Journey Of Mules

Have you ever celebrated a victory too soon, sure that you’d passed a test, only to find that you did not fare so well?  Or thought you had extra money in the bank, until you discovered you forgot to pay the mortgage (or rent)?

I hope someone can relate to the feeling, because that’s where I’m at right now.

I rejoiced in my older son’s transition from a rotten stage a bit too soon.  Just days after that post in mid-November, the old attitude returned.  I stayed in denial for a couple weeks, praying that the hateful, smart-aleck attitude was just passing through, but I’m afraid it has set up long-term residence with my sulky/angry nine-year-old son.

I guess God decided my break was long enough.  Just like nighttime gives a brief respite from the searing summer sun here in the desert, the couple of weeks of sweetness quenched the frustration that had been building inside me.  Each day, I felt stronger and more prepared to continue on this parenting journey (even without a map or directions.)

I ain't movin'

Now, after nearly 3 weeks of non-stop attitude, my mule has collapsed.  (Oh, I didn’t mention the mule?  Yeah, she’s as stubborn as my son.)  I’ve tried begging, yelling, cajoling, nudging, and even the silent treatment, but the mule won’t budge…much like my son.

I’m stuck on a trail somewhere between civilization and the bottom of the Grand Canyon and I have no idea if I’ve got enough patience provisions.  If I sit down to have a good cry, I will get rest, but my skin will blister in the sun.  If I kick the mule into motion, I’ll continue on the journey, albeit slowly, as mules aren’t the fastest animals in the world.

Okay, I’m not actually in the Grand Canyon, but I might as well be.  I don’t have a mule, either…I am the mule.  Even though there are times I want to give up, I can’t, because as determined as my son is to be rude and disrespectful, I am just as motivated to make him not be that way.

Although he may be younger and more nimble in the short run, this old mule has stamina.  I’m gonna need it, because I figure this push and pull will last at least nine more years.  But, I’m not kidding myself; I know my job isn’t over until I take my last breath.

If I find a spot of shade, I think I’ll stop for that cry.


This week, I’ve been weary and ready to give up.  I’ve felt alone, without answers.  Then, I realized, I never asked God any questions.  I need His strength and wisdom to guide me.  My prayers this week will include asking for insight about how to communicate with my son differently.

Proverbs 3:5-6:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”


26 thoughts on “Journey Of Mules

  1. judithhb December 11, 2011 / 2:47 AM

    Oh it is a long hard road with boys playing up and being disrespectful. But one day the mood lifts, the sun shines again and that delightful child returns. It may not be a permanent return but these breaks are given to mothers so that they can rest and recuperate for the next onslaught. You’re doing well.

    • jannatwrites December 11, 2011 / 8:25 PM

      Thanks, Judith. As horrible as he can be to me, he is much worse to my husband. I find myself running interference between the two of them much of the time.

      I anxiously anticpate the day when the delightful boy returns. I hope I have the strength to embrace him in my arms 🙂

  2. totsymae1011 December 11, 2011 / 8:16 AM

    I feel awful for this stress you’re under with your son. Kids have a good deal of energy sometimes. Sending you a virtual blessing now. 🙂

    • jannatwrites December 11, 2011 / 8:26 PM

      Thanks for visting and for the virtual blessing, Totsymae. It brought me a (much needed) smile 🙂

      Yesterday was a particularly bad day. Thankfully, today was a little better!

  3. nrhatch December 11, 2011 / 9:49 AM

    Raising children is hard work.
    It requires lots and lots of stamina.

    Hope you find some answers . . . or solace . . . soon, Janna.

    • jannatwrites December 11, 2011 / 8:29 PM

      Yep. It can be hard, Nancy…but most of the time, it’s worth it – no question. If I can hang on til the end of February, I’ll be off to New Orleans with a friend of mine for a few days. All of my boys will be at home 🙂

  4. Debbie December 11, 2011 / 1:34 PM

    To say your older son is going through a “stage” might sound insensitive, but I don’t mean it that way. I know what you’re experiencing, and I do empathize. There’s something to be said for the fact that boys and girls are different, and little boys seem to learn early on that they’re not “like mommy.” They try so hard to be different, even if “different” means smart-mouthed and “too big for their britches.” What an awfully confusing thing for a mom to undergo! This beast, I’m afraid, will rear its ugly head more than once in the coming years. Lean on God and know that eventually these boy-children grow up, mature, settle into their own skin, and become loving young men — at least we hope so! Hang in there, Janna!

    • jannatwrites December 11, 2011 / 8:40 PM

      I know it is a stage, Debbie, and I’m not offended by you calling it what it is 🙂

      He’s always been strong-willed and a bit bossy, and for years we have battled his “I should get to do what I want” attitude. Poor kiddo doesn’t realize that even as an adult, we don’t get to do what we want all the time!

      I will keep up the prayers and hope he turns out okay…

      • Debbie December 12, 2011 / 8:03 AM

        I’m sure he will, Janna. Kids who are covered with prayer usually manage to turn out just fine (though nobody ever said it would be easy!). Who knows? Maybe he’ll end up as the boss of some big company and every day can tell others what to do?! Rather he be strong-willed and insusceptible to wrong peer pressure than a sheep who follows where his buddies lead!

        • jannatwrites December 13, 2011 / 12:08 AM

          My mom has said the same thing about his tendency to boss (she calls it “leading.”) The only worry is what he will lead the kiddie troops into, Debbie!

  5. Widdershins December 12, 2011 / 1:37 AM

    Do you know the one thing that mules do well, above all else? They kick … butt!

    • jannatwrites December 12, 2011 / 8:34 PM

      Mules are good at that, Widdershins. Too bad, I’m not a real mule!

  6. Carl D'Agostino December 12, 2011 / 3:00 AM

    Oh, I suffered too. They lived with mother until I got custody of son and daughter in early teens.Miami contaminates children. So do parents with their own issues. Already on drugs in early elementary and selling by middle school. Ah, that first arrest, the first drug bust, the truancies, the first rehab, the first weapons incident, then later that first car wreck and the first near overdose death. Runaway. Then the second and the third this or that. I changed their names to Suspect #1 and Suspect #2. You ain’t seen nothing and I pray you do not experience what I did. I have credentials that allow me to present some qualified advice : C.H.A.P.(certified holistic addiction professional) and 33 years as high school teacher(inner city, minority, violent, poverty, drug invested, immigrant). It is possible his issues are not with you and that you are merely the available recipient of his frustrations. It is important not to make episodes a two-way engagement. Avoid yelling and never curse(yeah, right). A mule is abused but keeps its dignity and grace. Try to let each day be a new day and a new start not carrying the hurt and resentment from yesterday(yeah, right). Certainly the child is detached from yesterday’s “performance” while you are still steaming. Family meetings can be productive positing that being a family is an expression of partnerships. Each child and parent has responsibilities. The other children can help modify behavior of this weak link. Family projects breed cooperation. Keep your pleasures and hobbies going because you deserve a life outside of being a lion tamer. I think this is also a reason they have Mother’s Day.My children now have children and I relished in seeing them go through it. It is not fair. The grandkids are all school oriented, delightful, pleasant,cooperative and respectful. Is there no justice in life?

    • jannatwrites December 12, 2011 / 8:39 PM

      Wow, Carl. Had I read your story before having children, I think there’s a good chance I would have stuck with cats and dogs 😉

      You have some good advice, that I will definitely take to heart. It’s funny you mention the point about making each day a new day, because I struggle with letting go of my resentment – especially when five minutes later, he acts like nothing happened.

      You must have done something right with your children to have grandchildren as you describe. But you’re right – it isn’t fair they get to walk in the park 🙂

      Thanks for your input and suggestions, Carl!

  7. suzicate December 12, 2011 / 6:26 AM

    The thing is that even though we get frustrated we’re provided the strength to get through those stages.

    • jannatwrites December 12, 2011 / 8:39 PM

      I’ll take your word for it, SuziCate 🙂

  8. momsomniac December 12, 2011 / 1:04 PM

    I might be utterly clueless, since my oldest is only 7. I do like this approach, overall, for all problematic behavior (from another blog I read):

    Of course, you probably already tried an age appropriate version of this (again with the “I might well be clueless”). The “silent treatment” kinda burned for me, though you may not have meant it the way I took it (pretending he doesn’t exist AT ALL). My husband’s Mom does that to me. It’s terrible.

  9. jannatwrites December 12, 2011 / 9:07 PM

    Thanks for the link, Momsomniac. I agree that an adversarial relationship is more likely if we approach it as an us vs. them interaction.

    My older son has always liked to test boundaries and argue. The “silent treatment” I refer to is not responding to his comments meant to draw me into an argument. I tell him when I’ve said my final piece and I refuse to take his bait. However, I don’t ignore him if he approaches me five minutes later to talk about something else. Basically, I remain silent on the subject of conflict. I hope this clarifies it!

    After we have both cooled down and are getting along fine, we go through scenarios on how he could respond that would get me to hear his point of view. For instance, yesterday, I explained that when I asked him to take out the trash and he yelled back, “No! I’m reading a book and I’m not doing it right now!” it was disrespectful. Had he responded with something like, “I’ve got three more pages in this chapter – can I take out the trash when I’m done?” I would have likely said, “Okay” and the Battle Of The Trash Removal would not have happened.

    He has valid points and I have no problem talking through them…IF he does so with respect.

    • momsomniac December 13, 2011 / 9:02 AM

      Ah yes. My oldest is a LOT like that too! Do you think it’s something they ALL go through? Or did we just get lucky? : )

      I always thought the “silent treatment” meant what you said until I got the version that therapists talk about! And honestly, I think it happens for things like “you breathed too audibly while I was speaking – you really didn’t seem like you had that temperament, but these here internets can be tricky;)

      • jannatwrites December 13, 2011 / 6:21 PM

        Momsomniac, I think they all do to some extent (that exerting their independence thing.) My mom said that my older son is ‘more’ than she dealt with when raising my brother.

        Generally, I can get over it when he does. Only one time I can remember that I had to remain silent longer, and that was after he spit at me (he was four). I still get angry when I think of it, so I’ll let that one go now 🙂

        • momsomniac December 13, 2011 / 10:08 PM

          Man, the SPITTING. Mine did that too!!!!!

        • jannatwrites December 14, 2011 / 7:38 PM

          I’m so glad it wasn’t just me, Momsomniac. Luckily he learned NOT to do that fairly quickly!

  10. pattisj December 12, 2011 / 10:30 PM

    Respect is key, there is way too much of the opposite seen today. Keep a cool head and the lines of communication open so you can express the appropriate reaction when things have settled down a bit. And yes, above all else, pray for wisdom!

    • jannatwrites December 13, 2011 / 12:10 AM

      That can be the hard part for me, Patti: keeping my cool. I will keep praying 🙂

  11. pattyabr December 12, 2011 / 10:55 PM

    Keep the faith. I struggled with my son as well. There were a lot of times we just let him be himself, much to the dismay of the rest of the family. The key is to provide space for each other. When people have their own space to be themselves without encroaching on others, it demonstrates respect. It helps. Good Luck and keep praying.

    • jannatwrites December 13, 2011 / 12:19 AM

      Thanks, Patty. It helps to know that you survived the struggle. It means that perhaps I will, too 😉

      I’ll keep his need for space in mind. We’re also trying to each get one-on-one time with him but it’s really hard with my hubby’s nightmare of a work schedule. When my older son has good behavior, I let him stay up half an hour later than my younger son, so we do get a little bit of extra time together once in a while.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your knowledge!

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