Monthly Archives: May 2014

Verybigfeelings

Dear Romeo,

Oh the emotions. They are so big right now it’s startling. You WANT and you NO WANT and you have learned those words to attempt to express yourself. But some days they are not enough and you flail and screech and squawk and collapse and stomp and resist. . .the dreaded tantrum often ensues. And it frustrates me so, especially the last few days when there are a lot of things going on outside our household yet inside our inner circle that are taking most of my emotional energy. Because. Life is happening.

So this evening, you were extra screechy. Maybe because you sense I’m on edge and it makes you feel edgy. Maybe because you were tired and it was close to bedtime. Or maybe just because you stand on the edge of “two-ness” and nothing seemed to be going your way. Whatever the cause, the sound was wearing on my nerves in a major way. I had tried to distract you with several activities and had weathered the screeching  by intermittently entertaining you and avoiding you for a few minutes at a time. And finally. Bedtime.

And so I announced the commencement of bedtime for Romeo. And the screeching turned to desperate, sobbing, purple-faced rage. But it was most definitely bedtime. So I scooped you up, flailing, screeching, purple-faced man-child that you are and we headed for the stairs. I was aggravated because of all the screeching. My feelings were surprisingly big because of all the hours of it that I had endured. But in the middle of the bigness of my feelings, I was suddenly aware of how you felt in my arms.

Small.

Powerless.

Soft.

And as I held you close, the bigness of my feelings began to fade to the background as I realized how little you are and how big and scary your feelings must feel to you as you are forced to comply with this and that and lack the ability or the words for us to talk it through.

You are a deeply feeling, empathetic, soft-natured little boy. All week, as I’ve struggled emotionally with the happenings of life around us, you have offered your sweet, innocent comfort. As I’ve cried, you’ve looked into my face with tears puddled in the corners of your little eyes in sympathy. You have patted my chest and with a questioning expression, asked, “Okay, Mama? Okay?” and laid your sweet baby head on my chest or shoulder as I sat in a chair with a bad case of the sads. When you wanted to get down and play, you brought me 4 of your treasured binkies to give me comfort while you went about your toddler-sized business. You may be small but you truly FEEL things. And so while tonight felt overwhelming to me as you screeched and kicked and tried to wrest back a bit of power at bedtime, I wouldn’t change the little person you already are for anything in this world. You have the gift of empathy and you feel things deeply. And I can’t have it both ways. Because you feel things BIG, you feel everything BIG.

You will learn as you grow how to squeeze down those very BIG feelings so that they are something you can manage on your own. But until then, it’s my job to help you. And tonight, that’s what I did. I held your tiny baby frame as you traveled through your loud, screechy case of the mads and I felt how huge your feelings were in contrast to your tiny body. And I thought how hard it must be to hold those verybigfeelings inside that tiny frame. I calmly changed your diaper, brushed your teeth and put on your jammies and you gradually accepted that bedtime was inevitable and began to calm down. As I cradled you baby-style and swayed by your crib, you pointed to your projector on the ceiling and told me to “see.” I laid you down on your pillow and caressed your face and hair gently and you giggled as I hit your ticklish spot. And even before I left the room relaxation had overtaken you and your drowsy smile made me physically relax, too.

So thank you, sweet Romeo, for the lesson tonight on too big feelings and smallness. Because that’s what I’m dealing with this week. My feelings are big. The things that are happening are big. And I just feel so small and powerless. But I trust a God who is neither of those things. Just like you trust me to keep you safe and to absorb your verybig mads and sads, I trust that even though I don’t understand the bigness of life right now, He will hold me and He can handle my verybigfeelings. And as I get ready to lay my head down and sleep tonight, I look forward to seeing that big, beautiful, joyous smile of yours in the morning. You are my sunshine. You are exasperating. You are my breath of fresh air and my little Romeo. And you are totally worth it.

Love, Mama

Growing Pains

Dear Fellow Travelers,

This past week has been one of the hardest weeks of parenting that I have encountered thus far. My sweet little Melody is growing up. And that comes with all the growing pains that go along with it. She is becoming more womanly, more beautiful and more fun to spend time with. She is also becoming more aware of her ability to make her own decisions, which has led to a couple of very bad decisions recently. When the first bad choice came to light one evening last week, there were some natural consequences that happened directly from her decision. . .plus an added day of restriction to reinforce that honesty in the face of a mistake is ALWAYS the best choice.

This morning, it came to my attention that Melody has been crossing a boundary she was very aware of for several months.  She knew it was against the rules and chose to do it anyway. She said she didn’t understand the reason for the rule, which might be valid, so I took the time to explain to her in a fairly graphic manner what can happen in the situation she put herself in. She was surprised, alarmed and unlikely to make the same mistake again. She is only 9 and in this high tech, high crime and highly morally questionable world we currently live in, my husband and I give our best efforts to keep her emotionally and physically and mentally safe while still offering her the freedom to become. But even then, we are not all-knowing and all-seeing.

So this morning, I sit here with a broken mama heart. Not because I love her any less, because I don’t. Not because I’m any less proud of the young lady she’s becoming, because I’m not. But because I feel a profound sadness that in this situation, I did not feel like her safe place when she needed a safe place. I am sad that the child I previously trusted almost completely has now lied to me in a way that makes me trust her so much less.

We talked this morning. For a very long time. She first tried to make some excuses (don’t we all?) to explain away her choice. I explained to her that several aspects of our relationship were at play here. The first is love, which doesn’t change no matter how big the mistake. The second is trust, which has definitely been violated and is in need of repair. And the third is respect, which is directly affected by how she responds to correction and the choices she makes going forward. I explained to her that I will respect her FAR more if she can admit that she knew what she did was wrong, that she chose to do it anyway, and that she is now prepared to face that choice, the real reasons behind it and to own the consequences. And that is where a glimmer of hope began to flicker through the darkness.

She looked me in the eyes, told me that she knew it was the wrong thing to do, but she did it anyway because she didn’t think there was any harm in it. I asked her how that made her feel. She said powerful. I asked her why that felt good. She said because she often feels powerless to make me do the things she wants. She wants to spend more time with me. She wants more connection with me. And by disobeying a rule that she saw no value in, she felt like she had power. And the fact that she knew it would hurt me made it seem even more appealing.

So now we’re both in pain. She’s feeling the pain of losing some privileges and having to earn them back much like she must re-earn my trust. I’m feeling the pain in the truth of her words. I don’t spend enough time with her. I don’t offer her enough connection. And while that doesn’t make her mistake ok, it does make it understandable. And I am so very grateful that she feels safe enough to tell me the feelings behind the behavior. It has taken me several years in therapy to get to the point that I can recognize my motivations, so I have to think this puts her in a better position to learn from her mistakes.

Finally, from a spiritual perspective, I am understanding more and more the true parallels between parenting and God’s relationship with me. Much like my sweet Melody, I have free-will. I have choices. My spiritual community, the little eyes that are watching me, and my own “moral compass” are often enough to motivate me to make good choices. But at the heart of the matter, is the heart of the matter. I can control my behavior on the outside, but if my heart is full of things that overwhelm my emotional muscles, it gets harder to to do the right thing.

I can control my children’s behavior while they’re young and to a point. But a time looms in the not-so-distant future when that control will be surface at best. I will still set appropriate boundaries and pray that they follow them, but their hearts will be their ultimate guide and like mine, their hearts are their own. And so my focus must turn to discipling their hearts. Because if a teenager WANTS to do something bad enough, they will find a way around any boundary I put in place. But if Melody and I can continue to build our relationship. If I can show her that I am her safe place and she can understand the very real reasons behind the rules, and learn to come to me when she doesn’t instead of just breaking them, we might have a prayer of surviving the teen years and coming out stronger on the other side.

I think it’s good that I am in pain today. Because it is the kind of pain that brings forth new life. I am “in it” with her and she knows it. And together we move forward with more understanding of one another’s hearts. And this heartbreak makes me want to draw closer to the heart of my Father, so that I can receive wisdom and insight for this parenting journey. Because parenting is not for cowards. It is for those who can bravely face the best and the worst of themselves and of their children, and learn to keep moving forward in spite of how terrifying that can be. And even though today it feels like I can never be enough to give her what she needs, I know that isn’t true. Because I was created to be her mama. And so I know His grace is sufficient when my strength is gone.

Love,

Handprints