Relational Repair for "The Difficult"
by Jen Hatmaker on January 7th, 2014

I know I’ve let on that I’m perfect, like how I’m a meticulous gardener and fantastic house-seller and poised guest on TV shows. It appears to the ordinary reader that I am one smooth operator. I realize that seems clear to you. But may I let you in on a little something?
I am hard core struggling in the parenting department right now.
Particularly with one child.
This one child o’ mine, who is precious and beloved and a darling little thing, well, she is freaking wearing me out right now. She hasn’t a negative bone in her body, and I don’t believe she has ever said a disrespectful word to me. It’s just…she is relentless and obsessive and inquisitive beyond comprehension and never, ever, ever stops asking questions and never, ever, ever lets anything just be and this is every second of every day on all the days and sometimes I want to rip the ears off my head with my bare hands.
Because my readers failed to diagnose me as an introvert all these years (I’m somehow making this your fault), I realize that my need for quiet, non-talky space is exactly the parenting match for an extroverted, sensory-seeking, emotionally needy 2nd grader, except the opposite of that, like this conversation the other night:
Brandon: Do you just want to be by yourself?
Me: Yes. Or you can come in, but I don't want to talk or think thoughts. I want no words, no questions. I am suffering from Needy Child Fatigue. I am on the verge of homicide. You've been warned.
Brandon: Noted.

Consequently, because of the NCF, I’ve been a jerky, irritated, short-tempered, impatient Icky Mom to this child for a few weeks. I’ve been my worst self. Where loving attention was called for, I gave short answers. When a simple answer was required, I sighed. When the last dregs of daily parenting just needed a short book and a few (more) minutes of conversation, I said we didn’t have to read on Christmas break and hollered in a six-second prayer from the other room.
It’s like I can’t dig deep enough for the requirements of this relationship lately. Whether the well is just dry or my selfishness is simply unbridled or this child really would shatter the patience of Job, it doesn’t matter. Because she is unhappy and I am unhappy and apparently I am the grown up and something has to give.
I wonder about you today, dear reader. Do you have a relationship that is bringing out your worst self? Does the patience and gentleness you manage for others evaporate at the sound of a certain person’s voice? Do you catch yourself responding to someone in a way that would make your Mama snatch you baldheaded? Maybe it’s a spouse, or a certain child, coworker, boss, neighbor, family member…you know what? This list could go on forever, because PEOPLE ARE DIFFICULT. I mean, we’re not. Other people, I’m saying. These difficult people are making us act bad against our will.
So I’m going to share with you my attack plan on getting this relationship back on the rails, and maybe one of two of these ideas might work for you. And if not, ripping our ears off with our bare hands is still an option. (For the record, I am not talking about an abusive relationship. That is an entirely different conversation. The following does not apply to people who are abusive or destructive or violent…just difficult.)
1.) Every morning, absolutely every morning, before my feet hit the floor, I will pray for two things in regard to this child: love and selflessness. Dear God, give me a heart overflowing with love and banish my selfishness with your awesome magic powers. One of the greatest tricks to prayer is that it miraculously brings us in line with God’s feelings. The longer we pray for an enemy, the less of an enemy he becomes. The longer we ask for courage, the less terrifying a situation seems. The longer we ask for love and selflessness toward someone, the sooner we see that person as God does: beloved and worth all this work. He changes us in a sneaky way. We often don’t end up with what we wanted, but we somehow end up with a different heart. 

What do you need to ask for every single morning for your person? Patience? Forgiveness? Empathy? Dig deep and figure out what you have the least of and need the most, then storm the gates of heaven for it every morning. Help me today, Lord. We’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow.
2.)  I will settle something: This cannot be about making her change; this is entirely on me. If I’m waiting for my awesome prayer vigil to slow down the hourly interrogation tsunami, I’ve missed the point. This isn’t about behavior modification, because the second she regresses or holds me hostage in her bizarro time-clock-calendar-countdown-schedule lair, I’ll despair. The only person I can change here is me. I cannot pin my emotional burden on her behavior; that is unfair. 

Are you tormented waiting for your person to change? That is a fool’s errand. Imagine your person is never going to change. Not one bit. That thing you hate? It’s forever. Those habits and attitudes you can't stand? Make your peace. NOW, you can deal with you. Take someone else’s reform entirely off the table. Do you want to live angry or frustrated or naggy for the rest of your life? Because the fact is, we cannot change anyone else. We are only in control of our reactions, our emotions, and our perspectives. The ball is in our court, and the only one keeping us in Emotional Prison is ourselves.
3.)  Meet her neediest need intentionally once a day. For my girl, it is undivided attention and time. The opposite of me, she would prefer constant conversation, engagement, and interpersonal activity from morning till night. There would never be a break, a need for space, the urge to be alone. NEVER. I cannot meet this insatiable need, because OHMUHGAH, but it is shocking what 30 minutes of undivided attention accomplishes. It fills her tank to the absolute brim. I can do this. I can play Candyland or gymnastics or whatever sort of mind-numbing super fun activity she loves in addition to the regular attention I give all the live long day. 

And you? What fills your person’s tank? Attention? Specific praise? Sex? Some habit? We can do these things once a day, and we may be shocked when they start coming easier and more frequent. So what if these affections are forced at first? Who wants to play freaking Candyland? This is part of that pesky “putting others first,” and there is no other way to do it but to do it.
4.)  In the last two weeks, I’ve told my closest friends how badly I’m struggling. (I just pulled up our text thread, but I can’t post it. It is too raw and horrid, but just trust me, I was HONEST. And also, if private texts ever become public, I will need to move to Istanbul.) Friends help everything. The only thing worse than struggling is struggling in secrecy. Every emotion and failure becomes worse when hidden. 

Why do we think we’re the only one who has struggled in marriage? In parenting? The only one who doesn’t like a kid right now? Who is acting horribly toward someone and can’t pull out? Please. Asking friends to advise and pray is so healing; we are not alone anymore. Do you need to invite someone in to your relational struggle? I have never one time regretted confessing to my friends about anything. On the contrary, they make me stronger, healthier, kinder, better. Every time.

When it comes down to it, I’d rather work hard on a difficult relationship than flounder in frustration over it, waiting for it to miraculously improve. Inertia is no friend of healthy relationships. We must press in, refusing to accept “toleration” as our best option.
The careful attention we give can absolutely change a challenging dynamic between two people, inserting patience and grace and love where there was once apathy and anger and irritation. But even if the relationship remains unchanged, we are still better when we aren’t behaving like our worst selves. That release alone is worth the work, mitigating the shame of Being Icky to Someone.
Hopefully you’ll find me in a few weeks patiently answering questions and smiling easily and not clenching my teeth with my wee one. And maybe if I stay the course, God can even work a miracle, like transforming me into a person who wants to mete out all the weeks, hours, and minutes of my next six months on my daughter’s Days Until app while patiently explaining Daylight Savings Time (again) and discussing the difference between real people, cartoon people, and TV people (again) and thinking to myself: THIS IS THE LIFE.

It could happen. You don't know.

Do you have a difficult person? Aren't you tired of just "enduring" it all? What are some of your tools for getting a relationship back on the rails?

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displaying most recent 100 comments

Amy - January 7th, 2014 at 11:33 PM
Oh my. Like everyone else has said - THANK YOU for this. Quite literally exactly what I needed to read today. My evening with my spunky and "spirited" little person was much better because of it. :)
Curby Alexander - January 7th, 2014 at 11:37 PM
I loved reading this post and all the comments. The "question phenomenon" happens in our house too: Annoying at times, but also great memories.
Flower Patch Farmgirl - January 7th, 2014 at 11:43 PM
to the

You are so in my head-space. Every time I say these things to you, I cackle. Literally. Because I KNOW exactly how I sound. But it doesn't make it untrue.

To whit: I blogged about Candyland two short hours before reading this post or even knowing it existed. That's all I'm saying.

"Do you want to live angry or frustrated or naggy for the rest of your life?" >> This is what I bawl my eyes out about to Cory in the dark. I cannot possibly change my Difficult Person. It was never supposed to be that way. But I sure as heck can't live frustrated or mean, either. I don't like that lady.

If all else fails, try the wall thing. It helped today, AND IT WAS OUR 2nd SNOW DAY. Tomorrow being our third. Not that I'm counting. And the kids have been off since Dec. 20th goodbye.
Flower Patch Farmgirl - January 8th, 2014 at 12:53 PM
This is when I realize that my "try the wall thing" may not have appropriate context, as I thought I posted the whole Wall Bit on your facebook thread, but apparently did not. I blame Nicholas Brody.

I feel like I should clarify though, that the aforementioned "wall thing" is not some weirdo disciplinary stunt. It's much too cold for our minds to wander in that direction. Rather, I became so desperate 2 days ago with my Difficult Tiny Person that I wrote "Feel Safe & Feel Loved" on our LR wall yesterday, mostly as a reminder to myself. At the end of the day, if all I do is make them feel safe and loved, I can call it a win. But I need to be nice if they're going to feel safe.

So mad my comment didn't take. It may have been my best work to date. Now, we'll never know.

ps - Please tell me you checked in last night with Morgan's teeth. Funniest ep...ever???
Lori - January 7th, 2014 at 11:48 PM
I can't even STAND how much it feels like I wrote this! I have a 12 & 14 yo we adopted 11 years ago from Russia, and ever day it is a struggle just to be kind to my 12 yo daughter. She is so infuriating in ways no one but my husband could possibly understand and I ACHE, just ACHE, with guilt for not loving her better and digging deeper to a least attempt to fill her tank. But I also have a Somewhat needy husband, a daughter in college, another bio teenager a home, AND his best friend moved in months ago bc of his hone life. I just don't have what it takes most days. Did I mention I homeschool the 12 & 14 yo? That equals zero breaks! But in my sick little world I am so grateful not to be alone. :)
Crystal - January 8th, 2014 at 12:20 AM
A friend (angel from God) sent me your post today and it could have not come at a better time for this struggling single mom of an autistic 7yr boy, strong willed 6 yr girl and active attention seeking in all ways 4 yr boy. I was in tears at the kitchen table after i put the two little ones to bed at 6:40pm. I had had enough tantrums, stupid mamas, not listening and fighting for one day. Thank you for giving me strength and pointing me in a good direction. God bless you.
Amy - January 8th, 2014 at 1:55 AM
I can't tell you how much I appreciate your honesty. I have a similar struggle with my relationship
with my 14 year old. I have been telling myself, it will be better once she's through high school( only 5 more years) Your post reminds me it is me who needs changing, not her. She needs my unconditional love and patience. God saw to it I came across your story. Thank you.
From the Other Side - January 8th, 2014 at 2:31 AM
Could I offer a perspective from the other side? I am like your children, and my mother "tolerates" me--not due to disrespectful or rebellios behavior but because my personality annoys her. She spiritually mentors women for a living, and I am painfully aware of how much she enjoys being with everyone but me. Her friends all know everything about how "difficult" I am for her because of her venting. I know this because I've read her emails and heard her teaching. When I was little, I used to read to my mom and she would video herself in the background where I couldn't see making funny comments about how I was boring her mindless while I innocently just wanted to spend time with her doing something I was proud of and enjoyed. I heard her tell her friends how she was going to be the godly one and be more loving and patient, but as an adult now it just feels patronizing because she tries only some of the time and avoids me or mocks me to her friends mostly. She once actually called me a derogatory name to her friend in order to seem "transparent." Later she felt bad and told me that she shouldn't have said that ... Because she didn't want to look bad to her friend. No apology to me. I do not feel valued beyond the "spiritual example" I afford her ministry. I promise these examples are from my own personal experience, but if it sounds close to home, it did for me, too, as I've read about your struggles with your children, and my heart breaks for them. Moms, please do not throw your lifelong relationships with your children under the bus of being "real" in the moment in order to vent or help those outside your family. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you can do all to the glory of God--encouraging one another while being your child's champion in loyalty to them first. Praise to our God and savior Jesus Christ who is the author of all restoration!
Amy - January 8th, 2014 at 11:18 AM
Amen.... But I also think one of the problems in todays world is that Mom's are too busy. Job, Motherhood, Wife, School activities, House work, Homework, drive time to all things,and Shopping, You only have 24 hrs in a day and being sleep deprived doesn't help any situation, then on top of all that you have extra activities for Little johnny or Jannie. You need a compromise and I can't say where you'll get it from. but society is suffering for it.
Alicia - January 9th, 2014 at 7:52 PM
Hi from the Other Side. How brave of you to post your story here. I see in your words, past the true hurt, that you DO know your value as a daughter of the King. I'm amazed by your perspective that somehow you offer your mom grace, despite her lack of wisdom. You, my dear, are obviously a good egg. Blessings on your sweet life. Blessings of wholeness and acceptance and knowing the touch of the Father more every day. Thank you for sharing was an awesome perspective needed for this discussion.
Laurie - January 9th, 2014 at 9:16 PM
This breaks my heart. I can't imagine how painful this must have felt and does feel to you. It is a great reminder to me that my little girl's heart is so tender and although my words in a moment of frustration about her to my spouse might be flippant to me, they could be words she will carry with her for the rest of her life. I need to be intentional about both what I say and what I don't say. Thank you for sharing and I hope your mother's eyes are opened someday.
Tara - January 9th, 2014 at 10:28 PM
From the Other Side, I hear you and am so sorry. I first read this post because Glennon over at Momastery posted it. And my response was basically just what you have written...I just feel so badly for any child who knows they totally annoy their parent, just for being his or herself. It breaks my heart. Totally breaks my heart. I wish I could go back in time and take away the hurt you must have felt. And I hope other mommas read your response and think about how their sighs, and eye rolls, and comments like "don't speak," or "I don't want to hear your voice" or worse, blogposts that call you annoying to hundreds of thousands of people, and realize that children do have feelings too.
K - January 11th, 2014 at 7:40 PM
From the Other Side -- so much of what you wrote rang so true for me. And as you say, I now make it a highest priority to not carry any of this over into my own parenting. I pray all the time about my parenting and for my relationship with my son. Thank you for this reminder (especially in your last 2 sentences). In the same way that I trust my husband to always hope in my best self, and to not parade my shortcomings around in public, our children trust us the same way. For a child to learn that a parent, rather than encouraging them in their weakest moments, shares them with friends (who can often be either complete strangers to the child or someone they have a relationship with in some way, like a teacher, etc), can be so devastating.
Katie - January 27th, 2014 at 10:23 AM
From the Other Side, I am so sorry you went through this. There has been some good stuff written about not using modern technology to humiliate or even to embarrass our children.

From a quick once-over of Jen's post, I did not gather quite the same attitude that your mother displayed to you. It did seem to be a sincere desire to take responsibility and a sincere understanding that after all, this is just a LITTLE girl. We expect this of many if not most SMALL children. It's an older person being needy that raises more eyebrows.

I have been that person. I have been dumped by at least one friend because of it. The Lord has worked in me greatly, but I think part of me will always struggle with wondering if people REALLY like me when they say they do, if they're not getting sick to death of me behind my back. I did rejoice because the Lord slowly lifted me from a time of terrible anxiety and depression. Now, I wonder if I will face the same rejection if I am depressed again, though.

But as has been pointed out, you are a daughter of the King! So am I! Thank you for your reminder, and let us rejoice!
Miriam - January 8th, 2014 at 5:48 AM
My difficult relationship is with my mother. Its very different to your situation & most of these comments but at least some of the same principals apply. I'm a 31yr old woman but I'm living at home due to a chronic illness. I love my mother dearly & I know that she loves me, but we have such different personalities that sometimes its difficult to live with her. She gets on my nerves, she irritates me and frustrates me and I'm sure I do the same to her! I have learned that she is never going to change but that I can consciously change my reaction to her. That one principal has improved our relationship over the last few years but recently I've been feeling the strain again. This time I am going to pray for her & for me - for love & selflessness & tolerance and a good relationship between us. God can repair our relationship & even redeem the difficult years & the pain we have caused each other in the past. This reminder comes at a good time. Thanks!

Jen - January 8th, 2014 at 5:53 AM
Thank you for your post. I also an an introvert who has four kids who all seem to have challenges right now plus we just moved and had Thanksgiving and Christmas all at the same time. I am exhsusted every minute of the day. I give as much as I possibly can to keep my kids going and the person who suffers is my poor husband who is just so patient and kind. I just had the ability two days ago to look past my exhaustion and see what my short snippy self was doing to him and our relationship. I'm happy to say that things are much better this week-school! But I am thankful for this honest post because it really helps to know that we are not alone.
Jenna L - January 8th, 2014 at 6:23 AM
As the mother of four almost grown children I can relate. Two suggestions for those who are struggling. (ps-it doesnt stop when they become adults;they are still needy)
1) Make sure you have an activity just for you. I play tennis once a week and have for all the years my kids were small.
2) It's okay to have boundaries. You can set an egg timer and tell your child that you are not available for that short time, or you can wear a sign that says "mommy is closed". sounds silly, but when I needed time to make dinner or speak on the phone, I would do this. Just make sure not to overuse it.
It's okay to teach our children to be quiet. They need to learn how to be still and enjoy it.
Paula - January 8th, 2014 at 6:36 AM
I am suffering from this as well. My daughter is too smart for her own good and I think she expects me to be her own personal Google all the time.
However, I am an enormous extrovert. And that's a problem too. I'm extroverted, she's extroverted. We both are selfish and want to do what WE wanna do. ( for me, extroversion is bossy and self-centered-ish) and that's not a good combo when you have a kid that demands your needs and you must supply.
The problem with me also lies in the fact that there are days where the quiet suburbs swallow me up. I have no neighbors or really close friends to talk/vent to. So some days it's just me and the sweet little nag.
Sure that doesn't help. Sigh!
Meli - January 8th, 2014 at 6:58 AM
Thank you.
Alana P. - January 8th, 2014 at 7:16 AM
Thank you, Jen for writing this article! I am so in this situation! I have a 13 yo. son who is a techno, art, off the charts intelligent thinker and an 11 yo. daughter who wants to design the world with color and take on every challenge like the Olympic outcome hangs on her shoulders. I've found two major things have helped me to push through and really stay sane. One, I schedule, yes, schedule 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night with each one. Complete, undivided attention! They choose anything they want to do, talk a out, play, etc.. I set my watch alarm and when the time is up, the time is up. Let me tell you, it's a life and sanity saver! REALLY! It fills their tank and helps me stay connected to them on individual levels. Now, this time can be longer, and often it leads to later conversations that are much longer and more indepth, but they know that 2xs a day they have me, and only me, for that time. Its been AMAZING for our whole family! The second thing that has helped is," Mom needs a time out!" I don't yell it, or stmp my feet, although I'd like to, but there are time when the onslaught of info, questions and general life for a homeschooling, volunteer, taxi driver, sports helper, mudslinger mom is just about all I can take. I brightly announce I need a time out and go to my room to take 10 minutes for me. Most times, it's laying on my bed staring at the ceiling and praing I don't actually harm someone. Again, I set my timer, and when time is up, I breathe deep and remind myself that God gave me this life, these people and I meed to look to how I can encourage and spur them on to victory on this side of the dirt so they'll see victory ont he other side.
Donna Ware - January 8th, 2014 at 8:00 AM
Jen, I love your blog! My husband is president of Heartlight Christian magazine which has about 400,000 readers each day. We would love to use this article and perhaps some in the future in our magazine which would reach about 15,000 readers on the first run. Feel free to look at our site. We send out articles,devotionals, images,and verse of the day that goes out in 10 languages. We occasionally use some of Ann Voskamp articles and Phil, my husband, was also a Compassion blogger and went on their first trip to Uganda. We would always ask your permission before we post anything and we would provide a link back to your site. Thanks for your consideration and for your ministry!
Lindsey - January 8th, 2014 at 8:15 AM
As always, perfect timing. I was so short with my husband and daughter this morning. (but I'm 13 weeks pregnant; can I blame it on hormones?) My sweet girl was just adopted in July from China and there are some days she needs the extra attention and is super clingy. And there are some days I don't have the energy and patience for it. So glad to know I'm not alone in this struggle!
Lee - January 8th, 2014 at 8:37 AM
Have you considered that your child might be gifted? and I mean REALLY GIFTED - not just "every child is gifted in their own way." I have 3 gifted children (2 have IQ's above 145) and a gifted husband (IQ above 145), and your struggles sound A LOT like mine. Look it up, good luck, and God Bless!

Mary Beth Picker - January 8th, 2014 at 9:33 AM
Thank you. I think I have the same child (also adopted from ET). Her need for attention and conversation is a bottomless pit, as is my need for quiet and time to myself. Not the best recipe for a mother/daughter relationship. Thank you so much for the encouragement.
heidi e. - January 8th, 2014 at 9:43 AM
Can you move to MN so we can have coffee everyday? We don't have to talk. Just sip the brew and regenerate our patience while our girls fill up each others love tanks! I promise it's not as cold as you think here. -12 is not that bad with a big chunky scarf. And you get to wear boots. Consider it. ;)
WendyBrz - January 8th, 2014 at 10:10 AM
Send her to me. Seriously, I'll take her and we'll talk till we fall over. The empty nest is a thousand times harder, I promise. I wander from room to room pining for those million questions, those little planning sessions, that little eager face. She has turned into a 24-year-old who is so fiercely independent she chafes visibly when she has to sit down and skype with me from Guatemala (she's a missionary teacher serving girls rescued from trafficking who now pepper HER with questions all day long.)

Stacy - January 8th, 2014 at 10:27 AM
And here I sit with tears streaming down my face because this is EXACTLY US THESE PAST COUPLE OF WEEKS. I actually googled "extroverted child introverted parent" a few nights ago to see if I could find something, anything, that made me miraculously not feel exhausted and like a horrible parent. Single, self-employed, introverted mom extroverted only child Minnesota winter and Christmas break = me losing my mind and not parenting how I'd like.

My kiddo has always been extroverted, non-stop talking, etc. It's always been a struggle for me. But the last few days - getting the two weather school cancellations on top of winter break - I. just. couldn't. anymore. And I felt awful.

So yep, I feel ya, and I needed this post. And now I will stop crying and start following your suggestions - those things I knew I needed to do but wasn't doing and now NEED to do.
Cindy - January 8th, 2014 at 10:39 AM
Thank you for all the honest sharing! Thank you for having a child who is so effusive bubble and gregarious her car ism just drives you nuts. I think how maybe her great grand mother may have held a frightened family together using these skills. You will manage just fine because you know you have only to ask for grace for the journey. God bless, I will be mindful to be more grateful for my people challenges.
Tammy - January 8th, 2014 at 11:04 AM
Thank you for your honesty.

I can relate in so many ways but on a different level.

I am struggling with my relationship with our 18 year son who has made decisions in the last few years that have broken our trust with him. We had an especially hard Christmas where many things were revealed. I hate admitting it but I don't know how to love him. What does a relationship and love look like when I don't trust him. I hate admitting it but I feel so conditional with my love. I am so disappointed and hurt and have a hard time seeing him for who he is beyond the decisions that he has made and continues to make.

In my head, I know I have to let go, that I am not in control. But what does that look like on a heart level as a mom. I don't know.
Desperate - January 8th, 2014 at 11:04 AM
There is no way to express how much I can relate to your article...not to the being stressed by an extroverted, needy child (though I do have one of those, and I am an introvert, and it can be tough)...but to the whole struggling in the parenting arena and having 1 child who brings out my worst self. After years of tears and trying and promising myself that, "I will do better today," and failing again and again, I am just at the end of my rope. I just don't know what to do for my son. I so want to reach his heart, but I just can't seem to do this. I so worry about him, his future, and especially his eternity. I love him deeply, but as hard as it is to admit this (for I can't imagine how a mother could feel this way about her own flesh and blood), I just can't stand to be around him. I can't stand his attitude and how he treats his sisters and I. I can't stand who I become when I am around him. I have so obviously failed him, but I just don't know what to even try any more. I need help, and I don't know where to turn. Of course I know I need to turn to God and trust Him, but I just don't even know how to do that any more. I could never tell this to anyone I know, but I am really struggling with thoughts of suicide because I am just so sick of failing my family. I don't want to hurt anyone, though, or make life harder for my kids. I just don't know what to do, and at this moment I feel like I have no strength to keep trying.
Jen Hatmaker - January 8th, 2014 at 5:07 PM
Hi, friend. Can I tell you something? You are not alone. Tons of parents are at their wits end with one of their children. It doesn't mean you've failed; that is a lie. Sometimes kids are just hard and so is parenting. Please, if your suicidal thoughts are real, please go see someone who can help you. I promise you there is a way out here. There is a way to stand up under this and move forward in a way that is healthy for you and your family. The fact that you said you couldn't say this out loud tells me you are suffering in silence, which is the worst place to struggle because the enemy reigns in the dark. That's where the lies stick and the light can't reach. Just saying this to someone will help it lose some of its power over you. Please trot yourself to a counselor and let God begin to heal you and your family. You can count on me to pray for you. You can trust God with your son. But you have to be healthy first. That first step is a doozy, but you will never regret fighting for yourself and your family. You can do this. You are strong enough. You are.
A - January 8th, 2014 at 8:46 PM
Amen to that. There is so much freedom in saying our darkest things out loud. I've said some really dark things out loud and both my friends and my God were faithful and I am now free from those particular things. I'll say it til I die: there is power in confession. You may be desperate but you are not alone.
Blair - January 10th, 2014 at 2:40 PM
I am praying for you right now, sister. You are not alone. Please get help from a counselor or church leader who will listen without judgement. You are valued and needed and LOVED. Praying, praying, praying for you. God bless you, dear one.
Desperate as well - January 17th, 2014 at 12:12 AM
I understand what you are walking through in so many ways. I don't really even want to go into it or describe it. I just want you to know that only God can pour His love into your heart, but you also have to be healthy and take care of yourself. Do what you can, even if small, to make sure you have water, Bible time, rest, a little bit of time away, split the kids up, have the kids go places ... as much as possible to help protect them and to just give breaks. Another thing that helps us is inviting people over a lot ... everyone changes their interactions when someone else is there. It is a lifesaver for us in our situation. God be with you. Please DO get to a counselor and at least one trusted friend ... but somewhat better to have a few trusted friends so you don't feel as if you are a downer to the one friend. That's how I've handled it. And start a journal for what you're thankful for. I can't begin to tell you how much I understand.
Lilly B. - January 8th, 2014 at 11:04 AM
Every child is a gift from God. When you look into their faces, it's like you're looking into a mirror. Remember it's not about you or what you have sacrificed for this child. It's a choice to LOVE this child, so throw out your pride and your unforgiveness. God always forgives. I was a good kid going up, always did what I was told, but my child wasn't exactly like me. You can blame it on family, genes or your ex, that won't change a thing. When you and spouse decided to have children it was about the family. I too feel at times like I've lost control, but that was when I had no peace in my soul. The days that I went without praying and actually re-reading my bible were difficult days. When I did read my bible and prayed, God showed me ways on how to communicate to my child, which was key understanding why they felt and acted the way God made them to be. These strong-willed children are so valuable, they're not the type that conform, but independent thinkers that can change the world for even better if we choose to love them more and pay more attention to them. When they're little you may think its bad, but when they becomes teens it's harder, and that may come with not being consistent enough. I strongly recommend right now and can't say this enough; get rid of your pride and unforgiveness. God loved you first just as you were, so just LOVE back.
Lisa Grainge - January 8th, 2014 at 12:01 PM
Thank you! Thank you! Your transparency and nudge towards the One who give us the grace we need to keep on greatly blessed me today. My adopted teen makes me absolutely crazy. It has been bad lately. It doesn't help that we are moving once again and all (8 of us) our insecurities are churning. Crazy, but I'm pretty sure this is where God is leading us to go. Before we were missionaries, I would at least a couple of times each year take a little vacation from reality at a local hotel. Now, I have to trust God to pull me through (and protect my kids!). Your reminder that I'm the adult and the one who needs to change is well taken. And to think I've been sitting around waiting on her to change . . . God bless you.
Shawna - January 8th, 2014 at 12:05 PM
I went to bed crying last night because my oldest confirmed that I annoy he and his sister. A lot. Like, he wants to RANT about how much I annoy him, but knows that it's disrespectful.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!?!? When did I become "that parent?" I am seeing your post from a completely different viewpoint today. Not that I can't relate to your side-all three of my kids were toddlers once, and my youngest still gets under my skin fairly regularly. This goes beyond "normal" teen angst and boundaries. I'm referring to the potential to really put a wedge in the relationship!

Thanks for the reminders to pray, often, asking for His eyes in the situation. I think they are just as valid for those of us who are the annoying ones.
Christine Kjosa - January 8th, 2014 at 12:47 PM
My teenage daughter pushed my buttons again last night with her "My teachers are clueless and I know everything rant". Someone should have warned her that I'm on Fppd-Day 3 of the 7 experiment because what little patience I have left in this world is being devoted to not eating the tupperware full of fresh banana fried something that a co worker just brought in. (I literally stuck my nose in and breathed deep, hoping I could trick my brain into thinking I ate one.) I want me daughter to be her own person and I know she has much to learn and maturity will eventually kick in. It just makes my heart sad when I miss the little girl who was so happy and quirky. I think she still is but I need to stop thinking she will change in order to feel better and I need to just change my approach. Thank you for sharing Jen.
Megan - January 8th, 2014 at 1:02 PM
I have needed to hear this for so long. I've been struggling with not cringing every time my husband did something. I know it's not his fault..I'm on edge from extenuating circumstances, but of all the things I could handle, he wasn't it. I have printed this out and read it again and again.
LM - January 8th, 2014 at 1:10 PM
Thank you for reminding me I am not alone. Needed this so much. And thank you for the roadmap to make some changes.
Corinne - January 8th, 2014 at 1:19 PM
Last year, I homeschooled my 9 and 7 year olds after 10 years as a stay at home mom. I felt confined and exactly how you described yourself. Thank you for writing this. Although there were parts I enjoyed, my husband and decided to put them back in public school where they could take advantage of wonderful programs and have the social interaction they so desperately needed as extroverts. And my introverted self got a job... pushing myself to interact with adults and step out of my comfort zone was exactly what I needed. We are all extremely happy this year
Mel - January 8th, 2014 at 2:01 PM
Thank you for this post. I used to think I had it all together. Other people told me how much I had it all together. Then I had children. I realized then that I DO NOT have it all together. My children are now 12, 14 and 17. Between 3pm and 10pm, I am sometimes not by best self. I have actually wondered aloud, "What happened to that 'in control,' confident, go-getter that I used to be?" Umm, she is hiding behind the laptop uttering monosyllabic words to her family. When they see me mindlessly playing Spider Solitaire on the computer to occupy my mind so that I don't swear, shout or throw something, they know that it is probably not the best time to approach. And what you say is true, so thanks for the reminder. It is often not their failings, but my own that get in the way of our relationship. Thank God for the grace He gives us that allows us to pass it on to each other. And thank God for awesome friends that we can spill our guts to and they still love us anyway.
Bree - January 8th, 2014 at 2:13 PM
God truly used you to bless some mommas! I had a conversation 18 hours prior to this post with my husband. Your post made me cry, because it hit close to home. I have a four year old son who is darling and precious, yet he knows every single button to push. I admitted to my husband that while I love him, I only like him 80% of the time. It finally dawned on me a few nights ago that this is where Satan is attacking me. I never knew anger, until I started parenting this particular child. Satan has found my weak spot and I have to repair it!! He's using a four year old...seriously FOUR year old! HA! The realization that if I don't fix my relationship with my child now, we will have a poor relationship when he's older, which ultimately could effect his relationship with Christ. Wow...Satan is so cunning! I'm determined to get closer to God and allow him to intervene and restore my thoughts. The timing of your post still shocks me! I've been feeling guilty for my thoughts of dislike. Thank you for your honesty. May we all fight through this and restore our relationships with our precious babes! Thanks, Jen!!!!!
anon - January 8th, 2014 at 2:54 PM
Love this post and the way you think and write (always with the humor) and your solutions (with the grace). Love that you recognize its not about changing her personality or changing your personality. Some very fortunate kids you have.
Haven - January 8th, 2014 at 2:55 PM
Wow, good read. Im totally struggling like this right now with someone who Im supposed to be the closest with. I cant stand it and I cant stand me when Im doing it. Its ruining things and putting us on a path of no return. Im seriously going to try this. Ive never thought about our relationship in this way. Thanks
Nicole - January 8th, 2014 at 2:58 PM
Thank you for this post. We're in week 3 with a newly placed child we're in the process of adopting.The last few days have been hard.
Samantha - January 8th, 2014 at 3:00 PM
Once when my boys were little and I was feeling totally overwhelmed, I heard this: No matter how much you love your kids, how much time you give them, even when you do everything right, there comes a day when you would gladly sell them to the first gypsy who knocks on your door! After laughing myself to tears, I felt better because I realized I wasn't alone in my feelings. Thanks for a wonderful article.
michelle - January 8th, 2014 at 3:51 PM
Patience and hope. Those are the two things I need to pray for every morning for the Holy Smack Complains and Argues About EVERYTHING six-year-old I adore and am worried for. Thank you--a lot.
Crystal - January 8th, 2014 at 4:16 PM
Thank you for your refreshing honesty. And I'm sorry for the people who feel the need to post negative comments. You rock big time!
Brooke - January 8th, 2014 at 5:04 PM
This is so timely for me. I have been struggling with my kids for some time now, but especially over the last year. It is hard to admit that you, as MOM, have a hard time looking at one of your own kids or trying to have even a basic conversation with her. With the beginning of a new year, and a deep longing for the feeling of renewal in our family life, I became overwhelmed with the idea of another year filled with strife and conflict. I prayed that God would intervene. But really, if I'm being honest, what I was asking in prayer is that He would change my kids' attitudes. And I believe that God did overwhelming me anew with the realization that I had to change my attitude. Ack! I have been working for the last 2 days on a short list of questions that I would like for each of my kids to honestly answer. What can I do to make you feel like you are very important to me? If you could change one thing about me, what would it be? It would be great if mom would just... One thing I wish Mom understood better is... Yes, I am the adult. Yes, this is my responsibility. Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you so much to you for writing this, and to all of the commenters above for showing me that I am not alone in these feelings. There's so much pressure on moms to be *perfect* and it can be hard to share negative feelings, even with true friends. Maybe the friends would be understanding, but sharing these feelings means acknowledging to MYSELF that I am not the mom that I wanted to be. It is so easy to be paralyzed into inaction by feelings of inadequacy instead of using this feeling to motivate myself to make positive changes. And that is what I found most encouraging about your post: the unvarnished truth that I will not turn these relationships into something ideal from my fantasies...but by doing my own part, I will make it better (hopefully for my kids and for myself), and I will free myself from the burden of guilt that I have accumulated through my own inaction. Thank you!
Jackie A. - January 8th, 2014 at 6:33 PM
Thank you! I am a stay-at-home mother of 4 children ages 4-10. I often feel like I have a 5th child; that would be my 41 year old husband. I find my self struggling often and constantly trying to shift my perspective on things. I am always trying to figure out how to make my situation more livable, more bearable, more tolerable....more of something other than what it is. Not sure what it says about me. I think I am doing the best I can and yest I feel that I can always be better. It is a true relief when I read the words of someone else, that so closely resonate with my own experience. This really helped me. Thank you for sharing.
Stacey - January 8th, 2014 at 7:38 PM
To be ignored by our adopted teenage girls for 10 straight months is really wearing on me. I am tired of trying, tired of reaching out to be rejected for the 10th time in one day%u2026 Just tired. So on the opposite side of this post, I would love to have a conversation that was more than one word answers on their part. Sometimes I get a conversation from one of them, but most of the time, just one word, mumbled as they walk the other direction. Thankful for my younger 3 that will talk to me and want to be near me.
Sarah - January 8th, 2014 at 8:33 PM
Thank you, Jen. I've been floundering and throwing internal hissy fits over my compulsively inquisitive child. It's exhausting but worth it to lean in and love her for who she was created to be!
Jessica - January 8th, 2014 at 8:48 PM
Thank you for this! My four year old girl constantly brings out the "ikky mom" part of me and it's frustrating because I don't want her to have a mom that just yells all the time. I'm so thankful to know that I'm not the only mom who struggles with frustrating kids!
Jackie A. - January 8th, 2014 at 10:04 PM
Thank you! I am a stay-at-home mother of 4 children ages 4-10. I often feel like I have a 5th child; that would be my 41 year old husband. I find my self struggling often and constantly trying to shift my perspective on things. I am always trying to figure out how to make my situation more livable, more bearable, more tolerable....more of something other than what it is. Not sure what it says about me. I think I am doing the best I can and yest I feel that I can always be better. It is a true relief when I read the words of someone else, that so closely resonate with my own experience. This really helped me. Thank you for sharing.
Betty - January 8th, 2014 at 10:07 PM
These have helped me: having a friend over (esp. if the family reciprocates); when she can understand it, show her "Your Guide to Interacting with an Introvert" (it has helped mine understand--she's 13); start "Mommy time-out", when you lose your temper say "O sorry dear, mommy lost her temper and has to go on a time out, she can't talk to anyone and no one can talk to her". I'd suggest a time-out in minutes equal to your age and do the same for the kids--they'll think you're suffering, you're recharging batteries (just in case the character change is slow in coming)
Sherry - January 8th, 2014 at 10:32 PM
Wow Jen, it's like you are living in my house. I did yell like a lunatic today at my 5 1/2 yo daughter who has been home with us for a year. She asked a question. I said "yes." That was the answer she wanted. We were in the car driving to where she wanted to go. She then asked the question again four more times and every time I just said "yes". Then, she asked one more time and I said, "WHY DO YOU KEEP ASKING THE SAME QUESTION THAT I HAVE ALREADY ANSWERED 5 TIMES? YES, YES, YES, YES, YES! THE ANSWER IS YES. IF YOU ASK AGAIN I AM GOING TO CHANGE MY ANSWER". She said, "Mommy, you shouldn't yell." Lord help me.
Judy - January 8th, 2014 at 10:51 PM
NCF.........LOVE IT...........IN IT.........thank you for making me feel not alone. Every feeling you are feeling. I'm there. It's exhausting. I have said many times........If I could just get away from MYSELF........I KNOW it's ME and MY problem. But oh how weary i get!!

This sentence is the one that resonated with me!! "Does the patience and gentleness you manage for others evaporate at the sound of a certain person%u2019s voice?" OR this one.... "I don't want to talk or think thoughts. I want no words, no questions. I am suffering from Needy Child Fatigue. I am on the verge of homicide. You've been warned." YES!!! LOL........but laughing could turn to hysterics!

I just recently discovered that I am an introvert. I always thought because I was out going and not shy, that I was an extrovert. NOT SO! sigh............. thank you Jen for saying it so well.
terry - January 9th, 2014 at 7:24 AM
I so totally agree with your response. - this blog is really making me like Jen
Lily - January 8th, 2014 at 10:57 PM
Thank you. So good to know I am not alone... What makes a huge difference for me is to run (jog) almost every day. Doesn't have to be more than 10-20 minutes. Works miracles on our relationship. Sometimes one of the kids even join me (I would rather be alone, but I do also like the idea of wearing them out...).
Liz - January 8th, 2014 at 11:24 PM
Jen - I'm not a mom, but I'm an aunt. I live with my sister and teen niece. While its most important to pray for yourself to change in relational attitude, don't stop praying for change in the other person. Especially when their attitudes and behaviors are leading down a self-harming road. Because prayer works miracles. In me and in my niece!!!
Paula - January 9th, 2014 at 7:07 AM
I have a simple plaque in my house that says,"The only place you will find normal in my house is on the dryer setting." Some days I look at it more than other days,,lol
Chantelle - January 9th, 2014 at 9:32 AM
I LOVE YOU. I just love you and love you some more. Plus more love. Lots and lots of luuuuuve. (I'm printing this out for future reference.) LOVE!!!!
Heather - January 9th, 2014 at 9:47 AM
Oh, sister. Thank you for this.

I am really struggling with my middle child (5th grade). The boy is a mental carbon copy of my FIL (talk about difficult) despite fairly rare interactions and we are clashing daily. Hardcore, with big, ugly cries at the end of the days. I think that we all know we can't change others, but we exempt our children from those others, whom we are "supposed" to magically have due influence and 'control' over. Thanks for reminding us that no, kids are not exempt from the old adage of us only having control over ourselves.
Katy - January 9th, 2014 at 9:52 AM
Excuse me, but are you sure you haven't been spying on me at my home? Because I have a beautiful 5yo red-headed daughter (and yes, everything you've heard about red-heads is true) who talks and talks and talks and talks and talks...and while I'm not an introvert I STILL want to find a home and curl up in the fetal position and plug my ears. OHMUGAH is SPOT ON. I cannot tell you how often I went to tell her to PLEASE JUST SHUT her 14yo sister does. But we don't--aren't supposed to--say that because it's just not nice. Plus I am the adult and cannot expect her to understand my need as a mom for quiet. I have tried your suggestion of 30 minutes of what we call "face time", and that one-on-one time does so much for her. To make it easier for myself I set a timer so I know there will be a time when my "chains fall off" and I can do something adult-related. Don't get me wrong...I love my daughter deeply, she is fabulous beyond fabulous. But she is incessant, omnipresent, constant. And as a mom there are just times when that needs to be some place else. WHEW!! Thank you for your honesty and for a safe place to spew. =D
Hallie - January 9th, 2014 at 11:40 AM
sigh...perfect timing!
Genoa - January 9th, 2014 at 12:41 PM
Thank you for this. I have a daughter with OCD tendencies and anxiety issues and I feel all of these things. God has shown me that my heart had to change toward her. I had to give her grace that was beyond what I thought I could muster. And the 4 bullet points that you give are spot on. Thank you for sharing your heart and being so open and letting God use you to help and teach others.
Deanna - January 9th, 2014 at 12:45 PM
If it helps, I have had the most difficult year with both of my kids when they were in 2nd grade. I would clash with daughter when she was in 2nd grade almost every day. Even now that she is a 6th grader and totally hormonal, it was nothing compared to that year! My son is a 2nd grader now and a big hot mess! I remember his kindergarten teacher at the time was about to switch to 2nd grade and she said that 2nd graders act totally crazy. It's like they're between being a little kid and reaching big kid status to it makes them a little insane. She said she saw every year with all of her little second graders, but by the end of the year things were much better. Hoping the crazy gets better for you after 2nd grade!
katie h - January 9th, 2014 at 12:47 PM
Needed this today. Thank you!
Tanya - January 9th, 2014 at 1:53 PM
I love the real. Love it, love it, love it...because it is hard and it does make you feel gross. This is the exact scenario with my 5yr old daughter and I have just started praying in the last two mornings specifically for grace and strength and love to get through the before-school-routine without dissolving into an ogre. This morning was a touch better - I journaled it to remember it! Ha! Prayer and honest confession does change things. Good job, thanks for your honesty. What are we doing if we're not being authentic anyway?
R - January 9th, 2014 at 2:00 PM
Loved this, thank you! My 2.5 year old son is such an extrovert and my husband and I both enjoy quiet time, which only comes after bedtime these days! My mother-in-law yesterday said she was talking about where my son gets his outgoing personality and she said "Certainly not from either of you!" Haha. I am really trying to figure out how to encourage his personality and his confidence, without going insane.
Angi Elfrank - January 9th, 2014 at 2:09 PM
I needed to read this today. I may print it out and tack it onto my refrigerator. THANK YOU.
N - January 9th, 2014 at 2:23 PM
I needed this honesty. I have recently realized I am an introvert - bonus is I don't hate people like previously thought :) My eldest is a talker about all things Lego, planning his patterns and all things that boggle my sensory sensitive mind. This morning at 6:35 his Lincoln Logs tumbled over, I went into his room to remind him siblings were sleeping and he could have presented a dissertation as to the whys and hows. I just asked him to be quiet, left the room wondering why I have no grace, no patience, no "like" for who he is. All those added to a great case of guilt and the cycle begins. Tomorrow I will start off the day praying for what I lack. Thank you!
Lindsey - January 9th, 2014 at 2:33 PM
Oh my gosh, I am desperate for you to read my comment because I am so there with you sister! You described my 2nd grade son to T! I have actually told this sweet sweet child that if he did not stop talking mommy's ears would bleed. Good right? Not so much.
Hoping you get back on track, and I am going to be spending quality time with my little guy too!
LR - January 9th, 2014 at 2:43 PM
I feel super important right now because I swear you wrote this specifically for and to me. Thank you!
Kristen Thompson-Riley - January 9th, 2014 at 2:48 PM
Love the honesty in this!! Thank you for an awesome piece!

Susan Tuma - January 9th, 2014 at 3:18 PM
Thank you for your honesty - I am on the introverted side and have a child that is extremely extroverted as well. I have struggled just as you have - prayed hard for my thought process to change. It can be a daily struggle. I love the child with every ounce of my being - don't get me wrong - but my oh my I am right there with you some days!

Wish we could be more honest with each other - I know MANY mom's struggle in this area but feel like they can't share with their friends lest they be judged or ostracized.
April - January 9th, 2014 at 6:29 PM
Totally different set of characteristics, but same struggle with my 9 yr old son. I have committed to being a better listener and be more compassionate because that sentence you wrote about hearing their voice and instantly cringing (or something of that nature) made me sad. I don't want to feel that way about my own child (someone else's is fine %uD83D%uDE0A). I want to have a good relationship with my kiddo.....and right now it is majorly strained. Thanks for showing we all struggle, regardless of how things appear.
Teri - January 9th, 2014 at 9:22 PM
After an excruciating long homeschool day, I so needed this post. Thank you for your honesty and practical advice!
chocolateganache - January 9th, 2014 at 9:48 PM
Very inspiring & useful to me for a totally different relationship - I'm a grandmother attempting to do her best to help & support her own mother. The problems & challenges are so different but exactly the same. I can't change an 80 year old woman, but I can practice the steps you laid out, to make it easier for both of us. That way I can persevere & God will be able to do through me what He has planned; He can accomplish what He wants in both our lives.
Janet - January 9th, 2014 at 9:56 PM
I just want to say this is why Grandchildren are so much more fun than your own children. As a Mamaw of 3 and 1/2 years, I have so much more patience with a 3 year old and 18 month old than I ever did my own boys. For one thing, my son is beginning to understand why I did and said some of the things I did when he was a little boy. And well- you can always send them back home! In all seriousness, I lost my oldest son years ago, really miss him and would love to have a few of those days back when he was a little boy. Keep up the good work all you Christian Mommies!
melissa - January 10th, 2014 at 7:55 AM
This is a word spoken directly to my heart this morning. Before I got up today I prayed and asked God to help me love my husband better. I'm a fairly new stay-at-home mama and my husband is newly working from home so we are always together. Which should be a wonderful thing, but I feel overwhelmed by all the togetherness. I find myself giving him little of the grace he so needs. Thanks for the practical tips. It's all things I've heard before but definitely need to hear again.
Becki - January 10th, 2014 at 9:21 AM
Incredible. Being a MOM = toughest job I've ever had PERIOD. Thank you for being honest. I needed to read this today.
Stacie - January 10th, 2014 at 9:41 AM
oh yes! My prayer and now new habit! that is taking hold and turning some things I always, always, always, meet my adopted 6 year old son first thing in the morning with a smile and a "I am so glad you are here!" helps me, help him...:) thank you for your honesty....
Diahn Ott - January 10th, 2014 at 12:00 PM
I absolutely relate to your article. I have two boys, now 12 and 14. The oldest started speaking in complete sentences when he was 15 months old and still hasn't stopped, and the youngest even speaks in his sleep. It's constant, it's loud, and at times, I think I'll go insane with the noise (being an incredibly introverted woman who thrives on S.I.L.E.N.C.E.)

I think your points are all wonderful, and I wouldn't remove any of them from your plan, but I do think it's important to add one more...from the time my boys were very young, whenever I had crossed over into a headspace that required some silence, I would explain to them that my ears were full and my brain couldn't process any more information right at that moment.

Then, we would have quiet time. They could read a book or play with LEGOs or draw - as long as it was quiet and didn't require my input. I would brew a cup of coffee and read a little, or lay down on the couch and close my eyes and decompress.

That way, they realized that everyone is different and their needs are different - it was MY issue, not theirs. They hadn't done anything wrong, they were loved, they were validated. They also learned to respect that sometimes people need to be left alone and that it's okay to let them be.

I believe you're absolutely right in stating that you can not change anyone but yourself, but I also believe that God created introverts for a reason, just as He created extroverts for a reason. You can change your actions and how you handle stresses, but you should also listen carefully for your own needs behind the stress. Often, it's the stress that is a signal to us that our own needs (which are not necessarily selfish) are not being met.

Breathe deeply, find space and quiet, and go back out rested and well...
June - January 10th, 2014 at 5:11 PM
Hubs and I adopted two boys a little over a year ago, and I have been suffering from NCF ever since (thank you for giving it a name!), while he has enjoyed his time with them immensely. So, I noticed that men don't get the syndrome nearly as often as women. It's because the little critters will completely circumvent their dad to find Mom and ask for whatever they may need at that moment. The main question asked Dad is "Where is Mom?" Dad is the ever-present play partner, to which he digresses to his 10 year old self and happily wrestles, plays whenever. I do notice that my attitude is less dependent on their behavior, and more dependent on my state of mind at the time. So I would suggest adding #5 Self Care: Cut yourself some regular slack and get away, relax, renew on a regular basis. Momma on empty is no good for anyone. I find that my already full life (family, work, responsibilities) has fatigued my adrenals already, so my capacity for stress is a lot lower now than before they came home. The more I regularly get away and refill, the better Mom I am. Now, to practice what I preach%u2026..
Clement - January 10th, 2014 at 9:09 PM
I literally think you just described my 6 year old daughter to a T! Even the bizzaro calendar-schedule, daylight saving thing...I mean that is what I feel my running, EXHAUSTING, dialogue is. It's mind numbing and it has made me my worst self. Especially since I am about to have baby #3 in a month and I'm exhausted anyway. I am going to employ all your tactics to try and get us back on track before this baby comes. I know in my heart that she is her own precious little person and I have to change and be the grown up and stop reacting/snapping. It's so hard! Thank you for the motivation to try harder and not feel so guilty for feeling like I do sometimes.I needed it.
Jacqueline - January 11th, 2014 at 6:00 AM
So needed to hear this right now!
Julie - January 11th, 2014 at 7:13 PM
I deal with this with my 4 and 7 yo daughters, but not to the extent that you are describing. There are a few things that make a big difference to me--first, they really just want the undivided attention, so it's my opinion that it might be counterproductive to play 30 minutes of Candyland with her if you absolutely hate it, or to read out loud from the Rainbow Magic Fairy book series (if you have escaped these books, you are very lucky, and should continue to stay away). However, my kids are just as happy playing Spot it or Quirkle or Rush Hour or Monopoly Jr, all of which I can tolerate for 30 minutes, or listening to a book that's not mind numbingly boring (Ramona or the Oz books or something that I actually enjoy as well). So my policy is--want to play Candyland or read Rainbow Magic Fairies? that's a kid thing and you can do it alone or with your sister. But here's other stuff we can do together. I understand that this isn't the main point in your situation, but I do think that if you can offer a choice of activities that are also more enjoyable for you (not to say that you would choose to spend your day playing Spot it, more that it's the lesser of 2 evils) your plan might go better for everyone. the second thing that helps is making sure you do carve out a little time each day for some time alone/physical activity/etc. Good luck and thanks as always for your honesty and humor!
LaLa - January 11th, 2014 at 7:45 PM
This. It's EXACTLY what I've been going through this past month only you came up with a to-do list and I was still chasing my tail. I'm going to borrow your list and confidence and hope for a change within me that will affect the dynamic between me and my girl. Thank you.
Katie - January 11th, 2014 at 10:42 PM
Thank you--I needed to read this and ponder over it. I must storm the gates of heaven in prayer over this relationship instead of sighing over it each day! God Bless!
KD - January 12th, 2014 at 1:37 AM
Thank you, thank you. "There would never be a break, a need for space, the urge to be alone. NEVER." Every single word of this post describes myself and my 1st grade son. All of it. I love that little beast to the pit of my being, but I answer his insatiable chatter with angry sighs and an exasperated "WHAT?!" all the time. Thank you for the validation and conviction. I love that little beast, and I am committing to praying even more for him now, to not expecting him to change, but to love him as God made him. Thank you.
Beth - January 12th, 2014 at 7:50 AM
Thank you...boy did I need this!
Peg - January 12th, 2014 at 4:39 PM
Thank you, thank you. Like so many others I needed to read this. I wish I could have read it when I had a second grader. The one I needed to hear this for is a sixteen year old boy.
Elizabeth - January 12th, 2014 at 8:00 PM
Wow! Thank you Jen for being so raw and honest. I love that you said you would rather work hard on a relationship then flounder in frustration! I feel like I have floundered so much I maybe the next special on a "Red ~ Lobster" menu! I have come to the conclusion also that no matter how hard we try to change that person...."it ain't going to happen!" But we can change our mind sets and ask our Papa God to "ouch" change us! It's not easy though it's a day by day process! Thank you again! What a blessing you are. Beth.
Elizabeth Maxwell - January 12th, 2014 at 8:25 PM
Wow! Thank you Jen for being so raw and honest. I needed this! I love what you said, " I%u2019d rather work hard on a difficult relationship than flounder in frustration over it." I feel like I flounder in frustration so much, that they may make me a lunch special on the menu at "Red Lobster."! Flounder indeed is not the way to go. I am learning to ask my Papa God to change me, this is something not easy for any of us to do. Thanks again for blessing so many with your encouraging words! Elizabeth
Jen - January 13th, 2014 at 4:30 PM
Ok, I've waited more than my three days grace to write this. I was so mad at you last week I cried when I talked about this to my mom. You broke my heart wide open. But not for you. For your little girl. I wanted to come to your house and get her away from you.
Then I had to think about what that was all about and when I realized, I wasn't mad anymore.
I had a friend just like you. And she had a daughter just like yours. Why God gives us kids so different from ourselves that it makes it almost impossible to parent them, I don't know. What I do know is that you may want to think about this before your girl grows up and your lives go so horribly wrong:
My friend, who just was foundationally different than her child--an introvert tending towards depression; her daughter, a constant, loud source of sunshine, even at midnight, lol--recognized her limitations in loving her daughter the way she needs to be loved very early on. So she did the most amazing thing a mother can do. She went out a found other "mothers" for her girl, mothers that could stand in for her when she just couldn't get it done. I am so blessed to be one of them. Almost 20 years later, that girl is like my girl, but not. Welcome in my home unconditionally, just like my own kids, but not. Loved by me and my husband and my parents like she was born to us, but not. And that has saved her. And saved her mom. Because no one wants to grow up feeling like they weren't enough--enough loved, or enough of a mom. We raised her together. And everyone is ok with that.
Find your girl a village of mamas. It might help you both.
jodi - January 14th, 2014 at 11:34 AM
thanks so much for this...thanks for your honesty...I can so relate..praying with my friends to help me during this time. so needed this
Patricia Clark - January 14th, 2014 at 12:16 PM
I hope your daughter never has the opportunity to read this. She will feel like a burden. I don't understand why people thinks it's ok to express themselves in this very public place in these ways that could devastate the people they love. Your daughter is young and probably not able to access this blog but she certainly knows it exists. I don't know you or anything about you so I don't know if she has older siblings that read your blog. Express these thoughts freely to close friends and ask for their prayers and ideas and help but show some restraint on social media. I ended up here through a link from another blog. Don't think I'll be back. Sorry.
Katie - January 14th, 2014 at 10:18 PM
Yes and amen.PS, is there a way to subscribe to your blog via email that I am missing? If so, please share!
Debbie C - January 17th, 2014 at 10:52 PM
Hi Jen, thank you for this! (This is my first comment on your blog!) I have a 5 month old baby and also a beautiful toddler who is SOOOOO rambunctious, strong-willed and demanding. And clingy and needy. There are days when I am the worst mom, just really desperate to have some free time to myself, and not responding lovingly at all to my toddler. Being a mom to littles is so hard, so humbling, so exhausting. But also rewarding, and I need to focus on the good, the potential, the joy instead of the difficulties. Thanks for your honesty and encouragement. :)
Naomi - January 18th, 2014 at 11:52 AM
Do you know how I survive my three adoptive children who thrive on activity and energy and non-stopmental stimulation so that their worlds are never quiet and never lonely and never lacking? Earplugs! Yep! So much of what Jen describes with her daughter, describes the tendency with all three of mine. Questions, double checking, reminding, double checking again, finding ways of asking the same question again in ways where it doesn't sound like the same question, reminding again, and on and on and on... I am definitely going to do what she suggests because my irritation and frustration and exasperation comes out too often! But, the only way that I would survive my household is to buy stock in earplugs! I put them in periodically during the day for short breaks here and there, and my kids are used to it by now, to meet that need for quiet and solitude and peace. I didn't use them as often when they were younger, but now at 9, 12 and 14, they expect time during the day where mom can't hear. I love my children, but without those earplug moments I would never gather any energy to face the more challenging times of my days!
Mrsgriff - January 18th, 2014 at 11:38 PM
So I didn't know we share a child!! And also my husband is the same way (banging my head into the wall so maybe I can pass out and be alone for 5 min) it's a struggle every minute if every day... I pray for strength and for The Lord to restore my joy, because they just suck it all away from me... Thankfully God has an endless supply!! Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone!!
Michelle - January 21st, 2014 at 1:08 PM
Jen, I have become such a huge fan since listening to your talk at the Women of Faith Conference in KC in the fall of 2013. I feel so normal thanks to your blogs, posts, and books! Thank you for being so honest. I too have one of those children who truly needs more from me than I feel comes naturally to give, and it is exhausting. The truly challenging part is that she is a lot like her father :). I sometimes feel completely drained by all that I give to them, and we have 2 other children! So, I love reading your experiences as it does truly help me feel normal. I love being all that I am to them, but sometimes I let myself run on empty too long. I am getting better at filling my own tank when others don't and relying more on my relationship with God as my strength. I thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Jeanene - January 23rd, 2014 at 3:42 PM
Yep...I have a couple of little people like that, actually! And, I am also an introvert!

I am raising "virtual twins". They are four months apart in age, one boy, one girl, both beautiful! They are BOTH very challenging. My 2.5 year old boy SCREAMS. When he first came home he was quiet, because he was exposed to meth in utero. We had to wake him to feed him. But, after he hit 1 year old...he started screaming in frustration over everything. And, I DO mean screaming. 24/7 it felt like. I woke up to him screaming every single day for 8 months! My 2 year old girl is just doing normal 2, for the most part...but, normal 2 for a kid who is very strong willed! My solution?(or, rather...God's solution) I realized that I MUST get enough rest...and I MUST get up each day at least an hour before they do...spend time in prayer(just as you did, asking HIm to help me see them as He does). Praying for the grace to show them unconditional love in a way they can perceive. And, having quiet time to just breathe and think in complete sentences. I wore ear plugs during that time(yup...because if he woke before the normal get up time, he would SCREAM). And, if it was a really bad day...I kept the ear plugs in(just takes the edge off the screaming, which can be physically painful and really wear you down)! Then, I literally asked Him to help me put on my armor and said "Lord, I'm going in!" and hit the day knowing He had my back! That has carried me through those times. He isn't as much of a screamer anymore...we have worked through sensory issues in therapy, etc. But, I keep my routine because it helps me to recognize WHO it is that equips me to parent these children that He has entrusted to us. Any day where I don't do this...I can *feel* the difference all day long!

Thanks so much for sharing and being honest about this! It's a tough subject!
Karen - January 24th, 2014 at 1:08 PM
I have a question-asker in my family. He's autistic, and he asks the same things over and over. Besides prayer, I gotta say what helps me is Prozac.
Bill McKeen - February 1st, 2014 at 9:15 AM
Jen: my thoughts on pain and suffering.

Pain and Suffering:

I look ahead, I look behind, I look to the left, and I look to the right and what do I see. A lot of pain and suffering. In their faces and demeanor. I see struggle, fear and anxiety. I see tension. I see those who are suffering from mental illness and addictions. I see all those people who must endure physical pain. I see the poor and neglected, the deaf, the blind and the crippled. I see suffering in old age with all it's infirmities, And for what reason must all this be? I ask God for the answer and none is yet to be found. The cause, as the expert surmise, is for two reasons, one the free will of man, be it for good or evil and the other from the constant laws of nature, as in in birth, growth and decay with time and chance at play. I don't question the the system and I how it works. I understand it completely. The larger question for me is what purpose does it serve? In the aeon of time this echo has never been tendered. C.S. Lewis summed nicely when he said "God speaks to our conscience, whispers in our pleasure and shouts in our pain."

Jam - February 3rd, 2014 at 11:52 AM
Awesome...Thank you for this
Randi - February 4th, 2014 at 5:01 PM
Thank you! I wish I'd read this a few weeks ago (my fault for not being up-to-date on your blog, right?), but I've been struggling with a Needy Child in a different way - a 4yo super whiney and complainy one. It just wears on you, the small arguments from sun up to sun down (and after). It wears on you to have to gird yourself every time you say "no" for tears. Ugh.
At other times in my life, it's been my child with autism that has been emotionally hard for me, but more for small things like his persistence in repeating movie scripts or song lyrics without stop. Or stupid annoyances like not being able to take his temperature the normal way bc he gags.
Anyway, thanks.
Mich - February 4th, 2014 at 9:53 PM
Thanks so much for your honesty. We Internationally adopted 4 girls, 3,5,6,&7 this past summer and doubled the size of our family. As a mom of 8 I totally understand where you're coming from. I love that you're brutally honest and willing to talk about it... it's nice to know someone really understands. :)
Libby - February 5th, 2014 at 9:18 AM
Dear Parents of Overwhelmingly Sucking the Life out of you Children:

I have one of those. He wakes up with the energy of 5 horses ready to run a race, plow a field, frolic in a meadow and chase anything that moves. He is a bulldozer, going for whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and exactly how HE sees fit. He knows exactly what he wants every minute. He is extremely smart, strong willed, won't ever take no for an answer and wants to talk 100% of the time. I am exhausted. I am aware of my own weakness and I am constantly begging for strength and gentleness.

Here is what I've been given by the Lord: I was asked to look at each one of my children and ask, who are they? Meaning who are they being created for in the Kingdom of God!? No one thinks about this anymore. No one remembers the OFFICES and ROLES that were created in the Kingdom. Remember the Prophets, Priests, Kings, Warriors, Musicians/Singers, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers, and the list could go on. I'm not talking about just one's spiritual gifts I'm talking about an Office. When I asked or rather was told who this child was, it all made sense and I was somehow even more in awe that I was chosen to be his mother.

Just imagine for a moment, if you were raising a Prophet of the Most High God? What would he/she need to be like to fight evil? To call out darkness and stand up to the religious or speak messages from God to people that don't want to hear it ? Wouldn't they need to be able to not take NO for an answer?

What if you were raising a Warrior for the Most High God? Wouldn't they need the strength of horses to keep fighting in a war without fear!? Wouldn't they need to have blinders on to see exactly what they are fighting for and not being swayed or deceived by anything else?

The list could continue for each office. So I realized these little quirks that bring me to my knees in a collapsed heap at the end of the night while he still lays in his bed talking his little heart out wanting yet another song sung or another story, his mind never ceasing and mine perhaps not even working anymore I realize this child might change lives, might save lives, might fight for freedom in the lives of others and some how my weakness is strengthened when I realize God chose me to raise him, temper him and tame him like a wild horse so that he is ready to do the work he was created to do.

Take heart parents of the Officers of the Kingdom...ask who your child is and perhaps all that wearies you will raise in you hope for a generation even more than our own. Remember Mary was "favored" and chosen to be the Mother of Jesus, perhaps we are favored as well.
Amy - February 11th, 2014 at 2:08 PM
I like you. And just today I referred to my darling, respectful, precious kids that I homeschool, as life sucking leeches in conspiracy to slowly kill me. And yet, there's grace that keeps pouring and I'm still learning. I like visiting you and all the real here :).
Take care.
Marcia Hall - March 6th, 2014 at 1:33 PM
There are cruel, self absorbed parents in the world for sure, but most of us just need to vent and bond so that our children continue to enjoy the privilege of life, breathing air. Thank you Jen and other moms for the blessing of perspective! Teaching children that parents make mistakes and need time outs is critical...seeing us handle stress and conflict teaches them how to approach these things themselves. Doing it with humor (which does not include mocking or belittling your child) may save young lives. I have raised seven, including a potential felon, and my youngest very gifted girl, puts the screws to me on a regular basis more than her brother the lawbreaker ever did. When I get on overload and react badly, I apologize and we pray together, and sometimes we can laugh at how intense we both get. Mercy is a good thing to ask for and receive.

I have her thirteen year old permission to share that when she was four, she asked seriously about "hiring a judge" to sue us for unfair parenting, since we did not treat all siblings equally. She was outraged that we were denying her a house key, a cell phone, a better bedtime, and puberty. She did not find it humorous then, and resented my amusement very thoroughly. We didn't get around to discussing which local judges were possibly for hire. I've heard rumors, but...
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