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.


  1. Wow, Ginny. I hope everyone you know will read this. I wish I had read it before I was trying to rear my own children. I do realize that these principles apply not only to child rearing but to all of life in general. It even applies to my mission experiences. Thank you for seeking these answers and for sharing them. Love, Mom

  2. I have come across this with an exact opposite thought. I typed survival vs thrival into google hoping to find a way to be less anxious and by not micromanaging things to thrive. To then be happier with the simplicity of survival. Your thoughts are is leading me to a new thought that it is the balance between survival and thrival that is what I would like to achieve.