Booger wiper. First-aid kit. Limo service. Snack supplier. Diaper changer. Cuddle giver. Screen time limiter. Activity director. Chaos coordinator. Chief Operations Officer.
There are a lot of job titles that come with being a mom. I was definitely more prepared for some than others. But I can tell you wholeheartedly the job title that I like least of all… MOM REFEREE.
“Mom, tell her to stop looking at me. Her whole face is bugging me.”
“Mom, tell him it’s not fair that he won because his feet are bigger than mine.”
“Mom, I was here .5 seconds before him so only I get to taste it.”
“Mom, he is taking up all of my actual oxygen.”
“Mom, tell him to get his elbow off of my butt.”
And those are just the comments I heard in my house yesterday. I don’t know about you, but sometimes the summertime togetherness can bring out the weirdest arguments amongst my kiddos. We have three, and we also live in a neighborhood with tons of other kids. While we are fortunate that they all get along so well together, even they can have disagreements that come from playing for lots and lots of hours. So, whether you have one kid with cousins and neighbors or seven kids living under your roof, we have all been there when it comes time to Mom Ref.
There is really nothing that can set me off more than settling yet another pointless argument. And there are endless parenting tips for dealing with this issue in your home. You have the Oversized T-shirt that makes them work out their differences while attached to each other. Similarly, there are the three-legged pants where they must share the inside pant leg and walk around together until they get along. Or there is my personal favorite: pick a household chore that they get to do together so at least while they argue, they are getting something helpful done.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” | James 1:19-20
It can be really tempting to shut down the arguments to simply end the noise. Believe me… yesterday I banished everyone to their own rooms so they could no longer see each other because I couldn’t take it for one more second. However, as I have been thinking through this Mom Ref part of our job, I actually think it can be a great opportunity for God to teach our whole family about conflict. The truth is our kids will be surrounded by people who challenge them throughout their lives. Siblings, cousins or friends are a great chance for our kids to practice being with people who are driving them crazy. And I think it gives us as moms the chance to show our kids how to continually love each other even when we don’t want to.
It is absolutely okay for our kids to express frustration with each other. That is normal in any relationship. Obviously part of our job is to guide them in how to express this, but hear this mama: when your kids argue or constantly get on each other nerves, this is not a reflection on you or your parenting skills. It is happening in every other household around you too.
But what can you do?
In our family, I like to keep going back to the fact that Jesus is love. We cannot continually love each other apart from Jesus. So, when my kids are constantly fighting, I like to remind them that they need the help of the Holy Spirit in order to love each other well. So, we pause and pray together for God’s help in this. It feels so simple and yet, it makes all the difference when we forget this part.
I love these verses in Colossians. It feels like Paul was addressing some of the very same conflicts we see today.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” | Colossians 3:12-15
Paul uses the words “clothe yourselves.” Clothing requires intention. You can’t just get up in the morning and be magically dressed. It requires us to purposefully ask God to help us with those areas of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. In other words, those things don’t come naturally to us. And they don’t come naturally to our kids either. This is a lifelong process of asking and allowing God to fill all areas of our lives to continually make us more like Jesus.
Then, Paul writes the words “bear with each other and forgive each other.” I love that and I’ve shown this part to my kids because “bear with each other” doesn’t give me the sense of ease. If I have to bear with something, I have to put up with it even when I don’t feel like it. It gives our kids (and us) the freedom to know it is okay if they don’t feel like being kind to their siblings, but that God calls us to do it anyway.
He finishes this passage by putting love over all the other virtues because love is what binds them all together in unity. Again, it comes back to this idea of love that can only be found in Jesus encompassing everything else. And a great way to remind ourselves of that love is found at the very end of these verses: “And be thankful.”
Some of you are reading this thinking, ‘Okay this is all great but my kids are two and four and can barely sit still long enough to eat let alone have a deep theological conversation.’ I totally get that and remember, this is a daily process in your home so you can continually add to this conversation as the years go on.
We have found thankfulness is great way to remind our kids at any age that they do, in fact, still love their siblings. When I have hit the end of my Mom Ref rope, we make each kid say three specific things that they are thankful for about their other siblings. It is amazing how this simple act can completely shift our day, even if it begins with some eye rolling. It makes them intentionally remember and voice why they love each other. And, it is a great exercise because you can change it to just one thankful thing so even your youngest kids can get used to naming the qualities they are thankful for in each other.
At the end of the day, Mom Ref might still be one of my most maddening titles, but it can also provide a lot of growth for everyone in this house. My challenge to you (and to myself) is to use those never-ending opportunities to teach our kids how to love even during conflict and how to press into the strength and love of Jesus in order to do that. One step at a time, this mothering thing can help all of us become more like Him.
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✍️ Credit :: Erin Marken