Michael and I had a sort of revelation that has improved our parenting recently. We're trying to be more patient and gentle-tempered with Ender. I had a thought, suddenly, that halted all other thoughts; I was praying, kind of "angsting" about my struggles with patience, and I realized that I had been deciding "breaking points."
Have you ever been upset with your kids, telling them they need to do something (get their shoes on maybe), and in your head you think something like "if I have to tell them ONE more time..." or "if he won't do it now..."? If you don't have kids, what about a time you've just felt so frustrated with your seemingly fruitless efforts that you decide you're done if you don't find a reward soon? It's deciding a point that we'll just give up. We just feel like we're done, that's it, we tried. We break.
I'm aware that there are situations where it's appropriate to be finished after one last, token effort. I'm not talking about those situations. So don't worry. I'm not judging!
Michael and I talked about this, about how we don't need to decide limits for our patience. The limits are there, for sure, but we can keep stretching ourselves. We can keep trying. It has changed us in the last week or two. When we feel our tempers rising, our patience ebbing, our sanity ready to snap, we realize there's still room in our hearts to be kind and try again. We can choose to reign in the mounting inner demon (haha, now that is one scary image! My inner demon is very ugly).
It certainly hasn't fixed everything-- Ender still sometimes dawdles and stares back or says NO when he's supposed to be getting his shoes on (or whatever), but what our change has fixed is the love in our home. We're no longer pushing the Spirit away by giving in to the urge to "break."
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In high school and college, I had a little motto for myself. I believed that a day wasn't bad unless I let it be bad. That's still true, to an extent. I believed that my attitude could/would/should change bad days around. I knew that I could make the difference for myself, that I was in charge of my days, so I ought to be cheerful and optimistic. But surprise: that is REALLY hard for me as a mom.
This morning was very hard for me. It's kind of my fault. I didn't get up before the kids, so we were up all at once trying to get our needs met all at once. I resented being needed, especially since Ender was cranky about everything (big, awesome birthday yesterday + not nearly enough sleep = nothing is to his liking). I felt a lot of stress, and I felt like I had set the stone rolling in the first place, so in my mind, I was behind all the stress. Thus, more stress at feeling like I ought to be the solution to the stress. Ugh, stress stress stress.
But I kept trying to be kind, and I kept trying to be calm. I didn't want to "fail" by deciding a breaking point for myself. After dropping Michael off at school, I knew I needed some kind of an outing. I wasn't ready to go home (I'm still not over having been stuck at home for two weeks while sick-- cabin fever!!!). My lovely idea of an outing: take Ender to the story time at the library! I know. I'm so chic and stuff.
I tried not to exude stress the way I felt it, because I know how dampening that can be for other people's moods. But I almost couldn't help it. I sighed when Ender sat down in front of me, at my feet where I couldn't go around him...hauling my fat purse and the carseat (with a groggy Scarlett waking up). I sighed when he moved like a snail to scoot to a good seat. And I sighed when I sat down. I didn't mean to, my stress just kept leaking all over the place!
Then a beautiful woman sitting next to me shifted to make more room for us, and she talked to me a little. I could imagine how unapproachable I looked, and I worried that she would give up when my first effort at conversation fell flat (as in, I gave her nothing to go with, in spite of myself). But I tried again, and she smiled, and we talked. We became friends. Her name is Natalie. She has three beautiful children with beautiful names, and she is a warm and kind person. I felt like she was daring and brave to ask for my phone number. I felt flattered that she hoped we would see each other again. I felt her sincerity, and that's why I felt lifted in every way.
Smiling became very easy, and I felt new strength filling me so I could be the good mom I was trying to be.
I feel blessed by her kindness, and I feel blessed for my efforts to be good this morning.
I think I'm doing it right. Because I'm trying. I know I will keep making mistakes while I plow through this immense learning process, which is one of millions of other learning processes. I know that sometimes I will probably "break" anyway, but I hope it will not be premeditated breakage.
I'm not deciding to break under pressure. I'm still hoping. I'm still wanting to be a good mom badly enough that I'm not giving up. And that, regardless of how many times I trip and stumble, is the right path.