Monday, January 18, 2010

The more I know, the more I don't know...

Daily Life

I believe every day there should be something the kids and/or I can count on and look forward to.  I do enjoy our traditions, and often pray that the kids will cooperate.  My kids do not obey my every word, and sometimes they won't listen at all.  Especially when they're stir crazy during these winter months.  Then, out of the blue, we'll have a really good day when they will surprise me with their insight and kindness, and they will prove to me that they deserve the high praise I heap upon them.  I continually take their spiritual, emotional, and intellectual temperatures, and measure that to what it was a week ago, or a month ago, and try to evaluate if we've improved or slipped back somewhere.


I started having 30 minutes alone with each child.  Kaylee teaches Kendon while I work with Peter.  Peter is supposed to teach Kendon while I work with Kaylee.  Kaylee teaches Peter while I work with Kendon.  Peter doesn't take to this teaching stuff very naturally, but then again, he's only 3.

Kaylee loves Jesus, and loves to think about him and talk about him.  One day Peter was asking about why the water obeys Jesus.  I started thinking about explaining the power of God, but Kaylee answered for me.  She said, "Because the water loves Him.  Right Mommy?"  I was amazed at how true and simple that was, and agreed whole heartedly.  I added,  "We love Jesus, so we want to obey him too."

Peter is such a quick learner.  I am inundated constantly, every day by questions about every movie, TV show, book, or event he's ever seen or heard.  In order to teach him, all I have to do is answer every question with attention instead of just pacifying him with pat answers.  He is so easy and listens so well to what I'm saying, even though he may be bouncing on the couch at the time, I tend to give him less attention, which I need to rectify.

Kendon is growing and learning to talk rapidly!  I can't keep up!  Every day he'll say a new sentence, and surprise me that he knows what he's saying.  His favorite phrase right now, is "No way!"  He is so funny, and he's full of character.  He loves to say, "Hea hav dat" as he hands me things.  He also loves to sit and read with me, which also helps his improving vocabulary.  He is a climber, which is my only frustration with him.  He won't stay off of the table, counters, or changing table, and I'm constantly worried that he's going to break an arm!

Striving Always for Better

We're a work in progress, and every day we mess up and have to refocus.  Every day I ask for help and forgiveness, then help again, and every day, by the end of the day, I feel the Spirit of Christ return to our walls, and fill us up with protection from the outside influences that might tear us down otherwise.  I guess that's what it's all about, and that's why the Bible tells us, "don't let the sun go down on your anger."  Because we want to sleep with Christ's light filling our hearts and minds, and angels to watch over us in our vulnerable state.  We can't have that if we've gone to bed angry or have not apologized for any contention and resolved it, allowing the Spirit to return.

I have HOPE that with Christ's help and example, I will some day reach my righteous goals in life.  I say to myself every day, "Never give up, Ginny.  Growth is happening as long as you NEVER give up."

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Regression, Confession, Renewal, Rebirth

Confession:   During the last few weeks I slipped into some old habits, and felt myself getting angrier and angrier, and noticed that I re-started yelling like I used to.  I felt awful about it, and kept apologizing, and trying to do better, but a part of me blamed them, and that allowed me to continue the negative pattern I finally turned to the Lord about this, taking my own advice. 


I felt inspired to think more deeply about it.  What was I really angry about?  What was underneath that rage?  What usually triggered the outbursts?  I listened to the Kirk Martin CDs again.  Specifically CD 2, Create a Calm Home.


I realized that I got angriest when I couldn't bark a command and they follow-when they refused to be robots, and they exercised their right to choose their own actions, words, and feelings.  The more I attempted to control, the angrier I got. Whether it was how they put on their PJs, how they spoke to each other, or how they used their time, I was trying to be the puppeteer. Most of all, I was so busy trying to force them to be calm and in control of themselves that I neglected to realize that it's not my job to do that for them.  Only they can do that for themselves.  My job is to simply control what I do, say, and feel. I was the huge hypocrite trying to pull the moat from their eyes while ignoring the beam in my own.


Once I realized that, I stopped immediately.  I let go. Every time they got into a conflict, or made a choice I wouldn't have made, I let go of my anxiety.  I don't need perfect children.  I just need to be proactive and calm.  I cry as I write this, because it's such a powerful experience to let go and say, "My child is responsible for his or her own life!"  It is not to say I don't care, or won't do everything I can to help guide and teach.  I am talking about letting go of making the choices for them-even telling them what choice to make.  Teach consequences.  Allow them to fail.  These are things I was forgetting to do, and as soon as I remembered, and started letting go of my need to control again, a massive change came over me and my family once again.  My children trust me again, and give thanks for my new attitude, again.


Last night the children decided to have some fun as I took an evening shower.  They got into some rice, and spread it all over the kitchen, carpeted basement steps, couch, and living room carpet.  Then they took some water and sprinkled it all over the rice making it stick to everything it touched, including their feet.  So it was literally all over the house.  Can you imagine the scene that awaited me when I walked out of my room?  I was armed with the Spirit of Christ after reading scriptures and praying that day, and having a new outlook.  I whispered when I might have yelled, I got to work when I might have flown off the handle, and I allowed the children to help clean up, instead of fighting and forcing them.  They lost their movie privilege for the night, and they didn't argue it.  They had to go directly to bed after dinner, with no story and no extra time with Mommy.  But I still prayed with them, and the miracle was: I didn't feel angry


It took me an hour to clean up all the rice.  The whole time I thought about how much fun they must have had, and thought of their beautiful laughs and smiles, and I gave thanks that they were playing happily together, and making each other their best friends.  They were very sorry, and helped me clean as much as they could, and accepted their punishment.  Peter did protest a little at not getting to read a story, and I almost gave in, because it is education, after all, but I resolved that he would get a story tomorrow, but not during punishment time.  I was firm, but not angry, unmoved, but still loving.  I wasn't pushing down or stuffing down anger or frustration.  It simply wasn't there, because I had surrendered.  I cannot control them, and no amount of angry shouting or ranting and raving will change that.  But there is something I can control, and that is me. 


When I saw the rice, my mind made an instant split:


What can I do?
What can't I do?
I can sweep and vacuum.Go back in time and change what they did.
I can praise God, and see the good.Force them to never ever again choose this.
I can think of a consequence.Control their attitudes.
I can let go of my anxiety.Control my husband's reaction to the mess.
I can do a great, thorough job of cleaning.Magically will away the mess.
I can listen to music and poetry in my mind.Stop my kids from laughing or playing.
I can enforce a consequence without debate.Change the situation.


Perhaps it's fitting that the same evening, I happened to read in my favorite book, Help for the Harried Homeschooler by Christine M. Field, Page 269:

"When I gave up my need to control, much of my anger and frustration dissipated."
Then on Page 271 She describes coming to God in tears, frustration and powerlessness:

"Love me. God always answers. Love your neighbors. That's all. I'll work out the rough spots. And he does."


Saturday, January 02, 2010

Survival vs. Thrival

To be perfectly honest, motherhood terrified me from day one.  I felt the surge of motherly love toward my baby, I had read many many parenting books ahead of time, so I thought I wouldn't be scared.  I thought I had it all planned out in my mind.  But when I brought my little girl home from the hospital, all I could do was sit on the couch with her in my arms and cry for the next 5 hours.  I felt panic and fear.  I had majored in Early Childhood Ed in College, and I had been around many many little kids in my life, but I had never known the pressure--the responsibility of motherhood.  That was when I turned on the survival switch in my mind, and it took me 4 years to figure out it was hurting not helping me.  At the time, to help myself calm down inside, I said over and over in my mind, "Just keep her alive.  Just keep her alive."  Instead, I should have told myself, "Enjoy this.  Enjoy her.  Laugh.  Have fun!"

The Survival Switch

The Survival Switch is on when you figure out the minimum you need to do to stay alive and keep the children alive, and stay focused on it.  You know it's on when you expect praise and applause every time you go the tiniest bit above that minimum.  When you can sit for 3 hours reading a book, puttering on the computer, or talking on the phone, but can't find 15 minutes to play a game of memory with your child, you may be in parenting survival mode.  I go in and out of this mode, but to the children, it's torture, especially young children.  It's a battle I fight within myself, a battle I wish I'd fought several years ago before the bad thought patterns became habits.

What to expect from your children if your Survival Switch is active:

Expect them to act out.  Scream.  Fight.  Expect them to get into things, make messes, tattle, and whine.  Expect them to cry at you and hang on your legs, trying to get you to wake up mentally, and engage with them.  They may try a positive approach, like talking to you, bringing a book to you, etc, but if that doesn't work, they will resort to whatever does work.  Hitting, Biting, anything that triggers emotion in you, they will do it.

So, what do we do?

Well, the short answer is WAKE UP!!  I wrote a letter to Kirk Martin about my daughter, unloading all my fears and concerns about her, asking how I could get her to do this, or stop doing that.  It must have been 3-4  pages long, and that was shortened!  His answer to me was simple.  "Let go of pleasing everyone around you.  Sit down with her.  Enjoy her."  Those last words, "Enjoy her" have repeated over and over in my mind.  I have found that it is impossible to enjoy parenting if I don't unload all my worries, stresses, anxiety and concerns on one who can shoulder them.  The only one worthy of that burden is God.

The Specific Answer:

Routine, traditions, self-discipline, and patience, are all crucial.  But by far, the most important, in my opinion, is honest, open, heartfelt prayer.  Then, with an open heart and mind, receiving answers to our individual situations, we can navigate our lives, and make the changes we need to.  If waking up is what we need to do, God will help us do that.  Many times I've prayed about what I should do differently, or how I can inspire so-n-so to change, or fix some problem I see, and the answer has been...REPENT.  Change your heart.  AGAIN."   This is a life-long process for us, and our kids will bring us to our knees over and over if we let them.  If we open our hearts to our Father in prayer daily, when we need to go deeper it will happen naturally, as it does when talking to a very good friend, or family member.  Frequency of speaking to, and working along side a person leads to familiarity.  The same goes with God.

Have a problem?  Ask this question.

Have I confessed my sins, shortcomings, and weaknesses, and asked for help from my Father today?

It's only a decision away.