“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.'” Matthew 5:37
There’s a bad vibe in my house right now. My oldest son Zack is turning ten in August. He’s fighting for more independence than I’m willing to give. It’s a cyclical thing with us. The head-butting seems to happen both when a new school years beings, and again when it ends. They are his milestones, his transition times. Like a snail, he has outgrown one shell and is searching for a bigger one.
So here we are at the end of another school year. Here we are again, head-butting. Knowing that the old boundaries don’t apply anymore, I’ve relaxed my rules, blurred the lines between what he can get away with, and what he can’t. My “Yes” is not meaning just “Yes.” My “No” is not meaning just “No.” Both responses have an undertone of “Maybe.” Zack’s a smart kid. He knows that “Maybe” is a lot closer to “Yes” than “No” is. So he’s hounding me, pushing me until he badgers me into saying “Yes.” It’s completely frustrating, and utterly exhausting! Both feelings lead to me losing my cool. No wonder the household is a mess!
With some distance, the solution is easy to see. I am the only mom who can decide what freedoms Zack can gain, what new shell will fit him, and what new freedoms he’s not yet ready for. But seeing as I haven’t defined those boundaries for myself, how can I define them for him? The real truth is, Zack is growing up in front of my very eyes, and I am panicked. He’s my first child. This is unchartered territory for me. I don’t like transitions. I don’t like change. Obviously is’t a control issue (such a recurring theme for me). I love motherhood when I am the General, my kids are little soldiers, and they follow “orders from headquarters.”* But Generals drill the fun out of everything. They crush individuality, and stifle creativity.
Jesus never stifled people or crushed their spirits. He defined boundaries, without a doubt, but those boundaries were for people’s benefit, to channel their energy in the right direction, to point them towards the path that would make them better people. Most of all, the boundaries were clear cut, and were defined with love.
Unless I want this bad vibe to exist all summer long and crash into the next growth spurt when the new school year begins, I need to take action. But the action needs to be a soul searching one, a prayerful one. I need to turn to other moms with older kids for guidance, for sure. But, more importantly, I have to go to my core: that place where my mother’s intuition guides me out of a deep knowing of who Zack is, and what he, the individual, is really ready for.
I also need to turn to God in prayer, begging for the wisdom to know where to reset the boundaries so that they align with His boundaries, His will, and His vision of who Zack will become. I also need to seek His patience to stand by and watch Zack stumble a bit with the new freedoms, to hold my tongue and let Zack figure it out on his own, or be there for him to pick up the pieces when he’s overwhelmed. I also need to seek God’s counsel to constantly be assessing the new boundaries, to confirm whether I’ve shifted the lines to the right places or not. Lastly, I need God to grant me the humility to admit to both Zack, and myself, when I’ve made a mistake.
Zack is an incredibly rational kid. When a rule makes sense to him, he follows it to a “T.” It’s not his fault that he’s compelled to push the boundaries, stretch them to accommodate his growth. These are the growth spurts and growing pains of life. It’s my fault for not recognizing the signs earlier, and doing what needed to be done. But once I’ve defined things for us both, I can once again be firm in my convictions. That’s when the the logical Zack will accept when my “Yes” means “Yes,” and my “No” means “No.”
* I’d like to thank Angela Hanafin who allowed me to use the phrase “orders from headquarters” that she coined.