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After yesterday’s post complaining about my 9-year-old, my friend Wendy sent me this really great article. Even though it drops many F-bombs, it was a really helpful reminder that my daughter is going through an age and a stage that will pass.

One of the many benefits of having four daughters is that it is getting easier to recognise behaviours that are related to stages of development. They are not necessarily emerging character traits that are with my child for life but attitudes and behaviours that they are trying out as their emotional intelligence/prefrontal cortex develops. Or something sciencey like that.

Unfortunately for our eldest, we haven’t always been aware that behaviour has a lot to do with stages of development. (I guess I knew it as a teacher- year eights were adorable, year nines were a nightmare but came good somewhere toward the end of year ten.) But when it’s your own child, it’s a bit harder to remember all of that. She went through a lying phase and we came down way too hard with the punishments. I wish we’d acted a little cooler, knowing now that what she was doing didn’t represent who she was becoming.

Our youngest has it much easier than her sisters. I am far more patient with her. I don’t freak out at her bad behaviour and I’m much more low key on the discipline. I’ve been told I’m too soft on her but I think I’m actually wiser, more gentle and more patient than I was with the others.

The baby of our family will be in school full-time next year. This year I am taking moments to say goodbye and grieve over an era that is coming to end. It has been both beautiful and gruelling.

I remember one especially difficult morning trying to get the big girls ready for school. I was sleep deprived and very pregnant. It had been a morning of tantrum and tears, and the kids hadn’t behaved themselves either. Finally getting them into the car, I leaned my head on the steering wheel and prayed, “God, please help me get through this.”

It was a genuine cry for help from a woman who did not feel like she had what it took to raise small children well.

I turned the key in the ignition and the music came through the car stereo. I still had my head against the steering wheel when I heard Colin Buchanan sing:

Press on, Mums
In all the chaos
Look to Jesus through the tears
Press on, Mums
God will guide you
Through those precious, tender years
And in all you do, do it for Jesus
Who won you life and free forgiveness
Yesterday, today he is the same
All you do, do it in Jesus’ name

I burst into tears and thanked God for the immediate answer to prayer.

Mothering small children is tiring, it is hard work and sometimes it can be quite lonely. I often wondered if I was even doing it right. I still wonder that sometimes. I don’t want to forget what it was like and I want to be full of empathy and compassion for women in this stage of life.