I was a stubborn child. I would fight to the death on a wide variety of issues. In those moments, I would fight the world not caring if I won or loss. All I cared about was showing that I would never quit.
My parents often would tell me a story about my stubbornness that always made us laugh. I was in a high chair and we were eating dinner. I had some chili (to this day, I love chili. I could eat it over and over!) but my chili was not the same as what mom and dad were eating. I knew better than to fall for their tricks. As I demanded for equal opportunity and justice, my mother was trying to warn me of the dangers of spicy grown up chili. My dad finally said, “fine, let him have it, he’ll just learn the hard way.”
I began to enjoy the spoils of my victory. I quickly realized that the warning from my mother was well founded since the chili was true to its description. And I sat there, and I ate it. I poured milk on it. My nose became runny. My face was red. But I never gave up, I just kept eating.
It was not just with Chili that my hardened resolve became evident. It was with everything. If I got a spanking, I would often laugh the entire time although I would internally be writhing in pain. It was because I never wanted to back down. Some of that never wore off. Even in middle school if I was made fun of about something I wore or my hair style, I would wear it more just to show the bully that they were not going to influence me or change my mind. I do not like to back down on anything that I am willing to make a stand for.
In time, I have been slowly learning that this inconvenience can actually be turned into a valuable asset. The struggle is knowing when to pick your battles and knowing when it is necessary to challenge the status quo. This skill/challenge has become my best friend and my worst enemy. There are times where my resolve has helped me endure to the next moment. Yet, there are other times that it makes me want to fight back. There are times where I want them to lose their tempers so I can show them that I can take it. I can show them that no matter how enraged they are and no matter how hard they will fight, I will always fight back harder.
These two children who are trying to get to know us and trust us have had to be more stubborn and determined than I probably have ever been. They too, will fight to the absolute death and do it with a condescending grin or an unrelenting frown. They will stubbornly refuse to listen just to show us that we cannot influence or change their minds. Sometimes it is utterly exhausting when every little stinking insignificant thing becomes a large ordeal that will involve an invasion with air strikes and a highly trained, organized, and prepared fighting force to succeed. Sometimes I want to get through a moment where a child is not getting in trouble and refusing to comply. How hard is it to eat dinner and not pick a fight with someone? How hard is it to simply enjoy free time without nagging someone to stand outside the door when you have to go to the bathroom? Can we not wage war because dinner is somehow surprisingly at the same time it has been every night? No thank you, I don’t want to eat dinner at 4:00.
This is hard. The prideful part of me wants to retaliate. The prideful part of me wants to “show them who’s boss.” The prideful part of me wants to prove to them that I will never quit and never give in. It is hard to set my desire to fight to the death aside. It is hard for me to pick my battles. I don’t always want to stop and think of the most productive and helpful way to calm our kids down. Sometimes I want them to throw a total fit just so I can show them that it won’t change my mind.
But I can’t let it be about who is ‘winning’ or who is ‘the boss.’ I have already had a child see the cold, frustrated look on my face when I am holding back my desires to take away a tablet or a beloved toy. I have had them respond, ” I know what that face means. Foster parents make that face when they don’t want me here anymore, because you are mad at me.” These kids don’t need more punishment, they need more help to find out how to adapt and deal with a dark, cold, frustrating world.
The best way to equip someone in life, is to capitalize on the skills they already have. Little C and Big C are both stubborn in their own way. They will fight at all costs for what they want. Some could view this as a hindrance and a weakness. But in fact, it is one of their greatest strengths. Although it is inconvenient and makes even the most basic tasks difficult and annoying, their stubbornness reveals their overall hidden gift of resiliency. They can endure. and in time adapt and overcome. Maybe my stubbornness brings me my greatest struggles. But it has also given me the determination to continue to endure and persevere. Maybe it was God’s gift to help me to choose to love even when children are making every moment with them a struggle. Maybe our greatest weaknesses are actually the first indicators of our greatest strengths.