“I’m just texting to say ‘I quit’.”
This was the message I sent my husband a couple of weeks ago when I was home with the boys, ready to lose my mind. He called me a few minutes later, a smile in his voice, to find out what exactly I was quitting.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I whined. “Everything. Motherhood.”
It had been a rough day, although, I may have been exaggerating things slightly. My husband was working late, and that coupled with a high decibel level of noise from my boys and their selective hearing that conveniently excluded the sound of my voice. . . well, my nerves were shot.
But it was more than that. That day brought to my attention what has been becoming more obvious to me recently. Our kids are becoming people . . . with opinions, intuitions, and the ability to notice and call out inconsistencies.
The day where I was on the verge of handing in my two weeks notice on the parenting gig, I may have let my tone communicate frustration and my face show exasperation. Personally, I hadn’t really noticed. Don’t worry though, my five-year-old did.
“Mom,” he innocently began, “I feel like that tone you are using is a little mean.” He had a point. The rule of, how we say something mattering just as much as what we say, was coming back to bite me.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
As a president, Lincoln knew something about power. But as a parent, he did too. Because there may be no other role we’re given more power than as a parent—to shape hearts, to mold character, to lay a foundation for a life that will ultimately grow away from ours, but will always have its origin with us.
Parenting is powerful. Especially at the stage when our kids become mirrors of our own character, where they see the power we hold, and call us on it when we’re lazy with it or behave more like tyrants than moms and dads.
The older our kids get, the more we have to hone our skills and practice what we preach. When we don’t, they pick up on the disparities. They aren’t looking for us to fail, but they are watching to see if what we are so insistent in telling them matters, really matters—enough for us to act on and not just command.
That was why I texted my husband that day. Handling power is hard. And I was getting it wrong.
When speaking to leaders, Andy Stanley will sometimes ask this question: “What do you do when you are the most powerful person in the room?”
As parents, we are the most powerful people in our houses. We make the rules, we create the consequences, we enforce the discipline. And as master of our domain, we can exclude ourselves from the household standard of conduct.
When asking the question, Andy goes on to tell the story of Jesus, the night of the Last Supper, getting down on the ground, filling a bowl of water, and using a thin rag, to wash the feet of those he loved.
Power can make us a bully, but love can make us a leader worth following—one who serves, lowers herself, and submits himself to the governing law of the land.
Humbling yourself under the rules you make is hard. It means you aren’t the ultimate authority anymore. It means you elevate a law higher than yourself—a law of love. And it means you say, “I’m sorry” when you realized power trumped love and you fell short.
But power and love in equal measure, in harmony is an effective combination—the best combination when it comes to raising and influencing kids.
So yes, power will test character, but power used well, will grow character too.—the whole family’s. And in the end, it will lessen the number of days you want to throw in the towel. Now that’s a real win.