Monday, March 28, 2011


"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, NIV)

I know you'll be shocked to hear this, but I often find myself frustrated and exasperated by my children's behavior. Too often I feel inadequate as a mother, wondering if they are learning a thing I've taught them or practiced with them at home.

Right after Christmas we undertook a project that we had been waiting to accomplish for 10 years -- We built out our basement. My husband hired one of his water-skiing buddies, Darren*, along with his partner, John, to take on the huge task of constructing a bedroom, bathroom, office and family room. The kids instantly took to Darren and John, and got in the middle of what they were doing at ever turn.

At the time we had begun the basement project, we were also putting a new IEP (Individualized Education Plan) in place for our youngest. Having received a new official diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder (both sensory seeking AND avoidant) along with social deficits in addition to her ADHD we had some major modifications to make. Especially challenging is the fact that she is allergic to all medications available to treat ADHD. Nevertheless, we worked with the school to begin managing her blurting out, storytelling (ie lies), excessive activity level and staying on task. At home, we were trying to decrease her impulsive hitting in response to dislikes while also increasing her siblings' sensitivity to her challenges. This was no small task!

Ironically, the building project was a physical mirror to encourage me with what we were and continue enduring. These kids are under construction! Just like Darren & John first had to frame the basement out, we've set in place a framework for our kids. We can trust in the solidity of that framework because it's based on God's wisdom and not our own. And without it, nothing else we do could be properly held in place.

But the construction doesn't end there. Raising our children only begins with the framework. Many, many details have to be attended to each step along the way, just as they were in our basement. Today it might be the plumbing (Special needs parents laughably often find THAT a source of frustration, in the literal sense!), tomorrow it might be the wiring, the next day it might be the drywall. Whatever it may be, that activity, experience or situation is a key component of the overall construction of our children's character.

One metaphor occurred during our basement construction that was especially powerful to me as a parent. Everyone knows how much people in the trades hate doing the mudding and sanding of drywall. Darren and John were no different. And I'm sure it didn't help when they emerged from the basement covered in drywall dust only to be laughed at by our kids and called Santa Claus by our youngest! The amount of detail and effort they had to put forth in every seam was astonishing to me. But after they had finished to their satisfaction and the walls had been painted, Darren was disturbed by one seam that was still too obvious for his liking. I gave him a hard time because he obsessed about it to the point where he almost came back on the weekend just to fix it. And the only way he was going to have any peace was to meticulously sand that seam again so it didn't show.

How very much like us as parents! People can assure us that are kids are doing great, that they're polite and well-behaved, but we know better. It still sticks out like a sore thumb to us. Children seem to save every bad behavior for and test every boundary at home. We parents see how many rough edges they still need sanded out, and we give it great attention. And like our perfectionist friend, we will have no peace until we get that worked out in these precious kids.

The next time you get discouraged, like I too often do, remember that these little lives that have been entrusted to our care are "under construction". They are a work in progress. And if frustrations come even to the best of builders, they will come to us as parents as well. But if we keep at it with attention to detail, resting if we must, but not giving up, our work will result in a beautiful structure just like the work of a master contractor.

*A special THANK YOU to the Ratzow Co for their outstanding work and patience with our not-so-typical family! E-mail us at for contact information if you would like to speak to them about help with your construction project in Southeastern Wisconsin.

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