Feb 17, 2016

Mercy, Mothering, and that Difficult Child

I'm certain that Pope Francis declared the Year of Mercy explicitly for me. Ok, well maybe that's
exaggerating a bit, but let me run with the idea anyway! I have this amazing 4 year old boy (#6 in the
line up of 8) who is very special. Well, they're all special, but this guy is particularly special right now! The aforementioned 4 year old is a unique blend of several personalities in our family – not necessarily a good thing some days. He's sensitive, funny, sharp as a tack, picky,and goofy all wrapped up in the same kid.

You know how you think a child is just going through a phase. You might say things like, “I know this is just a phase, he'll grow out of it.” Or “Surely, she's just tired and needs more rest.” And then all of a sudden you realize it isn't a phase. They continue to complain about strings on clothing from age 18 months to 4 years with no end in sight. Or they can't stand when the food on their dinner plate touches. Maybe this kid is just made the way he is and will always be difficult to some degree. And this, my fellow mothers in the trenches, is where the Year of Mercy was declared just for us (me)!

After raising X number of children, gathering real life experience with each subsequent child, one
might think expert, master, or pro are appropriately earned titles attached to our God-given title of Mother.  Unfortunately, just as soon as you tag one of those titles on, we usually get a dose of humility. Just as soon as we think we've figured out how to get Sally asleep, Jane comes along and won't have anything to do with our new found bliss.

Sleep patterns, fashion choices, eating likes/dislikes, coping mechanisms, and so forth will all be
different with each child and you just can't predict how it's all going to turn out. This makes parenting
in general and motherhood more specifically, very challenging to say the least. So I got to #6 in my
own line-up and the 4th boy so I figured he was going to be super simple to figure out. LOL!!!! Every day is different with him, actually every minute is different with him.

In spite of this seemingly difficult child, God calls me to love him just the same as the other 7 children who call me mom. The funny thing is, or at least I chuckle at myself, I'm the one who needs to change, not my sweet boy. I'm the one who needs God's mercy, His forgiveness, His Grace found new everyday in order that I may love my child the way in which he deserves. The “Year of Mercy” is helping me to do so in meaningful and tangible ways that I had not considered before.

Children are a gift from a God – bottom line. They don't have to be anything special or do anything great to be this gift. As they are, imperfections, quirks, vices, and virtues, these children we aim to get to Heaven are simply and purely gift. So how in the world does something so sweet and innocent cause so much angst in the life of a mother? How can we wrestle the feelings of love and disdain that run rampant through our hearts?

Here is a simple yet helpful way to embrace the “Year of Mercy” and also help to build a better
relationship with that “difficult” child:

  • Desire to Change
  • Ask God for help
  • Start small
  • Keep praying

Honestly, it almost looks like the steps to preparing for a good confession, but that makes perfect sense because that's where we can feel God's mercy in such a tangible way. Lately, I had been super frustrated because I keep praying for help to mother my sweet boy but I felt like I was just stuck in a rut and acting the same way toward him almost shunning him at times. Then I had a light bulb moment at Mass the other day --I was missing one of the steps. I want to change, I asked for help, and I was sort of praying about it, but I wasn't implementing any changes in my own behavior. Light bulb!!!  All this time that I've been asking for help God has been answering, but I wasn't responding back with an earnest effort. If I want to change I need to make a concerted effort to try some new things with my little guy. Once this sunk into my heart and mind, I was able to take some small steps toward loving my difficult child in whole new ways.

Now with the Lenten season upon us in the midst of the “Year of Mercy” I'm feeling as though there is an abundance of God's grace to draw from. He wants me to ask Him for help, He wants you to ask for help, because ultimately He wants us to live out our vocation to the best of our ability and then to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.

So if you have ever or are currently parenting a difficult child, take some time to reflect on my simple
way to build a better relationship with him/her. Dive into the “Year of Mercy” if you haven't already
and run full steam into Lent and you'll find an abundance of God's grace just waiting for the taking.


  1. Great post. This reminds me of a saying a saw somewhere recently to the effect that "when a person is being their least lovable is when he or she actually needs the most love." I know it's true for me! On those few occasions when I remember to derail my automatic reaction train, and try something unexpected, almost always something great happens. But it does take energy, and that is in short supply these days. God give us strength! Thanks for the beautiful post, Britta!

  2. I have one of those "difficult" children as well. He's a teenager and things are so much better now. Like you, I had to struggle with trying to correct it out of him and change the way I loved him even more. Love what Nancy said too.... "when a person is being their least lovable is when he or she actually needs the most love". So very true as well. I am very blessed to be walking this mothering journey with you lovely ladies! You are all the best!! :)


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