Tag Archives: emotions

Because I love you. . .

Yesterday, in the midst of our usual chaos of homeschooling and breakfast and chores, Jubilee asked for help applying glue to a piece of construction paper. When asked why, she replied, “Because I need to glue it to the wall.” Uh, no. Tape was suggested as a viable alternative and I told her that under no circumstances was she to use glue to hang anything up.

Fast forward several hours. I am rearranging the magnets on the fridge to get them out of Romeo’s reach when I discover that a piece of purple construction paper is stuck to the refrigerator quite solidly. I pull it off to see that it has been glued there. I call Jubilee in and ask her if she glued it there after I told her not to use the glue to hang things. She says yes with a look of shame. I put her in time out to give myself time to gather my thoughts.

After her time out was done, I brought her into the kitchen and required that she stand with me as I tried several different things to remove the paper from the fridge. I first had her try scraping it with a plastic scraper, but she was not able to make progress at all on her own. So I took over, but made her stay with me through the process. By this time, she had gotten sad because she sensed my frustration and wanted me to be “happy” again. I periodically took time out from the task to hug her and explain that I was frustrated that the paper was so hard to get off. I told her that she was going to pick up all the tiny paper shavings that had fallen to the floor as I worked. She again looked very sad and with tears in her eyes asked, “Will you help me pick them up?” My first instinct was to say no and to launch into another diatribe about how she made the mess by disobeying me and I was already doing most of the work and blah, blah, blah, lecture, lecture, lecture. Then I took a deep breath and looked at that sweet little concerned face and said, “Yes, Jubilee, I will help you pick them up.” She look a bit relieved and then asked, “You’ll help me because you helped make the mess?”

An onslaught of surprisingly deep thought ran through my head at that moment and I realized I had the opportunity to teach my little girl a lesson about grace and mercy. My response was, “No, I’ll help you pick them up because I love you and I know you don’t want to do it because it feels hard. So you have to do it, but I will be here with you and we will both clean it up.” She nodded and fell hard against me for a very vigorous hug, and the parallels between my own heart and this situation began to form in my mind.

The definition of mercy is undeserved favor. In the simplest sense, Jubilee did not “deserve” my presence or my help in cleaning up the mess she had made. . .but because I love her, I was able to look past that “fact” and be there with her to help her through something that was hard. Even if the difficulty was the consequences of her own actions, still I love her too much to leave her to sift through those consequences on her own.

I do not deserve the mercies of God. I have made many messes over the course of my life, some in ignorance, some in disobedience, some in selfishness and some with good intentions. Where would I be today if God stood by, brushed off His hands at me and declared, “Well, you MADE the mess because you didn’t listen. Good luck cleaning it up!” But because of His enormous love for me, that has never been His response to my mistakes. Sure, as I’ve grown from a baby Christian into a more mature one, He has let me own more of my consequences, but He has never just left me alone to pick up the pieces. And more times than not, all it takes is a little effort in the right direction on my part before I feel His hand intervening to “help” me in sometimes almost imperceptible ways. . .but sometimes miraculous ones.

So in this journey through brokenness as I learn to parent my children in a way that is also discipling them for Christ, may I learn to respond more and more often with, “. . .just because I love you.” Because that’s the character Jesus wants to build into them as well. And children learn from what they see. And my prayer is always that they can learn from my failures. . .but a little more often these days, they are learning also from my example. And that feels good. And is well worth the pain and the turmoil of deep changes in my heart and mind. Because they’re worth it.

Home Base

Dear Romeo,

Home Base. That’s what I am to you right now. Gone are the baby days of long snuggles and extended nursing sessions. Here are the days where you NEED to move. All the time. Confinement is death in your little emotional world. You tolerate being trapped in your high chair as long as the food is fast in coming. You tolerate being strapped into your car seat as long as the car is moving and providing you with passing scenery to hold your attention. . .well, most of the time. If you’re feeling icky, you want me to hold you for longer periods as long as I’m doing something interesting. But mostly, you want to move. To explore. To touch, to smell, to taste, to smash, to run. And watching you amazes me every day. For the most part, you move from thing to thing with a speed that is almost astonishing. But occasionally something grabs your attention and provides opportunity for a baby-sized science experiment and you stay in one place for a while. That’s fun to watch, too.

So now, instead of wanting me right beside you all the time, you want me nearby as long as I’m not cramping your style. You tell me “no” when I get too close to whatever it is you’re exploring. But if I leave the room, you come to find me. Now and then, you leave your project, fly into my legs and give me a hug. . .or reach for me to pick you up, get a quick squeeze and immediately demand to be put down to continue on your way. Your newfound independence is both fun to watch and a little sad. I miss your baby snuggles, but I’m honored to be the safe, quick hug that makes you feel safe to keep on moving. Watching you figure out your world is a lot like the way I feel like I’ve started to figure out my own. I’m starting to get comfortable in my own skin, and to be comfortable being my own home base as well as one for you and your sisters.

So here’s hoping that as you move into this new toddler realm, I do an even better job helping you with your emotions than I did your sisters. Because doing better with what we know is always right, and sticking with a method of parenting because it’s how we’ve “always done it” never is. Thank you for trusting me to be your home base. I’ll keep working to be worthy of that trust. Because you’re worth it.

Love, Mama

Tangled

970629_10200895837612522_808500955_nDear Jubilee,

Some days you feel like my little soul-clone. Today is one of those days. We’ve had two weeks of almost constant activity. Including last weekend where we had very little down time. You and I both crave down time. So today, Daddy’s downstairs on his computer, Romeo’s napping, Melody is spending the weekend with Nana, and you and I are in a tangle of legs on the couch. Neither of us want conversation or interaction with one another. Both of us crave physical touch. So here we sit, me on the computer, you watching a show on the iPad, tangled together contentedly, yet separate.

I know we are both deep feelers. I think that’s what leads us to these days where we need nothingness. Emotions can only run that high for so long until a crash is inevitable. So today, rather than continuing to run until we crash, we will sit here together, yet apart, recharging in a way that we both seem to instinctively fall into without conscious thought. And it feels yummy. :)

Love, Mama

It’s okay to change your mind. . .

This morning when I was making breakfast, Melody came into the kitchen and saw that I was cutting up blood oranges for the fruit platter. “Eww! I hate blood oranges. They’re so gross!” she commented loudly.

I rolled my eyes. “They taste very similar to regular oranges, silly. You haven’t even tried one yet. They’re just a little sour.”

“I don’t agree,” she said adamantly and wandered back out of the room.

A bit later we were eating breakfast and Jubiliee announced that she did not like the red oranges. . .after picking one up and looking at it and placing it back on her plate without so much as a lick. “They taste similar to regular oranges, Jubilee,” said Melody matter-of-factly. “They just look different is all.”

I was a bit amused. “So you changed your mind about them in the last few minutes?” I asked. “No,” she said indignantly. “That’s what I think.”

“No, just a few minutes ago you said something almost the same to me as Jubilee and I gave you the same explanation you gave her. That is changing your mind. It’s perfectly okay to change your mind when you get new information about something that makes you look at it in a different light, but it’s also important to admit you changed your mind. It’s not good to pretend that’s what you always thought.”

And of course, that conversation got me thinking. In the very beginning of parenting, I was determined to be consistent with my kids. All the time. That meant if I said something, it was law. Written in stone and non-negotiable. For the most part, it worked well, but there were times when this policy inflicted unnecessary pain on both my kids. . .and MYSELF! I’d sling out an “If ____, then____” statement of consequence without thinking it through and then I’d be stuck giving the consequence, even if it was unreasonable. . .all in the name of consistency. And sometimes I still feel that it’s important to stick to my guns and I do. That makes me think long and hard before I threaten something. I’ve taught myself to stop (most times. . .I’m certainly not perfect) and think about if what I’m threatening is something I’m really willing to do. For example, telling Jubilee that if she doesn’t get her shoes on quickly I’m going to leave without her. . .is not only unreasonable, but it makes her wonder if I’d actually do it. . .which provokes a cruel amount of anxiety in her little mind. Or telling Melody that if she doesn’t clean up her toys I’m going to give them away. . .might be effective in getting her to do it, but I’m not really willing to give away her toys. . .and I’m guessing she knows that. Those examples are pretty obviously outlandish, but sometimes I threaten the not so outlandish ones, and then I feel like I have to do what I said, all in the name of consistency. Don’t get me wrong, being a consistent parent is important when it comes to showing your kids that you keep your word, following through when consequences are necessary and setting healthy boundaries and keeping them. . .but if my goal is to raise children who can admit when they’re wrong, own their mistakes and learn from them, I have to set an example in ALL areas. Not just when I mess up big and have to apologize.

One day this week, a close friend of mine was struggling with her pre-teen daughter’s behavior. My friend was going on a field trip with her younger daughter the next day while the older girl was in school, and her daughter was very upset about that. For 20 minutes in the car (read: no escape), she listened to her 12-year-old lecture her about how it wasn’t fair that she was spending the whole day with her sister and yell about how she felt so left out and how it was clear Mom loved the sister more than her. She yelled that she wasn’t going to school the next day and Mom couldn’t make her. She was very disrespectful and rude and just downright mean to her mother. My friend was very frustrated with her and when they got home, she told her that if she had come to her calmly and respectfully and told her she was feeling left out, they could have done something special together that day since she was spending the next day with her little sister. But that after the appalling nature of her behavior all the way home, that wasn’t going to happen.

I talked to my friend shortly after this incident and she was understandably upset. She’s been at her wit’s end with her older daughter recently and said that it seemed like she was constantly punishing her for her attitude and mouthiness. . .but it didn’t feel like the consequences were helping at all. I thought about it for a bit and suggested that she do the opposite of what she was planning. . .that she take extra time and do something special with her daughter that day, just like she intended, since clearly she was feeling sad and left out and really wanted to spend extra time with her mama. My friend was struggling with how to be consistent, since she’d already told her that her behavior cost her the extra time together.

That’s when I had an “Ah-HA!” moment of my own that I shared with my friend. It’s okay to change your mind. In fact, I’d say it’s a GOOD thing to change your mind if you both can learn from it. I suggested that my friend tell her daughter that she’d thought more about it and decided that she was sorry the girl felt left-out and sad, and that while her behavior was still unacceptable, she would do something special with her that day just because she loved her. For the behavior, the girl would lose her TV time that evening, but they’d spend the day together and enjoy each other’s company. And that’s just what they did. And while it wasn’t a miraculous cure for her daughter’s smart mouth, there was more connection between them that day than if she’d followed through with what she started with. Maybe her daughter will remember that day and know that if she comes to her mom with her feelings, her mom will respond in kind. . .even though the daughter made a mistake in her presentation, she was heard. . .and she knows her mom is willing to listen, think about what she said, and be fair in her response. She still got a consequence, but the change made the consequence about her behavior, not her feelings, an important distinction, especially for those of us who struggle with separating the two because of anxiety and “big” emotions.

Now, clearly I’m better at helping someone with the problems they have with their kids’ behavior in the moment than I am with my own children. Probably because I’m a step emotionally removed from the situation. But after my conversation with Melody this morning, I’ve really been pondering what it means to be free to change my mind.

I’ve changed my mind in so many areas over the years that sometimes I feel like a different person than I was 20 years ago. I used to be afraid of admitting it, but now it feels so freeing. . .when someone sees me doing something different with one of my younger kids than I did with my eldest and asks me about it, I freely admit that I have more information now and feel like the new way is a better way. There’s no shame in that. In fact, it’s a good thing. It would take a whole other post to list all the ways I’ve changed my mind over the last 9 years of being a mom. And after thinking about it more, I’m going to try and make a concerted effort to walk my kids through the process when I change my mind about something. Because I want them to learn how to be wrong. Or just how to not be threatened by new information because they feel a need to save face. I’ve already learned that perfection is impossible. Growth is more important than striving toward perfect any day. And I’m really good at being imperfect and changing my mind. Who knew that could be considered a strength?

Stormy Days

Dearest Jubilee,

You are my little tempest. You have always been. It’s part of what I love about you. . .but  the past few days, I’m struggling to keep up. This learning thing is HARD. This morning, a pink spoon started the meltdown. You REALLY wanted that spoon and Melody was already using it. And while the 20 minutes of crying and grieving you went through was what you needed, I just barely made it to the other side with my sanity intact.

I vaguely remember Melody going through this stage. . .when allthethings were a crisis and little disappointments led to huge meltdowns. But I parented differently then. I spanked her when she threw a “tantrum.” And she quickly stopped throwing them, which made *my* life easier.  But I have since learned that it taught her that her wild, sad, mad emotions were something to be feared, stuffed and punished, which is not a lesson I want to teach you and your brother now that I know better. And I am having to re-teach Melody to work through such feelings, a process which is much harder for both of us than just learning to embrace and understand feelings when we feel them.

Which brings me to the last few days. The littlest things lead to HUGE meltdowns. And when the meltdown starts, I do okay. I can help you name your feelings. “You’re so mad right now. You really want ________, but you just can’t have it. I’m so sorry that makes you mad and sad.” And I give you big hugs. But the feelings run deep within you and it’s never over quickly. So several minutes into the storm, I start to panic. I feel my own anxiety rise as I feel powerless to stop the waves of crying and anger and sadness that are wracking your small frame. I hold you close (when you’ll let me) and take my own deep breaths. And sometimes I blow it. This morning, I weathered the first one pretty well, but when you freaked out a second time about having forgotten your blanket at home while we drove Melody to school, I had nothing left. I turned up the radio and ignored you. I am not proud of that, but I am proud of the fact that I didn’t yell at you to stop, and I did manage to offer you some sympathy before I drowned you out. It was not the perfect way to handle it, not even one of the best options, but I promise to keep working on building my own emotional muscles so I can help you build yours.

So I’m writing this letter to remind myself that it’s worth it. I now know that learning to name and feel and work through emotions is a skill that many adults haven’t mastered (me!). But I am determined that you and I will learn this together. When I feel the temptation to spank you, or force you to just STOP CRYING, I will remind myself how big the feelings feel to you and how it’s not my job to fix it, but to sit with you and offer you a safe place to cry. I’ll remind myself that the goal is not silence, it is peace, which are two different things. Silence can be achieved by forcing you to STOP; peace comes on the other side of the storm. . .where everything is washed clean by tears, much like the rain cleanses the flowers in a real storm.

My emotional muscles are sore this morning, but I have a feeling I’ll get a chance to work out the stiffness yet again today. I will do my best to stay present and be patient. Because you’re totally worth it.

Love, Mama

Something to Cry About

Jubilee came to me today sobbing and talking and whining all at the same time. . .to the point that I could not understand a word she was saying. I was frustrated because I was trying to pack for a week out of town, was running behind schedule, and really didn’t feel like taking the time to deal with a crisis. I felt my irritation begin to rise at the disruption as it often does when things don’t go according to plan. It’s a weakness I’m not proud of, but a part of the brokenness I’m working to function within.

And so, I silently acknowledged my inner frustration, took a deep breath and said, “Jubilee, I can’t understand you when you’re crying so hard.” I put my arm around her. “Can you take a deep breath and try to tell me what’s wrong without whining?” She took a swipe at her tear-soaked face and took a big deep breath. “I can’t find the picture I drew for Gramma,” she said sadly. I took her by the hand and told her we’d look for it together. We found it quickly on the kitchen counter and she cheerfully went on about her day and I went back to packing. But this and a few other instances like it this week have got me thinking about how I handle the emotional crises of my kiddos.

I’ve been guilty of telling my girls to stop crying when I feel like they’re overreacting. When something that seems so small results in an out of proportion amount of crying or whining or fear, I don’t always handle it the right way.

“Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,” was a phrase I grew up hearing now and then. I’ve been tempted to say it myself in a moment of frustration. And the weight of that saying is hanging in my head this week. It was actually the inspiration for this post. Because even when it feels to me like my children have nothing to be upset about, if they’re upset, it doesn’t really matter what I think.

It doesn’t change the magnitude of my own emotions when someone else doesn’t think what I’m upset about is worth my tears. When I’m stressing or crying about something, if my husband looked at me and said, “Oh good grief, calm down. It’s not that big of a deal!” I can guarantee you it would not make me suddenly snap out of it and realize the error of my ways. Frankly, it would make me very angry in addition to my sadness.

But in this grown up world of “important” things, it is sometimes easy to forget that to little people, things that seem so small and trifling to us can be so huge in their little hearts. Jubilee’s special picture she drew for Gramma was very important to her. Losing it was painful and she needed me to care that she was upset and to be with her in her sadness and frustration. . .not berate her for her silliness.

So I’m remembering to take a beat when my kids come to me with a crisis and to realize that if they’re upset, they HAVE something to cry about, even if it seems insignificant to me. THEY are not insignificant to me and so the little things that rock their worlds matter. As I try to see things from their perspective more often, it helps me to try and put myself in their shoes for a moment. I want them to know that I care about everything that happens in their world now, so that as pre-school problems become pre-teen problems become adolescent problems, they will continue to come to me for comfort and for help in finding the appropriate solutions to the situations that cause their angst. By acknowledging that they have something to cry about just because they’re crying is yet another way I’m getting to know the little people that call me mama. And I’m so grateful for those little glimpses into their heart of hearts. . .