Just now I was sitting on the couch. I am currently in the midst of a church sabbatical. Which is a dressed up way of saying I'm not going. There are many issues here. We'll wait and explore those another day. Get excited.
Anyway, Emily was playing outside and came in with her stroller. She said, "I was just pretending that my little girl had a bad attitude at the park." Interesting... So, I said, "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Did you give her a consequence?" She cut her eyes at me and said, "NO!" To which I replied, "Well, how is she going to learn her lesson?" To which she answered, "I decided to show her grace." Then she burst out laughing.
This is where parenting finds me most days.
Every stage of parenting is so different. In some ways, when you enter a new phase, it's like traveling to a foreign country. And you are stuck trying to figure out the language and the customs all over again. For someone like me, who is pro status-quo, I never handle these transitions well. In fact, we are usually halfway through a phase before I even realize what's happening.
We are in a new stage around here. And, let me say right up front, that I really, really like it! Y'all know the baby/toddler days were super hard for me. I feel like I'm in my wheelhouse right here. Soon, my oldest will be an adolescent and I will be left flailing again. But, for now? Big Dan and I are both REALLY enjoying hanging out with our kids.
The challenges though, are many. And mostly, it's because I feel like the real work of pointing my kids towards Christ begins now. As I work through my own issues with performance and works (see note about church drop-out above) I am aware of all the times I emphasize "good behavior" to my kids. And this is the rub. Because, make no mistake. I absolutely expect my kids to behave at school. To follow the rules, to be respectful, and to be kind to their friends. I struggle with people who think rules for kids are too confining. The thing is, we are not alone here on planet earth. Our actions and choices ALWAYS effect those around us. When my behavior negatively effects those around me FOR ANY REASON, it should give me pause.
When my kids are annoying each other in the backseat of the car it goes something like this: Kid 1 is singing or making weird noises. Kid 2 comes unglued over the noises. Kid 2 asks Kid 1 to stop. Kid 1 does not. Kid 2 tattles. (If I were reading this on someone else's blog and I knew their kids, I'd be dying to figure out who was who. Please note: it goes either way all.the.time.) When I reprimand Kid 1 there is usually an answer of "But I'm only singing/humming/popping my cheek/reciting stats/etc. ad nauseum. And really, they are right. It's probably not a big deal. But, the thing I keep coming back to is, if it is bothering the other person, think of them. Think of how you feel when you are the one being annoyed. Then, maybe, consider putting their needs ahead of your own. (As if noise making is a need...)
So, yes to the thinking of others and following the rules.
I have two performing, rule-following kids. And I know that I have taught them by my actions that they are more acceptable to me when they are "good". And this makes me so sad. In case you were hoping that I give you the magic formula for walking this line, I'm not gonna. Because I have no idea. I want my kids to know that messing up and making mistakes (sometimes big ones) is a part of life. I want them to know that "being good" is not the goal. But man, this is hard to teach when, at my core, I am still struggling to believe it.
I keep asking God to show me when I blow it. And mostly, what He has led me to do in these moments is apologize. Name what I think has happened between us. This happened just the other day. I shut down a sad moment for one of my children because I didn't want them to make a scene. By that evening, I knew I had really messed up. So, I called both kids to me and told them that I thought there were probably times when I made them feel like it wasn't ok to be sad. I told them I was sorry about making them feel that way. Then, we talked specifics. With the child who was sad, I explained that just expressing all the sadness didn't always work in the moment. What could we do instead?
After that conversation the "flow" between both kids and I was so much better. It was like something that had clogged the lines between us had been cleared. Don't we all just want to know that someone gets it?
There are going to be days when my interactions with my kids look nothing like this. This was a pure act of God. In my flesh, I am a task master.
I think Emily might have been sending me a message today!