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."
AND HE DOES.