Surrendering As A Child :: A Lesson From a 3-Year Old

“I can’t stop Mom-ma.  I can’t stop.”

Those were the words that my precious little Ivy choked out between sobs as I lifted her into her bed.

IMG_1697Earlier that evening a meltdown began when I asked her to finish eating her dinner and she refused.  The crumble continued when I would not allow her to have any dessert.  And later, the struggle grew as she fought me to put on her pajamas, attempting to wiggle out of my arms and run, screaming and crying the entire time.

At this point she was at full on tantrum, yelling “no”, stomping her feet, even swatting at me.

Normally this type of behavior would be met with my own adult-tantrum.  One where I would yell at her and demand she obey me.  One were I would angrily remind her that I am the mother and that I’m in charge.  One were I would scold her behavior and threaten a punishment.

But not this night.  Earlier when I was up to my ears in self-pity, worn out by the demands of being a stay-at-home-mom, I gave up.  I could have chosen to believed the lie that I often tell myself.  The lie that screams that I should not have to put up with this when I’m so dang tired.  The lie that screams this is so unfair.  The lie that convinces me to be selfish, demanding and uncompassionate.  But not this night.  No, this night, I chose to turn to God.

Standing at the kitchen counter I simply asked God to help me to embrace my own weakness and rely on His strength to get me through the evening.  It wasn’t a prayer that I whispered and then quickly forgot.  It was a prayer that I continued to whisper throughout the night as the chaos grew.  It was a prayer that reminded me to rely on Him.  And it reminded me that it was because of His strength alone I was able to parent my now screaming 3-year old with the patients and kindness that God desires each of us to have (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Once Ivy’s jammies were on, I held her hand and led her sobbing frame to her bed.  “I need to brush my teeth! I need to brush my teeeeeeeeth!” she yelled.  I had thought of that but we were already in her room and she needed rest more than she needed a set of teeth free of sugar bugs.  Despite the extreme amount of not-love she was showing me I gently tucked her in, kissed her head and left the room.

Not more than two minutes later she was standing in front of me, tears pouring from her eyes, demanding that we brush her teeth.  Why fight it, I thought.  Again, this was against my nature, as I normally would have demanded that she get back in bed and stay there.  But because I had earlier surrendered my evening to the Lord, I picked her up and held her. She wrapped her arms and legs around me in a wet sloppy bear hug.  She was tired, she was beyond crabby, and she was furious with me.  But despite all that, her tight hug showed that she was still desperate for my love and affection.

Holding her we went into the bathroom and brushed her teeth.  She was still sobbing the entire time, I might add.  Snot and tears were all over her face.  I cleaned her up and once again, took her into her room.

This time it was different.  When I picked her up, she quit fighting me and surrendered.  “I can’t (sob) stop, Mom (sob) ma (sob). I can’t (sob) stop.”

She probably just meant that she couldn’t control her crying or the way her body shook as tears poured from her eyes and she gasped for air.  I, however, think there was so much more meaning in her words.  And when I heard that precious, honest, sweet confession my heart melted and I began to have even more compassion for her than I thought I was already having.

The Lord helped me see something.  She couldn’t stop defying me any more that I can stop defying my Lord.  At least, not until I recognize own disobedient ways and cry out for help.

Ivy wanted her way, just as I have wanted my way so many times.  I want, no I demand, children that obey they first time I tell them to do something.   I demand it be done with a perfect attitude.  I demand that they show love and kindness to each other.  I demand that schedules be followed and chores be done without complaining.  This demanding behaviour does not reveal a heart that reflects the heart of my Savior.

God is not demanding with me or any of His children.  He showers us with love, which is patients and kindness in all circumstances.  And He ask that I treat my children the same way, to “bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).  And when I refuse and insist on my way He patiently waits for me to surrender and allow Him to teach and refine me.

My daughter was tired and worn-out.  Demanding her own way had taken all energy out of her.  And when she had reached her point of complete weakness, she gave up and surrendered.  As a mother with very little energy I can relate.

Her “I can’t stop, Momma” was a confession similar to what I should be confessing to the Lord daily. “I can’t stop demanding my own way… with my children, with my husband, with my friends, with You, Lord.”

My daughter, no matter how hard she tried, could not defeat my will for her life at that moment.  And I didn’t have to be demanding or cruel to ensure that my plan for her that evening was completed.  She needed sleep more than anything, rest would calm her and bring her peace.  I knew it and patiently guided her to follow my plans.

And the same is true for me and my heavenly Father.  No matter how hard I try, as a daughter of the King, I cannot defeat His will for my life.  He will let me kick and scream and fight against what He knows is best for me.  He will be patient with me as I wear myself out trying to get my way.  He will watch as I plan and work and attempt to accomplish all on my own strength.  He will let me follow my plans, all the while offering protection and comfort when I least deserve it.  And when I finally wear myself out, when all my energy is lost, when I finally surrender and cry out, “I can’t anymore, Father,” He will lovingly scoop me up, tuck me in under His wings and give me rest.

My poor, sweet, broken Ivy couldn’t stop crying.  She couldn’t comfort herself.  She couldn’t give herself what she needed, because she simply didn’t know what she needed.  But as her mother, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I could meet her needs.  Her words melted my heart and I snuggled up to her and began singing to her a worship song that speaks of our need for our Lord and Savior.  We fall down, we lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus.


In that moment I don’t know why that song came to mind but it soothed her.  It soothed me.  The lyrics and the situation Ivy and I had just endured reminded me of my need for Jesus.  It reminded me of my need to surrender to Him and His will for my life daily.

He knows what best for each of us and has the best plans already in mind.  We need only surrender.




  1. I absolutely love this post! I can so completely relate with my girls (I have two…one that is 3 1/2 and another that is almost 2.) My oldest has been suffering from the flu as well as a broken arm this past week. It’s been tough on everyone in the house, and the tantrums are at an all-time high. I keep reminding myself to be compassionate and understanding. She is too young to understand how to cope with everything going on in her little world. I often wonder if God looks at us the same way. He sees the bigger picture, and all we can see is our own little worlds and struggles. Thank you again for the encouragement. I will be pondering this tonight as I attempt to get through dinner and bedtime! 🙂

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