veering off course or venturing towards the “slippery slope.”

Pleasing people, in all its forms, was a passion.  

I don’t think any of us, if we’re honest, enjoy being told what to do, how to do it, and “oh by the way do it NOW!” We all squirm under such circumstances. We might not have the language for it or even know what to do about it, but it feels like we’re being choked or chained to a leash.

Still, for those of us unskilled in the art of rebelling, we obey because we know we will receive at least some sort of love and affirmation. We don’t think to question whether or not that love is actually real.   

I can trace my good girl status back to Sunday School days, where I learned to believe God blessed those who obeyed, preferably the first time, who followed His commands, and didn’t stray from the truth.

As my perspectives of God have been moving and shifting, I realize how disturbing, how destructive these beliefs were and still are to me, and you.  

I am shocked, saddened by the message I’m sending to my kids when I insist on their obedience and unleash my fury when they do not do what I ask immediately. To think of how this shapes their view of the world, of God and His desires for them.

I have a profound respect for the rebellious ones, the curious question askers with why always on their lips, the risk takers who don’t mind cliff jumping and hold their lives loosely. I praise the daring humans who decide to go a different way and follow the breadcrumbs down a once forbidden path.

We all know them, the people who sneak around the back way, go where they’re not supposed to go, resist the norm, or as Richard Rohr puts it, “live on the edge of the inside.”   

In school, I was always envious of my peers who had the audacity to not finish their homework or study for a test, or earn anything less than an A. To me, that seemed to take real courage.

Being teacher’s pet, giving all the right answers, nodding my head in agreement, didn’t require an ounce of bravery, and unfortunately, it was where I decided to camp out for more years than I liked.

It will take many more years, I’m sure, before I fully unlearn my legalistic, rule-abiding, tell-me-what-to-do disposition.

Thankfully though, my kids won’t listen.

Thankfully, they see right through my stupid requests. Thankfully, they ignore my deceptively urgent decrees and eventually do it on their own time. Thankfully, they are grasping for a more honest, hesed love.

Thankfully, they see the world as kind, a place to explore and test their limits. Thankfully, truth has yet to become about following a silly system or a set of beliefs.

Now, it’s my job to harness their naturally rebellious spirit, to welcome their defiance, to revel in their non-conformity, and to trust people-pleasing is more dangerous than it sounds.

It’s my job to cheer them on as they change the world, instead of cringing when I think they should do it my way.

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