What a great start. The morning was so full of hope… and promise.
The two boys at home (after Josh left for his piano lesson) came down the stairs and each one curled up next to me on the couch and we looked at the twinkling Christmas tree lights.
“I love you mom,” said Sam.
“I love you too, mommy,” echoed TJ.
I barely dared to move or breathe. Two “I love you’s” in one morning? I couldn’t believe my ears. “I love you too my precious boys. To the moon and back.”
Lately, our middle child wakes up breathing fire and is fairly burning down the house; hurling accusations like wet sand from the ocean and splattering it as hard as he can. So it was especially surprising to hear such honey from his lips before 9AM.
The cuddly moment with my two wild and crazy boys was so good I actually considered just leaving Josh at the piano teacher’s for the rest of the day and telling the school office I just didn’t feel like making the trip.
But alas. The morning needed to continue. So I reluctantly got up and finished the routine, herding the rest of the kids in the car to go pick up the eldest and slide into the school drop-off line.
While waiting the minute or two in the line, Sam started gathering his belongings.
Sam: “Mom, where’s my snack and water bottle?”
I knew instinctively the temp was about to get real hot in this car.
Me: “Do you not have them?”
Sam: “No mom… you told me to just get in the car and you would get them.”
Me: “No. What I *actually said* was ‘Hey Sam, take your water and breakfast sandwich to the car, then you can make a second trip and come back for the rest of your things’. That’s your responsibility, Sam.”
Sam (getting louder): “NO MOM, THAT’S NOT WHAT YOU SAID!!!!”
Me: “Actually, I did say those exact words to you.”
He started to sputter and reach for whatever ammunition he could grasp.
Sam: “WELL, YOU’RE WRONG AND… MY FEELINGS ARE DRIVING THE BUS RIGHT NOW!!!!!”
Me: “That is completely evident. But you know what? You can tell those feelings to ‘stand down’ right now. You have power over them. You are NOT an animal.”
Sam: “YES I AM MOM!!!! I AM AN ANIMAL.”
Parents, you feel me. They get to a point where staking their flag on the top of the hill will just defy all logic and reason. We still do it as adults, but we’re not as dramatic about it.
If you think you’re above this sort of behavior, just remember the last big argument you had with your spouse. Unreasonable cognitive dissonance is not just a contrivance of the minor crowd.
Me: “Okay. Looks like I’m setting out some dog food for dinner.”
I heard Josh stifle an incredulous laugh in the back seat.
The one thing I’m known for is razor sharp execution on follow-through.
At this point, my questions are:
- Should I make it canned or dry?
- And how long do you think it will take to illicit an apology from Mr. Sam before I switch out his food?
As I watched him grump out of the car with the fury of his own accountability and counfoundance trailing behind him, all I saw was the precious little boy who let me cuddle him close that morning. It’s so hard to reconcile that this is the same person. But in order to reach this boy’s heart… I must. I absolutely must see him as such in order to deliver the grace AND truth that he needs to draw his heart close to God. And in that moment, I realized that God also sees me as his precious cuddly child who is prone to temper tantrums every once in awhile. And he loves me as a whole. Even when I’ve decided to betray my own humanity for a furry coat and non-opposable thumbs.
The end goal of parenting is not peace? I know. This is pretty tough for me to be asking of myself. Especially in these early years. My introvert nerves are constantly on fire from the barrage of input coming at me. I just want everyone to be quiet. I just want the noise to go off for awhile. So I begin driving everyone and every situation to just “stop fighting” or to “just finish your homework.” All so mom can have some peace.
What if the end goal is (as it should be) to help create little hearts who are open to hear God’s Word and follow Him all the days of their lives? When I think of it that way, my strategy becomes less to “squash” every beef that comes along, but rather, to ride it out with them by their side.
A mantra that I frequently say is “I’m with you in this, too and there is nothing you can do or say that will push me away or make me love you any differently.”
We are a team, my child and I. We are a team who tackles what’s going on in his heart. We are a team who tackles the resulting behavior. Sometimes they may not see it that way, but I’ve already tailored my approach if I start with that idea in my head.
I drove away, thanking God for the boost and the renewed perspective. The day was still full of hope. In fact, I bet Sam will have fully forgotten about the incident by the time school was out. Until I bring out the dog food for dinner. But because we’re a team, I might just have to try some. Because you know I’d do anything for their hearts… and a good laugh.