It was a month or so after our second child was born, and my almost two-year-old decided he wanted to join the rest of the family and stop sleeping too. Fighting bedtime, skipping his nap, waking up at night, you name it. We were all feeling cranky and out of sorts.
I have no idea what or who my seventeen-month-old daughter will dress up as for our upcoming Halloween events. These days, it’s a big responsibility to make sure that your family costumes are aligned with your values and that the character or theme you are portraying is moral and upstanding. Will we show up as the princess of the year or the cute cartoon character? What if, down the road, the princess is no longer thought of as a good role model for young girls? Or if the cartoon character teaches (whether purposefully or not) a lesson with which I disagree?
As a mom to two children under the age of five, I am constantly in the throes of laying groundwork for what I expect and teaching boundaries in a world that doesn’t seem to expect boundaries at all. However, as I have conversations with moms who are in the later stages of parenting, I am starting to understand that conversations about boundaries and expectations aren’t going anywhere anytime soon!
In our house, we are navigating these conversations about boundaries and expectations using the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5 to shape our framework. As we work through difficulties with sharing toys or taking turns, the fruit of the Spirit gives us a great framework and simple language to use to help our littles understand how to treat one another. Inevitably, we face many moments when our actions (both on the part of the children or the parents—or both—in our house) not only need an apology but, more important, these moments need forgiveness.
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” (James 4:1–2a)
We know fighting and quarreling all too well. In reading this passage from James, we recognize that conflict caused by sin isn’t a new problem. Adam and Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit brought quarreling and conflict into the human family and put humanity at conflict with all of creation. We can say confidently: Wherever two or more sinners are gathered, conflict will occur. So how are we to deal with conflict?