“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” Ephesians 2:4-5
If you have a smartphone and any sort of social media account, go download TimeHop right now. It is one of my favorite apps. Basically you give it permission to access your social media accounts, then it will pull up whatever you posted on that day in years past. This is especially fun for someone like me who has been using Facebook more or less since its inception, back when it was just for college students and you needed a .edu e-mail address to get approved (aka the good ol’ days). It can be hilarious or painful, depending on what your past self was like, but it’s especially great for parents, because it takes us all back to the sweet, funny, or otherwise post-worthy moments of our kids’ earliest days.
I, however, am not one to limit my Facebook posts to the perfectly share-worthy. I’m all about being real, and sometimes that’s not pretty. This week, TimeHop reminded me of a not-so-pleasant time in my past.
My then-2-year-old had expressed interest in potty-training several months earlier. In fact, I had him #1-toilet-trained in 4 days of “boot camp” at home. But buddy, #2 is a different story when it comes to toddlers. This child has an iron will and even more iron rectal strength. I have NO IDEA how he held it for DAYS, even WEEKS, especially with the massive quantity of Miralax I was giving him. At one point we ended up in the ER with impacted stools. They gave him a HUGE enema and told me to be prepared for an immediate explosion. HE HELD IT FOR 3 MORE DAYS. The doctors were shocked when they released him, still not having had a bowel movement. I’m telling you, this child is special.
I’m sure if you have never potty trained a resistant, strong-willed child, you think this is all very funny. But honest to God, I have never felt more desperate than those months of fighting my Sweet Prince over poop. I tried so hard to make it work. I would put him back on the potty when he would get up, I would coach him and sing to him and offer him marshmallows and Skittles. I read books and made up cheers and watched him get exceptionally good at Temple Run. Yet still, every day he would have tiny bits of poop in his underwear or Pull-Up – not enough to empty his bowels, but just enough that I would have to wash it/throw it away. And not just once or twice. I’m talking 8-10 times a day. Sometimes more. Sometimes it was every few minutes. I couldn’t afford to throw away 8+ Pull-Ups every day (especially with little brother still in diapers), so he exclusively wore underwear, because laundry is cheaper than Pull-Ups. But that meant on the occasion he just couldn’t hold it anymore and finally had that MASSIVE BM, it was in his underwear. Usually in a public place. NEVER in the toilet.
The day I posted this 2 years ago is one I won’t soon forget. He had to go so bad. He was crying and crying about how bad he was hurting, and I had him sitting on the potty with my iPad for over an hour. If he didn’t have to go, he would sit there and play games until his legs were numb, but when it was really time to go, all he did was cry. This day, I was over it. I remember him going through a dozen pairs of underwear that day, but that wasn’t totally abnormal. For some reason though, I snapped. I held him on the toilet when he tried to get up. I screamed and cried more than he did (which was a lot, and completely inappropriate for a grown woman). I screamed some more. I scared him. This only made things worse. I recall slumping down in the bathroom floor and bawling about how hard this is and how I am the worst mother on the planet.
And I posted this status:
I was as broken as I have ever been. And over poop. Gosh. I felt so desperate. I put one of Little Man’s diapers on Sweet Prince and held him. I hugged him and cried and apologized. I needed help. Not help from a potty-training expert or even encouragement from another mom. I needed Jesus. At our lowest point, all we need is Jesus.
That day I gave up potty training. The boy went back into diapers, and while he still held it for days at a time, his messes went in the trash can and I stopped worrying about it. A few months later I took my youth group to the beach and my mom managed to potty train him while I was gone. Go figure.
The important lesson I learned was to let it go. I thought I was being tested by putting up with Sweet Prince’s stubbornness; I was “God” in my mind, dealing with a rebellious child. But the truth is quite the opposite. Sometimes I am so convinced of my own rightness that I miss the obvious solution under my nose. (The kid just wasn’t ready, duh.) Sometimes I fight and scream and cry and complain and work and try and force things to happen when it’s just not time. I wasn’t God in that picture, my son was. He cried and pushed back, because he ultimately knew the timing wasn’t right. He wasn’t ready. He was hurt by my constant pressure, and I know my actions often broke his little heart. But you know, he never gave up on me.
I know, I know, he was 2. But that same child at whom I screamed in the bathroom would snuggle up to me at nap time. He would softly ask, “Mommy, oo way iff me?” and would face me, his little body curled up in the curve of mine, and wrap his arms around my neck. He often slept with his nose touching mine, hot breath and firm grip reminding me that he loves me, even when my actions didn’t express the love he deserved. That precious child who has challenged me more than any other has also so greatly demonstrated redemption. I can make such a mess of a situation, but love covers a multitude of wrongs. Sweet Prince isn’t just a pet name; he is my knight in shining armor: a tender, gentle, and affectionate bearer of truth in love.
When I get stuck in my head the way things need to go in my life, I often try to make it happen. I tell God, “Look, this is good! And you are good, so you want good for me, so this needs to happen! See how logical it is??” I am unfortunately skilled at rationalizing the desires of my flesh to justify my frustration when they don’t pan out as I planned. Sometimes I push and fight and scream and cry and complain and work and try and force things to happen… But He never gives up on me. What was God teaching me that day about my own rebellion and need for grace? That his love never fails. It never gives up. It never runs out on me. And thank God for it. Because I need more and more and more.
Thank you, Jesus, for my son, the light of my life. Thank you, Jesus, for your grace, that covers all my sins. Thank you, Jesus, for your timing, which is better than mine. Thank you, Jesus, for all the no’s that I needed when I thought differently. Thank you, Jesus, that your plan is for my good and your glory. Nothing else matters.