My firstborn blessing.

Taken June 2006

Oh, man. I’m telling you. My son. Carson. OH wow. What amazing things God must have in store for him, because his personality is SOMETHING ELSE. Dr. Dobson compares a strong-willed child to a grocery cart that has a stubborn, broken wheel that makes pushing the cart difficult. It takes a little more work to get the cart through the store, but you can make it. Well, my friends, I’m telling you: these last few months it feels like Carson The Grocery Cart is being pulled backwards (not even sideways) by an industrial strength chain connected to a semi. I can only really put my thoughts into words because we’ve had several good days in a row. “Good” meaning the tantrums and power-battles could be numbered on one hand, and/or his decibel level was low enough as to not arouse neighborly suspicion.
I can honestly tell that his innate nature/disposition is of a sweet, loving boy. This core of his personality comes out often at home, especially with his sister, which give me SUCH JOY! He also seems to be pretty well behaved for other adults, even daddy. But many days lately, particularly regular, boring weekdays when I’m the only grownup in the house, he finds a way to make EVERYTHING difficult. Getting dressed is a battle. Going to the bathroom is a battle. Eating is a battle. Going ANYWHERE is a battle. LEAVING anywhere is a battle. Any transition is a HUGE battle. If I catch him in the wrong moment and tell him the sky is blue, he’ll adamantly tell me it is red. And I’ve read parenting books. I continue to read parenting books, and am open to your suggestions. I have subscriptions to THREE parenting magazines. I try to employ tactics like giving hundreds of options, giving plenty of warning time before a transition is coming, etc. I know that a lot of this is about him feeling like he has some power/control, so I TRY to let him have some. But these tricks are not fool-proof, evidently, because this fool of a parent fails miserably quite often.
What’s really funny is that Carson & I have a wonderful relationship. But it is rather complicated. I mean, as I just described, we are at odds a lot of the time. However, we are also practically each other’s best friend! Even when I think we’ve had a bad day and I need a break from him, he’ll still cling to me in the evening when Trent is trying to give me a few moments alone. He is my constant companion. Sydney is still a baby, which means she sleeps more than he does and she doesn’t talk. But he and I are together, talking, singing, laughing, arguing, joking, etc. ALL DAY LONG. We talk about things we see, we ask each other big questions and little questions, we have little inside jokes, we recite movie lines to each other, we experiment on projects together…it is so precious! I love him so much I could just cry!
And then? There are the times when I do cry. And not because my loving feelings are overflowing. Without making this even longer, I’ll tell you that one of our problems is him making HUGE amounts of angry noise in his bedroom during time-out. (I’m talking about throwing hard-bound books, huge boxes of legos or banging a shopping cart or xylophone repeatedly into his door.) This wakes Sydney up. So, I’ve been trying to find ways to carry out discipline/time-outs on the other side of the house. Last week this was not working well, and I was losing it. My anger was not well-hidden. (I’m not a yeller, but I have a loud, stern voice and a fierce arm-grip that comes out.) So, instead of putting Carson in time-out, I went into the laundry room and locked myself in. I sat on the linoleum and bawled while he was tantruming on the other side of the door. I was so physically and emotionally tired, so angry, so frustrated with him, so disappointed in myself for losing my temper. It was the only thing I could think of at the time that I would not later regret.


The fact that these challenges are coming with my first child is comforting and also disconcerting. Comforting because I look at Sydney and think there is no way on earth she will give me this much grief. Disconcerting because–how do I know? Carson is my first 3.5 year old. Are they all like this? (Some have told me they are.) In my mind I feel like he is on the far end of the “handful” spectrum, but maybe the Birdie will be the same! Oi. But I think what scares me the most is that I am normally a very confident, together kind of person. (Aside from my housekeeping.) I don’t get riled up easily. And for the first time in a long time, I am doubting myself and my abilities and my choices. I’m out of my element, and I’m making decisions left and right that have heavy consequences because they are shaping a PERSON. A person whom I love more than myself, whom I pray over and have such high hopes and dreams for that I can’t even articulate them to you or to him.


Now, please don’t take this ranting post too far. I’m not sitting on the laundry room floor EVERY day! I’ve never endangered Carson in my anger. 90% (OK, 80%) of the time I can deal with the issue at hand, try to remember all my “parenting tricks”, and laugh about it later. But not always! So, partly I share this because it’s on my mind and heart a lot. Partly I share it because I made a small frantic comment on facebook the other day about it, and the responses from parents with similar kiddos encouraged me greatly. Maybe someone reading this needs to know that all those smiling moms & kids at the park (which often is me!) have frustrations and trials at home too. Partly I share because I have faith that a few years from now I will look back and read this and be able to smile that this season did pass. Even in my 3.5 short years of parenting I’ve learned that certain difficult phases usually DO pass. They, of course, lead directly into NEW difficult phases, but we get through them. And reading again about the ones we’ve survived and conquered only gives us confidence for the next one. Partly I share it for myself, as I process emotions through articulating them, and afterwards I feel a sense of relief. Partly I share this so I can print it out and give it to Carson’s future wife when she is a mother. (My in laws tell me that Carson’s strong will, stubbornness, humor & confidence are a mirror of my husband when he was little. This gives me hope! Trent had consistent, God-seeking, persevering parents, and he turned out great!)

I’d like to end this NOVEL 😉 with a few glimpses into Carson’s lighter side, which is what keeps me going and keeps me from the child psychologist. This one is from a couple days ago.

This one is from last fall when we were continually playing the interview game. We would take turns holding the clipboard with a paper and pen, asking all kinds of questions. I tried to get one on video.


  1. Wow…and I thought Chad was a handful 🙂

    Given the fact that I’m not a parent, my words of wisdom are limited. Jen, I think you’re a terrific mother and pray that my patience level can rival yours when that day eventually comes for me.

  2. Okay, so this is probably NOT the time to say “this is nothing… wait until they are teenagers”, huh! You are doing exactly what God has called you to do – and you are a great mom! Enjoy these days – even the ones behind the laundry room door – and know that they will go by quickly. We will have to get together sometime soon and compare notes, (Carson sounds so much like Jeff) – albeit mine are now on yellowing pages! 🙂 Hang in there, my dear! I DO so remember those days! Adoringly, Mrs. M

  3. Hey Jen,
    I really feel you on this!!! It breaks my heart that you are also going through this. I want to cry along side you because I know what you’re feeling. I think you seem to be much stronger in handling Carson than I with my guy and i admire that! This personality type is really hard for parents. My son is almost 5 and while some things are better we still struggle. I have resolved that it will be a long haul with him, but we are in it. These kids will take you to the edge daily to see if you still love them. I know how much you love carson and as long as he knows that – you’re being successful!
    With my son, we have to change our form of discipline all the time -what works today won’t work tomorrow. And like becky said pre-school could help. Jay did much better when he went. He did come home tantruming, but he did good while he was there and we could be proud together of his accomplishments. Hang in there Jen – there is no formula for this type of child – just lots of love and patience!! I’ll pray for you my friend.

  4. Jen,

    I loved this post because it is so real. And I see myself in it daily.

    Alexa is my classic grocery cart. And I cried daily with her for 3 1/2 years. I called my grandma a lot because they say my dad was exactly like that–and there’s hope as he is an outstanding person! I cried for my failures. I cried for my exhaustion. I cried because I just. couldn’t. stay. in. the. ring. this. time.

    Mostly, I would say ‘stay the course’. I have an awesome mom’s group that doesn’t just smile and nod. They pray hard. They give hugs. And they tell it like it is. And you know, after 4 years of really strong battles, I learned something from them and my situation: my strategies in correction worked when I was able to hold it together inside. When I stayed calm (not just appearing calm), I was able to communicate love and correction at the same time–without giving in on the boundary.

    And as for the little buddy syndrome, I think it’s God’s grace that gives them that love for us. It’s a way of reminding you that you administer all those time-outs, spankings and corrections because you are the bumpers that keep them going in the right direction. And they love you for it–now they can’t verbalize that yet. But in their heart, they feel safer every time you keep the boundary.

    The good news? Alexa has evened out–as soon as she saw that I was calm, even when she pushed my buttons. I was staying the course, even when her inner grocery cart was pulling to the limit. When I could calmly and firmly spank in the moment out of true love for her, she got the full message. And it’s been lovely. Of course, it took us four years for both of us to mature to that point…but well, we made it.

    Jen, this comment is now an epistle in itself, so sorry about that. I just see so many make it to the brink with those trail-blazer kids and then fall back in exhaustion. God created in you everything that Carson needs in a mom. And you are in it for the long haul and he is blessed for it. I love that you share this with us!

  5. Jen… Cason is testing me just the same these days and I feel so bad for being more frustrated with him more than I am happy with him. It makes me so sad sometimes. I’ve had to lock myself in my room with Jackson just to feed him while Cason beat on the door… ah these days will pass, I hope 🙂 I heard a really great saying here at this Mom’s group.. “We are the students and they are the teachers”. I feel like I am getting my lessons taught at the same time he is. It is no fun and definately a crash course! I tend to be very uptight and inpatient and it looks as if God is trying to correct that REAL quick by blessing me with Cason.. and now Jackson. I THANK YOU for your post because my family tends to make me feel like something is wrong with him and I need to gain control.. and I say, “PLEASE READ MY FRIENDS’ BLOG!! CASON IS NOT THE ONLY LITTLE BOY THAT GOES THROUGH THIS.”:) So thanks again, I think of you when I am in the “trying moment” and it gives me strength.

  6. Ah Jen, I am crying with you this morning. Although not for the same reasons, my three little ones are pushing me to the brink today. I am in overreact mode, crying mode, and mad at my husband that he’s going to leave me to fend for myself for 10 days for work. There. Is that honest enough? Today I’m just hoping and praying that my kids remember the good times more than mommy losing it. Thanks for being real. you have great balance and self control. Love you lots! Glad I got to see you the other day.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing Jen. I struggle with my three year old son sometimes – and it’s so nice to know that I’m not the only one… Hang in there.

  8. I am on board with all the other mommies. Thank you so much for your candid honesty here. It is hard to admit that as mothers we don’t have it all together.

    I have only one trick that has worked in my house for time outs. I bought a cheap carseat at a garage sale and I buckled him in time out by the back door where there was nothing in reach.

    Just know that he will be a child of influence who grows into a man of influence. He will lead rather than follow. You’re definitely not alone in this boat.

  9. Thanks for this post Jen and your honesty & transparency. I too have a few crying spots in my house. My fave is my closet. 🙂

    I’m praying for you and am so blessed to be able to share in this stage of life with you, even if it’s just via the web.

  10. As I read you post it took me back to years past. My laundry room has also been my room to go to. God has taught me a lot of things in that room!! Wanted to say that your friend Lisa P. had some very good words to share with you. So did the others. Just two things I wanted to add. One, your job is to point him in the right direction, God’s already given him the focus and the energy to accomplish what he sets his mind to. Pick the battles, but above all win the war!! Which I am sure you will!!! Second, pray for God’s covering for the perceived mistakes that you make, everyday. My pray each night that God would use any mistakes I had made either good for his life or that they would not leave emotional scars. God did a wonderful work, and I feel so blessed that He chose to do it in spite of me. Love ya!

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