Monday, March 14, 2016

Out of Order


Forty-five is the number of minutes that my just-about 2-year-old daughter spent in a full-blown screaming temper tantrum this morning.

Her mood began to turn when she was attempting to get herself dressed, couldn't get her head through the hole of her shirt, asked for help - and then completely freaked out when I attempted to provide the help that she had just requested.

It continued to go downhill when she grabbed my leg while I was trying to make the breakfast she had just said she wanted to eat and asked her to let go so that I could go to the fridge to get the container of milk that she had just asked for a cup of.

The final straw that set her from whining and complaining to a total meltdown happened when she asked me for more cereal and I told her that no, she had to eat her eggs (that I gave her the ketchup she asked for to dip them in) and banana (that I cut up the way that she prefers to eat it) before I gave her more cereal.

The shift from total meltdown to total NUCLEAR meltdown happened when she decided that she would only eat the eggs and banana with the blue fork her brother prefers instead of the green fork that she typically requests (and did this morning) - and her brother did not want to switch forks with her.

It was at this point that Mommy withdrew (mentally, I was still in the kitchen) and stopped paying attention to the tantrum-throwing toddler safely buckled into her high chair beside her. Her poor brother was trying to ask me something and I couldn't hear a word he was saying due to the loud volume of crying/shrieking occurring on my left-hand side and the fact that his mouth was jammed full of banana. I'm presuming he asked me if he could get down, because when I said I couldn't hear him rather than repeating himself he just looked at his hands for mess, wiped his face on his arm, and hopped down to go play.

At minute 30, this same brother hid in the hall closet because he'd had just enough of the temper tantrum. I so wanted to hide in there with him, but this was not in the cards.

I'm proud to say that I only shouted her name once on this particular morning to attempt to get her to stop and for the remainder of the time was able to either ignore her completely or speak with her/discipline her calmly.

"When little people have big emotions, it's our job to share our calm, not join their chaos." These words are attributed to L.R. Knost, who is a best-selling parenting & children's author that I had never heard of until I saw this quote. I don't care what else she writes - I barely remember to carve out time to read the books I'm already in the middle of - these words are so important. I recently had read another list of parenting tips that reminded the reader to not yell back when your child is in a tantrum because it just adds fuel to the fire. Chaos begets more chaos; think of a tornado as it grows and the bigger radius of destruction that is left in its path the bigger that it gets.

The real question then is this: If I am surrounded by chaos - where in the world do I find calm? When I have one child flailing about screaming so loudly I'm praying that no one calls the Department of Children and Families and the other one so frustrated that the tact of hiding in a closet is chosen - where is the calm? Where is the calm when all I want to do is shut down and display an "Out of Order" sign hanging from the tip of my nose?

A year or so ago I sat in my moms' group listening to the wisdom of Martha Fletcher. Martha is the mother of 6 children, has incredible faith in Jesus, and is such a perfect example of God's grace in imperfect parenting. I adore listening to her speak - hearing her words imparted on our group is such a wonderful blessing. She was speaking on this particular day about being just completely worn out and gave us some stories of times that she was worn out and had lost it and felt like she had nothing left when her children were small. Where, she said, can we find resources left when we feel like we have reached the absolute bottom of our reserves?

The page from my notebook where I wrote down this awesome wisdom. Never forget it.

Jesus, she said, has an endless supply of resources to share with us. He WANTS to share them with us. He WANTS to support us in our quest to raise up these tiny emotional humans into capable, somewhat adjusted grown-ups.

And can I just tell you - in my experience, this is SO true. I feel that left to my own limited resources, I would never be able to parent my children. Left to my own wit and wisdom, I would not be able to steer them on the path towards God's plan for their lives.

I have three bits of scripture that I draw on to help me keep the calm in the chaos that can sometimes come into our home:

1. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." (Jeremiah 29:11-12)  Parents - God has a plan for your children, and God has a plan for you as well. Part of God's plan for me is to follow His lead in raising Godly children who can harness the ways in which He has wired them to be able to focus on and follow His plan for them. In the example of my 45-minute tantrum-throwing daughter - God has wired her with a strong will, clear preferences, confidence, independence, and many other traits that are so common in those we look to make our leaders. The same goes for my empathetic, reserved, caring, but somehow as equally strong-willed son. We are each wired and gifted according to the plans that God has for our lives - if we focus on Him, if we communicate with him, and if we harness those gifts in the ways that He has intended them then we are able to do great things. By reminding myself constantly that God has a plan for her and her personality, I am able to focus on parenting her in the way that she needs.

2. "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you..." (Isaiah 66:13a) In the moments of chaos where I know I need to be the calm, in those times that the tornado of emotion is swirling around in our home, in the times that I need to be the shelter from the storm that I feel I'm actually a part of - I lean on this knowledge. When I am comforting my children and taking them in my arms, sometimes I close my eyes and feel God beside me placing His arm around my shoulder. When I am standing firm in disciplining my children and they are standing firm in their own will against me because they want to grow on their own terms, sometimes I stand a little straighter and feel God nearby reassuring me that I'm right in following His instructions in parenting. In the times that I need to feel that I (and my husband) are not alone in this parenting journey - this bit of scripture is all that I need to know that if I am raising my child according to God's plan that He is with me.

3. "He tends to His flock like a shepherd: He gathers His lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those who have young." (Isaiah 40:11) My son is big on being picked up and held close. He is a gentle soul and is an incredibly loving child; one of the best ways he understands love from another person at this point in his life is when they are willing to pick him up and hold him close to their heart. We went to Florida in December and it absolutely made his life when at the Garden Grill one morning for breakfast - Mickey Mouse got down on his knee and picked him up. There was one night that he asked if God could pick him up. This verse - this is the verse I can point him to when he is old enough to understand scripture and fully understand God to say yes, a thousand times yes - God picks you up. God loves to pick us up and He loves to hold us close to His heart. As a parent, God is picking me up every day - some days several times a day. It is so reassuring to know that if I need to I can close my eyes, take a deep breath, and feel God's loving presence.

Forty. Five. Minutes.

That forty-five minutes is so short and so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The choices that I make as far as how I handle myself and whether or not I follow God's lead in those forty-five minutes are not insignificant.

I looked into my daughter's eyes and saw... myself. I saw a little girl who wants the world HER way and wants to do it ALL herself. Then I saw God's work in wiring her and felt the Holy Spirit remind my heart of His will for us. I felt Him beside me as I knelt down to my daughter's level in her "calm space chair" and reassured her that she was loved but that this behavior would not get her what she desired. I felt Him press on my heart and wrap His love around me as I turned my back to my children for a minute to compose myself.

When the tantrum passed and hugs were exchanged and a compromise on food was reached (Cream of Wheat with whole milk) and everyone recentered we went on to have a fairly decent morning. I don't kid myself into thinking that we will never see another temper tantrum again or that I won't want to join my son in hiding in the closet when it happens - but when it does, I have God's promises to rely on. I won't always be perfect in seeking His will and I won't always remember to let Him lead me every step of the way. I am human and I am imperfect.

And so are my kids. His grace is for them as much as it is for me - and it's up to me to make sure I show them that.

In the meantime - I'll save my "Out of Order" sign for another time... when I'm sick... and Dad's home as back-up.

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