It was one of those days. Again. Chaos. Every moment of that day, as the day before, and the one before that was utter chaos. Fights. Destruction. Aggression. Noise, so much noise. Anger. Tears. I laid down that night as I had many other nights and wondered how I was going to get up again. I was so thankful that at the very least, once they were asleep, I could count on a few hours of rest. I know some people who are not that lucky.
I had flown off the handle more times than I could count. I was tired. I was angry. I was pushy and all of the other things that I never wanted to be as a mom. My oldest told me that I was setting a bad example. I felt overrun by my household of children and he noticed my behavior despite the chaos. And this was not the first time.
What I did not really comprehend, and still struggle to internalize, is that there are 4 fragile people that I am parenting and they are not as strong as I think they are.
When there is another potty ‘accident’ that was intentionally hidden for the fourth time today, I get angry because that is almost always after I have finished that last load of laundry. When we think the kids are in bed and then a rage cycle starts that leaves bruises and tears, all I want to do is crawl in bed and sleep. When I do not allow candy or chips (very rare in our house any way) for dinner and furniture gets thrown around for the third meal that day and I just can’t understand why. When one of the kids who has not had a lot of attention that day asks me to play with them and I snap that I cannot because I have too many other things going on at the same time and in the back of my mind I wonder when they will stop asking all together. I need to break apart fights, fix or remove destroyed objects from rooms, or try to put a meal together that wont get thrown across the table, while simultaneously trying to watch four kids who are either trying to hurt one another or who are screaming, whining, or crying for reasons that they cannot themselves tell me. I just want a break.
I think they might feel the same, only perhaps they cannot articulate it.
You are only as strong as your weakest link.
The thought is rather simple. If a team wants to work together, they must make sure that they do not go any faster or farther than the weakest person is able to go. Otherwise, that person gets left behind. Often this is very aggravating for the stronger members of the team who have places to go and people to see and who feel held back. Those who are weaker often keenly know that they are holding every one up. I have bad knees, and I remember several instances of hiking in groups and feeling very much aware that I was holding the group up because try as I might, I just could not move any faster. They could either leave me behind and catch me later or slow down themselves and stay together.
My kids are all weak in their own sense. My biological children are young and still learning about life and they have their own delays and struggles. My two foster children come from a background of trauma and their behavior reflects it. They are ‘labeled’ and delayed and frankly a handful. Many days our family seems to lurch around in a daze. I cannot make them go any faster or farther. I can encourage, bribe, threaten, or push all I want, but they have to develop and go forward as their strength allows them. They should be pushed for excellence and independence and strength on their own, but dragging them behind me was not going to work. They want to be strong. They want to be good. They want to make me proud. There are days where we see victories, even little ones, as we watch them learn and grow. We are so thankful for those moments.
Then I realized that they were not necessarily the weakest ones.
In all of the time that I thought I was strong and put together I did not see the areas that I have slowed my family down. Sure I had faults, everyone does, but I did not think that I was contributing to the chaos.
Instead of slowing down and allowing the child who was struggling that day to rest and catch up, I would get frustrated that they could not keep up with the pace or the expectations. Instead of helping them with their weaknesses I would groan and complain that they were somehow responsible for my lack of empathy or patience. This might not have been a conscious thought process at the time, but in reflection I can see how my words and actions came from that dark place in my heart. I cannot do this on my own. And Jesus knows it.
He knows that I cannot do it. He knows that it is too much. He knows where my weaknesses are and yet he does not give up. The Lord does not set us up to fail, but He places us in those situations that teaches us definitively that we cannot do this life on our own.
I might fail again and again, but He is faithful and true. My children need to see that their strength does not come from me, but from their Creator. They need to see that I am weak, but that He is strong. I need to embrace their weaknesses because He has embraced mine. I need to show them grace, because He offers His perfect grace to me, even on the worst of days.
“…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) His grace is enough. It is enough to get us through one more day or one more hour. It is enough to fill the gap when we fail time and time again. The weaker we are, the stronger He is.
We know that we are in a difficult season that probably will not last forever. We know people who walk much more difficult roads and we do not understand why. We also know that we serve a mighty King who has a special place in His heart for the weak ones in the kingdom, especially the children, who are the weakest of them all.