Countdown to Joash's 6th Birthday

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Countdown to Jayna's 5th Birthday

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Countdown to Jaide's Birthday

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Countdown to Joram's Birthday

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Same Lesson, New Challenge

I never thought that I would ever say this of my own child but I can't deny it: 
I don't like Jaide. 
And I'm understating... A LOT.

After the turbulent journey with my second born which had a happy ending shortly after she accepted Christ, I thought the same would be true for Jaide. (Read about her salvation story HERE) Unfortunately, the improvement in her behaviour has been marginal. She constantly chooses intentionally to disobey. Jesus may have given her the resources to make good choices but she still has the will to decide if she wants to use those resources, as do all believers. 

And how do I know it is a deliberate choice? She behaves remarkably well in school, at church and whenever she deems beneficial to her. She only shows her true ugly self to her own family.

It is impossible to teach Jaide regarding hygiene. She has no qualms eating from her hands after touching poop or other equally disgusting stuff which makes her very susceptible to stomachaches and food poisoning. She loves to dig her nose and scatter her boogers everywhere, especially on her siblings' beds, much to their horror. And when she makes a mess, she refuses to tell anyone about it till the mess becomes much more widespread from unknowing feet tracking it all over the place. She treats her own drawers as a rubbish dump and picks up trash from the dustbin to play with! Perhaps, she'll be right at home in the future helping needy people at places without proper sanitation? I'm just trying to look on the bright side...

Jaide knows exactly what she wants and has no patience to wait. Unlike most kids who can be persuaded and distracted, she has the persistence to throw a mega tantrum if things don't go her way for an impossibly long time. Just when I think that she has finally gotten over it, her long memory will prompt her to kick a major fuss much later. Yet, she is particularly fond of changing her mind. She is prone to give something to her sibling only to regret her decision and violently reclaim it from the unsuspecting individual. She tends to make a choice one moment, but screams murder the next, falsely accusing us of getting her the wrong thing.

However, it is the opposite problem when it comes to food. Feeding Jaide is one big challenge because no matter what cuisine I cook or which restaurant we go to, she’ll just throw a tantrum screaming that she doesn’t like anything there, creating a huge scene, only to realise later that she actually likes the food we prepared for her. Sadly, the whole family has to endure 15-30 min of her loud whining before she settles down practically every mealtime. I really hate it when we ask her what she wants and she can't give us an answer. She only knows she doesn’t want anything we suggest to her. I can literally buy or cook ANYTHING for her but it is absolutely impossible to get her “I don’t know”. It is so frustrating to hear her complain that she's hungry but she has no idea what she wants to eat and refuses whatever we offer her.

On top of that, she is extremely reckless and does not heed safety warnings. She has fallen down and injured herself countless times because she simply refuses to listen when we tell her not to play dangerously. She not only hurts herself because of her own wilfulness. She endangers everyone around her as well. 

Jaide is the only one in the family with a high 'D' (Dominant) personality, making it terribly hard for any of us to understand her. It puzzles me to no end why she would refuse to do the things she knows how to do for herself and yet stubbornly insists on doing the things that are way too difficult for her and ruining everything in the process.

She also has a "never enough" syndrome. She can get to enjoy something for hours but will protest that she didn't get to play enough when told it is time to stop. She is the one child who constantly asks for that 5 more minutes. She'll always want more of her favourite things regardless of how much she already has. 

I have even tried to find out if her obstinate trait has a medical cause but she turns out to be the most healthy child in the family. And yet, even though she does not have eczema like 2 of her siblings, she will purposely scratch her skin out of anger till she bleeds. Coupled with her numerous bruises and wounds from her own foolhardy actions, I'm surprised that no one mistakenly believes her to be a victim of abuse!

Nothing that I've tried works consistently; not strict discipline, not soft approach, not reverse psychology, not encouragement, not positive reinforcement, not logical consequences, not countless prep talks and counselling, not even catering to her personality by giving her reasonable freedom to make her own choices. Nothing. She'll purposely refuse to do what I tell her to do and do what I explicitly tell her NOT to do. It is expected that young kids will be mischievous and disobedient from time to time. But she is like that 95% of the time. Those 5% when she does obey, I praise her profusely in the hope she'll be more motivated to behave. Sadly, she goes right back to her default obnoxious mode in no time at all. 

Under such circumstances, it is a remarkably tall order for me to love her like I love the rest of my kids. But I have to train myself. Even though I cringe every time she asks for a hug, I still do so in the same way I do for my other children. No matter how unloveable she is to me, I choose daily to ignore my aversion and champion her whenever her siblings do her injustice. I kiss her, stroke her gently and smile at her sweetly as often as I do for the rest. The last thing I want is for her to think that I treat her unfairly due to bias. Unfortunately, the reality is, I do discipline her so much more often because of her persistent defiance. 

It does not help matters that I have increased workload, suffer from unexplained puritus and is diagnosed with clinical depression this year. I lack my normal physical and emotional capacity to deal with her constant fussiness and end up yelling at her more often than not. As much as I hate to admit it, she is the main reason why I feel so much like an epic failure as a parent. 

I didn't notice how disruptive Jaide is to our family life till my mother-in-law graciously helps me look after her for a while. All of a sudden, there is peace at home. There's no longer someone who would bully the little brother or lead him into mischief. There's no one to annoy or fight with the older two kids. There is no one to constantly push my buttons anymore. The yelling stops. I feel sane for the first time in many years. I am starting to enjoy my other 3 children once again. In fact, my elder girl told me, "It is so nice and quiet without Jaide around."

God has shown me that Jaide will become a powerful leader when she grows up. But in the meantime, how do I survive till then? Other than the perennial lesson in patience and unconditional love while parenting, I now literally have to force myself to see Jaide through the eyes of God. Despite seeming as if her "terrible twos" is never ending, I continually remind myself that her strong stubborn character needs a lot more time to channel towards the positive end and that 5 years old is still considered very young. I fear that her tempestuous personality will get her into more and more serious trouble as she grows older but only God can truly protect her from herself. I can only do my best to ENDURE, press on and pray for her.

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had..."
Romans 15:4-5

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sweeping the floor

As he observed his older siblings using the magic clean wipers to sweep the floor, Joram felt very left out and cried to be allowed to do it too. Thus, I shortened the stick of one of the wipers and let him give it a shot. Needless to say, he was delirious with glee but his level of competence left much to be desired... Hahaha... Hopefully, he'll do better with practice and maturity. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Works in Progress

It was a hot and humid afternoon. My skin itch had returned with a vengeance and my body had barely recuperated from the exertion of the June holidays.

I entered the establishment with four children who refuse to drink my homemade broth and instead, hanker after the tomato soup of the fast-food outlet. The lunch-time crowd was in and yet those four little human beings insisted on squeezing past the press of bodies in the queue to look at the menu at the counter as though they did not know what was available. Four excited voices piped enthusiastically their orders and they changed their minds so quickly and often that I lost track of who wanted what. Combined with my constant admonishment for the children not to destroy public property and desperate appeals for them not to be a nuisance to other people with their monkeying around, we were exceedingly noisy and rowdy, my self-respect in pieces.

Everyday, I ask myself, when will this chaos end? I had many who encourage me that things will get easier as they grow up but that is a dangerous expectation. Even though it is true that there is less physical care-giving needed as the kids grow more independent, the battles of the will correspondingly increase in intensity. One child would loathe to put in any hard work to the point of declining a supplementary class, generously offered by the school, meant to help him improve. Another would blatantly ignore pleas to take care of her skin. There is also the constant tantrum-filled balking at every single instruction given and the wilful refusal to drink water by himself although perfectly capable of doing so.

No. Things will definitely not get easier. It will only get different. To think otherwise is to lose hope whenever the children refuse to obey even though it is all for their own sake. More than ever, I need the resilience that comes from putting my faith and hope in Christ and not trust what I see. I need to hang onto the vision which God entrusted me years ago and the journey is far from over. I need to put things in the right perspective. I must nail my disappointments in my children and myself to the cross and move on. Even as I extend grace to my own flesh and blood, I must extend the same grace to myself whenever I feel like such an epic failure. I am similarly a work in progress. God is not finished with us yet. Although depleted both physically and emotionally, I can rely on God's empowerment each day to give me a second wind. Indeed, to live is Christ. 

“Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:35)