When your parenting plans are constantly interrupted

The afternoon sparkled with promise. I sipped lightly on my chai latte, enjoying the delightful chatter of my children as we wound our way back home. Maybe when we got home I could do a little writing, play a few games with the kids, and catch up on a chore or two. I backed the car into the driveway, glad to be home, when a sudden retching noise burst my proverbial bubble. The rushing sound of vomit and the splattering of foul-smelling fluid sealed my fate for the afternoon.

Well… so much for those plans.

Welcome to parenting—where interruptions are as sure as the rising of the sun.

We never like to address the inconveniences of parenting. We don’t like to tell expecting moms and dads, “Sleep now, because you won’t be sleeping for the next few years.” Or, “Enjoy that pre-baby vacation because it’ll be awhile before vacations are relaxing.” It all sound so “glass-half-empty,” doesn’t it?

Here’s the reality: Raising children is inconvenient, but it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. When the Lord blesses us with children through adoption or birth, He has entrusted a young soul into our care for teaching, training, and affection. Your plans are going to be interrupted, and at what seems like the worst moments!

How do we react to these interruptions?

Do we explode with fury? Do we lock ourselves in the pantry with a bag of Oreos? Do we throw a pity party?

Or, do we pause and say, “Lord, help me see the opportunity here.”

Pause: Send up arrow prayers

Interruptions strike so suddenly that our inevitable reaction is shock and/or dismay. Learn to practice the pause and pray an arrow prayer. Arrow prayers are short requests offered to the Lord for yourself or someone else. You don’t have time in that urgent moment to go into a quiet place and express praise, confession, thanksgiving, etcetera. An arrow prayer is essentially like a text message—quick and to the point. “Lord, help me to shine your light and respond with love. Help me do what needs to be done and see your purpose in the interruption.”

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Note: Arrow prayers should not replace daily time with the Lord. Our regular prayers should praise Him, give thanks for His goodness, confess our sins, and make supplication for our self and others. These daily prayers provide an opportunity for us to ask the Lord to help us through each unexpected incident. You don’t have to fight frustration alone!

Pray: Commit your plans to the Lord.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4.13-15, ESV)

If the Lord wills, we will enjoy a full night’s rest.

If the Lord wills, we will get the dishes done before our toddler wakes up.

If the Lord wills, we will live to see our kids graduate from high school or college.

Only the Lord knows what the next day (or next minute) will bring, but there is nothing wrong with making plans. Plans provide direction and focus. Plans bring order from chaos. Our plans, however, are not greater than God’s purpose. Prayerfully offer your plans to the Lord and ask Him to redirect you if He thinks it’s best.

Respond: Find opportunity in the interruption

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19.21)

In a stress-filled moment, God’s purpose may seem hazy. Instead of getting irritated, let our response be, “Here I am, Lord. How can I serve?”

Here are some examples:

You are running late for work and your child throws a fit. The temptation is to respond in anger while dragging your kicking and screaming child out the door. Instead, call your boss, tell them you will be late, and take a few extra minutes to train your child. If we are too busy to teach and train our own children, it’s time for a wake-up call.

Your child breaks into your conversation with another adult. Say, “excuse me” for a moment and tell your child they need to wait until you are finished. Afterwards, discuss what constitutes a justifiable reason to interrupt (i.e. “What is a true emergency?”) and tell them you expect them to wait patiently for you or the other person to finish speaking before they ask their question.

You find yourself in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Don’t fly off the handle; offer a prayer of thanks for the Lord’s protection from whatever dangers you may have missed. Pray for the injured (if there was an accident) and the safety of the first responders.

Your teenager answers all your questions in monosyllables. Hit the brakes on your schedule and go out for coffee, ice cream, or something else. Put the phones on airplane mode and make time to build your relationship.

You might say these are unrealistic scenarios—we have places to be, things to do! If we are too busy to teach and train our own children, it’s time for a wake-up call. If we don’t exercise self-control when interrupted, how can we expect our kids to develop self-control?

Is it more important for your kid to be an all-star player or an all-star at self-control? Are academics and activities of greater value than character and integrity?

Sometimes life needs to be interrupted for us to recognize what is important versus what is urgent. Our children are worth more than any job or the cleanest house. Don’t allow life to get in the way of the important task of loving and teaching them. See interruptions for what they are—opportunities from the Lord!

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Elihu Anderson is a surviving California native currently thriving in West Texas. When she isn’t writing for Elihu’s Corner, she is teaching, researching, walking, and book-worming with a cup of chai. Visit Elihu at elihuscorner.com


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