Culture

January 17 2013
43

Be careful with me.

That’s what my 3 yr. old, Rhys says when I change his diaper.  Instead of pitching a fit over a cold wet wipe, or writhing around as if he’s actually being hurt he began to articulate exactly what needed to happen when I wipe him.  He needed me to take care.

Think of me, Mama.

That’s what Rhys said when we rode bikes together the last time it was warm in Michigan.  It was hard to keep pace with him without toppling over so I’d go out a little ahead and circle back around.  He didn’t like when I left him.  He wasn’t ready yet to string together the words, “get yo tail feather back here, woman!” So he asked me to think of him.  He needed me to remember he was still there.

Love me, Mama.

That’s what Rhys used to say when he dove in for a hug.  He wanted me to hug him back like I meant it.  He needed me to reciprocate in a way that he understood to mean love.

Will you see me, Mama?

That’s what Rhys sometimes says when he knows I’m about to leave.  He wants me to wave from the car.  He needs to be sure I see him when he waves back simply because it’s important to him.

~

While pregnant, the hubby & I sensed from the Lord he’d be a passionate child filled with fervor and life.  Because of this we named him Rhys King.  Rhys (pronounced Reese) means fiery & passionate.  King after Dr. Martin Luther King who was a fiery, passionate preacher and one of the most important African-American leaders in the last century.

Like clockwork, he thrashed and kicked in my womb.

As a baby, he voiced his opinions so loudly, so violently I often broke down myself, weary that I’d survive his baby stage.  And I almost didn’t.

Now, he’s a strong-willed, fiery, passionate toddler who sometimes struggles to have compassion and deliberately does things to hurt or annoy others.  Sometimes, he won’t listen.  Sometimes, he refuses to be corrected through timeouts or other last ditch attempts to discipline him.  He is only the 2nd person on the planet who can make me angry to tears, ill with questions and discouraged under piles of self-doubt.  At times, I have wanted to throw my hands up.

I cannot do this.  I cannot do this. I cannot do this with this child.  He is too difficult.  He is much too much, and I much too weak.

But something gave.

He started using his voice to articulate deep truths in such ordinary moments.

And for the first time, I heard him.

I hear Rhys.  He asks for what he needs and I hear him.  Like magic, he stirs up compassion in me that I sometimes blame him for making me lose.

My son tells me to be careful with him.

And I am more careful.

My son tells me to think of him.

And I think about his needs.

My son tells me to see him.

And I am sure to remember.

~

I hear you, Rhys.  Mama is listening. 

As we approach Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, I am keenly aware of your need for me to listen well.

One day, King Rhys you will use your voice and change the world. 

But you will have changed mine first.

43 comments

  1. What an awesome name for a very smart and articulate little man! Thanks for sharing.

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    • Grace

      thank you, Chelsea! He is aptly named =)

      Reply
  2. Your words articulate the hopes and dreams of all mothers for their children. Now Rhys’s words begin their journey toward freer speech and freedom speak. I would love to meet this boy some day!

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    • Grace

      Jerry, so true…we all want our children to be world changers don’t we? I hope you can meet my family sometime, that would be lovely!

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  3. Oh, that’s my four year old to a T, and oh my how I struggle with him. His ability to name his needs pushes my buttons as I so often bury my own needs. As a middle child, he fears getting lost and sometimes, when I really look and listen, I’m able to see that he’s teaching me how to name my own needs and not get lost in the fray of a family of six.
    And I love how your compassion for you son mirrors God’s compassion for us – God who sees, hears and knows our needs (Ex 3:7).

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    • Grace

      Kelly, I love the insight into your situation…it’s really beautiful. I hope you are able to figure that out in a way that leads to peace & hope for both of you. Love those vs.!

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  4. Laura

    love this!

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    • Grace

      thank you!

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  5. So beautiful! From my experience, having a child who is strong willed and difficult myself who is now a middle schooler, I can tell you that those kids need a lot of extra guidance but if you put in the work (sometimes mind-numbing work) they have the capacity for so much more than ever other kid around.

    That passion, that creativity, that sense of self awareness are all such wonderful gifts from God and if we do our job as parents, teaching them to harness those gifts and plow towards the path that God laid for them, they will indeed change the world!

    You’re doing such a great job, mama! And Rhys is amazing, already telling you through child wisdom, exactly what he needs to succeed in life. He needs you to be careful with him in all circumstances, for you to think of him often, see him for who he is and ultimately love him. Can’t wait to see what your little Rhys can accomplish with your love and support!

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    • Grace

      ANTM, oh my goodness, thank you so much for pointing that out (your first paragraph). That gives me so much hope, seriously!!! I will remember that and try my hardest to put in the mind-numbing work….knowing that “work” is the way God has chosen to mold me at this juncture in life. Thank you for your kind words about my parenting Rhys, seriously, I often feel like such a bad Mama as of late.Won’t give up though!! Hugs, Sharon!

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    • Grace

      oops, saw Sharon’s name at the bottom just as I was finishing up writing that last response & distracted. hahaaha, sorry!

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  6. Beautiful!

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    • Grace

      Thank you, Heather!

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  7. Crying!!! You have a special sweet boy in Rhys, and I have one too in Josiah. He is about a year younger than Rhys, and not yet quite that articulate, but you have expressed my own feelings raising my little boy very beautifully. Thank you!

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    • Grace

      Amy, I teared up a bit when I wrote it & then again when I saw it posted…there’s a lot of pain and hope all jumbled together when I think of him (and particularly today b/c I’m on day 5 of an 8 day work trip out of town and I haven’t seen him since last Saturday or talked to him for 2 days). It’s a joyous but painful journey…well worth every minute.

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  8. Oh my goodness, Grace. You know how much I love your writing (girl, I want to be you when I grow up), and this has to be one of your best pieces. I don’t think I have adequate words to say how much this touched me. It is profound. Beautiful. So filled with maternal love and grace. Thank you, Grace, for sharing this with us.

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    • Grace

      Thanks, Aub! You are such an encouragement, seriously, thank you so much!!!! xoxoxoxo

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  9. These are lovely words.

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    • Grace

      thank you, Bethany!

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  10. Oh Grace, I read this and knew we were soul sisters! My son has a similar velocity and verve. I’m exhilarated and exhausted, alternately, by his potential. His behavior can push me to the brink, his questions pierce me with joy at the man he’s becoming. The image that feeds me – swords into plowshares. It is a biblical image of deep transformation, and it gave me hope to believe a boy with temper tantrums could become a man of compassion. (Child development experts say this is the case, if well parented through the tantrum years.) So I just think of the swords giving way to plowshares, my parenting like the hard work of melting down weapons into tools of great value for his future. Now he’s moved out of tantrums, joy!, and I glimpse hope more often.

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    • Grace

      Kelley, yes soul sisters, indeed! Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for that image. I will take that straight to my journal & think on that more! I will pray on that too…it’s just a powerful way to think about, to consider redeeming these yours and INVESTING into my sons lives! Can’t wait until my son moves out of tantrums, I too will glimpse hope more often! =) Blessings…

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  11. I love this! My little boy’s name is also Reece (different spelling, but same meaning), and like your son, he is already showing the signs of living up to his name’s meaning, though he’s only 16 months old. Reading your words here has given me fresh vision for who he and I are both becoming in this process!

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    • Grace

      Another, Reece I love it! We considered that spelling actually, but my hubby really wanted a spelling with no vowels. j/k…but we joked about that! =) Blessings on you & your, Reece!

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  12. So beautiful, Grace, thank you. I am a big admirer of Dr. King’s, of his example, of his words, of his love, and I was disgusted when I saw in my inbox this morning a clothing company using MLK Day as a tenuous excuse to have a sale. “What is the point?!” I thought. But this, this is the point, as you so gently show: to listen well. I am challenged and encouraged. Thanks to you and your precious boy.

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    • Grace

      Thanks Tamara. It’s what we all need to do, eh? Listen well. I know it’s such a simple lesson that could be applied anywhere, but so fitting in this circumstance. thanks for your encouragement!

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  13. This is so beautiful Grace. The gift of learning from our children. And I have a firey one too who has taught me way more than I ever thought I’d be capable of learning. Thank you for sharing this one.

    ~Lisa-Jo

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    • Grace

      Thankyou, Lisa-Jo. you really did inspire me to think a little deeper and push a little harder to articulate what about mothering right now is causing me so much anxst and uncomfortability & I realized it really was all the ways I’m interacting iwth Rhys that are both challenging and rewarding…no matter what it is that’s going on with him & I, it’s INTENSE. But I know there’s growth written all over it! Thanks for reading. =)

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  14. Beautifully done, Grace. Hang onto that passionate boy – he will grow into a fascinating man! I had a girl like that and she is the most amazing human being I know (except of course for my other children and all my grandkids :>)

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    • Grace

      Thank you, Diana! It’s always wonderful to hear the encouraging stories of many years later with positive outcomes! May it be true for our little Rhysie-Bear! =)

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  15. Lately with my 3y.o. daughter, I get nothing but yelled at to GO AWAY when I walk into a room where she is. I’ve been to the point lately sometimes where, like you, I said that I just can’t do it with this child, angry with tears and all. Your words help remind me what a gift she is despite the hard times. Such amazing things really do happen when we actually hear our kids.

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    • Grace

      Paul, ugh. my heart broke a little bit reading that. so sorry. I know that sometimes kids do that and don’t understand what they are saying but it is still so hard to deal with isn’t it? Hugs for that. Actually, this morning when I talked to Rhysie on the phone (I’ve been out of town for several days) he started saying “bye, Mama, bye!” in a very exasperated tone as I told him I love him. It was as if he knew I had written this post! hahaha. Anyway, blessings to you in your parenting journey!!

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  16. Sharon S.

    Beautifully written, Grace! All I could think of was, “these are the same questions we ask of our own Father!” PLEASE be careful with me, God. PLEEEASE don’t let me crack under the molding and shaping You’re doing in my life. Be GENTLE with me, PLEASE! Think of me! Don’t forget me or abandon me! Make Yourself known to me. I am scared and I need You! Father, SEE me….see me, your child, as I truly AM…Your dearly loved, child trying to find my way in this world. Let me know that You are still present. Assure me of Your love! Remain close to me! Don’t desert me in my darkest hour.
    It reminds me of the Psalms and King David! How BEAUTIFUL!

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    • Grace

      Sharon, YES! That is SO VERY TRUE isn’t it? I thought of that while I was writing it but i didn’t want to get distracted from what I was trying to say. but your right I say that all the time to God in my own little needy way, which usually comes out as “Lord, think of me when you see that new house.” ahahahahaha =) But for real, I love that you pointed that out…we are childlike when we come to God at our most vulnerable moments.

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  17. Beautifully written! I love how he is able to articulate what he needs…and that you are learning to listen! I too thought of that being us as children of God…in fact, that was exactly me this a.m. as God is showing me some deep things in the midst of my Daniel Fast.

    As I was reading this I thought too of a wonderful book written by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias for parents of strong willed children: http://books.google.ca/books/about/You_Can_t_Make_Me_But_I_Can_Be_Persuaded.html?id=i3z3XXu5v8sC

    Having been a strong willed child myself, and now a strong willed woman, I love that you are hearing him…and learning to hear God in how to parent him…rather than trying to squelch his spirit as many of my generation did. Tobias also has a great book for the strong willed woman which was so healing to my spirit.

    God bless you in your parenting of this wonderful little man!

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  18. Regina W

    Thank you for writing this. Our first child, a girl, is a firecracker. She’s very much like you describe your Rhys. Her 4th birthday is this Friday and I find at this time of the year I become brooding and quiet. Her first year was hell for us (she had some medical issues and was a very, very needy, demanding baby) and she has continued to be a challenge to parent. I am often at my wit’s end with her. When her birthday rolls around every year, I start thinking back on our time with her and that’s why I develop my dark mood.

    This year, I had a sudden burst of insight about her name. Her name was one that just suddenly came to us as perfect after many months of searching and nothing else ever sounded right. We named her Aurora (meaning: dawn) Brielle (meaning: God is my might) and when we told her her name the first time, as she wailed piteously, we said, “Welcome to the world, Aurora Brielle. From your dawn, may God always be your might.” I realized this year that maybe her name was not only for her, but also for us–that from her dawn, God is also our might, the only source of strength great enough to parent this child that draws us out to the very end of ourselves every.single.day.

    Why do I share that? I don’t know. It seemed right after reading your post and some of the commenters’ stories about their own similar children. Thank you for the encouragement. (And, by the way, our second child’s name is Quinn Rhys–so I have a special place in my heart for the name Rhys.)

    Reply
    • Grace

      Regina, thanks for sharing your story. Parenting is SO hard isn’t it? I’m sorry for how painful things have been. I get it, I really do. It’s just so completely gut-wrenching sometimes it’s hard to even imagine a light at the end. I absolutely lOVE the name you chose for her..the meanings are so powerful and so fitting it seems. And hopefully, prayerfully, she will one day be a mighty in the Lord. Press on, Mom warrior. God will be mighty for you. Remember Psalms 103…he longs to be gracious to you. (p.s. I also love the name ‘Quinn Rhys.’ =)

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  19. This is wonderful. OK and your son is so adorable. From the pictures, it’s hard to imagine he would ever give you any trouble haha :)

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    • Grace

      ahahahaha,Alyssa! well don’t let a pretty face fool ya! =)

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  20. This is just beautiful. Grateful I caught your words here today.

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  21. Grace, not only are you an intuitive, loving mother, but you have so much humility. As a new mom myself, it is refreshing to hear other moms being honest, being truly candid about life. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

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    • Grace

      Natalie, how very kind of you. It’s amazing that showing the vulnerability I feel in parenting can be encouraging to others! It’s crazy how God works that way. Congrats on being a new Mommy! Though it’s tough (& as I’ve said painful and frustrating) it’s also such a beautiful thing too. It’s hard to put words to how elated you can feel one minute & then down & out the next! Blessings on your journey…

      Reply

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