There’s a saying that’s followed me around for some time now. About 4-and-a-half years now to be exact.
“Be careful what you pray for. You might just get it.”
Here is that answered prayer. All 3.5 years of pushing me to the end of myself and to some of my most fervent prayer.
Cute, ain’t he?
I call this his stinker face. Because he truly is a stinker.
I love this boy. However, I have to look at his baby pictures every few days to remind myself why.
He was a healing gift from God. Before his positive pregnancy test, I spent a year of profound mourning and facing a potential health crisis. But the hope of this child stood in my path when I was at my worst. God consoled my broken heart with a hope for him.
So as soon as I got through the unknown period of whether I was going to get cancer or not, (Thank God, I did not), I started praying for another child.
Nothing and I mean nothing has been easy with this boy. He slowed me down, he stretched me, he made me cry, he obsessed over me and he filled my life to the brink.
All children are difficult at times. I knew the drill of spirited child with my first. What I didn’t know was that there are variations of spirited. There’s the “I’m only going to do what’s my idea.”
And then there’s spirit of Man Cub. This guy is in a whole different league of temperment. His MO is power struggle it all out.
Holding bottles? That’s for Mama.
Using words (prior to 2nd bday)? I’ll say “uh-uh.”
Walking? 17 months seems like a good time. Three days after you birth an invader.
Sleeping through the night? Only in your bed, on your right arm for almost 3 years.
Going somewhere? Not unless you’re crawling across the floor to escape my keen mama radar. You must pay four times what you did to the man cub in “hold you” and “Good Night Moon” renditions.
Eating anything of substance? Only in a fairy tale. I eat yogurt and oats and “Don’t shake it!” chocolate milk. And you feed me (non-negotiable).
Wear pants? Nah. They have tags.
Wear anything but a Mickey shirt? I wear a uniform. You should consider one for yourself.
Wear any shoes beside light-up Spider Man sandals? Nope. Don’t even try the trick of sending in a loving grandmother to buy a pair just because. She can just get me another Mickey shirt.
Wear a jacket because it’s 3 degrees at your grandmother’s house in the mountains? Are you kidding? Real man cubs shiver and bellow about how cold it is to take away the chill.
Let anyone else hold you for nearly 3 years? You must have missed the first commandment of Man Cub – only thou mother shalt “hold you” in all circumstances (despite the fact that she has to feed the invader and the big girl and the biggest foe, Daddy).
I share all this to provide a testimony of what God does when we give up our way of thinking, doing and striving.
Every turn of struggle with this child has made me hand it all over to Him. I get to a place of weariness and God lets in a little light to keep me awake for just a little longer and then I witness fruit of the struggle.
It started with words. At our 22nd month of diaper changing conversation, my son spoke with full clarity.
This past spring, he started playing away from me at the park. Still lots of check-ins, but a little space.
Then, he got interested in car tracks and his lovely Bible study teacher brought one every week. No more tears at drop-off.
He started being more flexible in attire and understood the limits I set about wearing a collared shirt to church and pants when we leave the house.
He started going places with Daddy and understanding that Mama goes to book club and she comes back to snuggle.
In July, he started sleeping in his own bed. I’m still kind of in shock over this one.
He started eating more accessible food like peanut butter sandwiches and pepperoni pizza.
There were setbacks, especially when we had some hard stuff hit this summer. But just as I was about to give up, a little growth showed up.
And this past weekend, I truly nearly wept with joy. The stinker ate rice, catfish, chicken, pimento and cheese (a dish I didn’t eat until my late 20s). And it’s been less of a fight to get him to try foods.
I know there are mamas with children with greater struggles. And those mamas have a special place in my heart and prayers. But someone wise told me that no one gets to the end of the race without a struggle.
I’m interested in people and their methods by design. I love to find out tips and tricks. But what I found in the man cub struggle is that what works for others is not always a prescription for my heart. I did not have the heart to rush this child through some of these struggles. Despite my imagined pressure that all kids should do this and this by a predetermined date, Man Cub changed my heart.
God showed me through the first three years of this child that I’m not in charge. I’m growing up a human He charged me and his dad with. And because He doesn’t make mistakes and expects us to check in on our projects daily (or every hour if necessary) for encouragement and direction, I’m better today. I’m more patient, gentle, steadfast (I must have had a big deficiency here) and humble.
These are fruits of surrendering the struggle. And that stinker has been worth every tear and every moment. So be careful what you pray for. You might just be a little better than you were yesterday.