One of the many joys we have both learned as Boy Moms, is to embrace the sheer pleasure of destruction in our sons’ worlds. I truly believe that a few of our kids only humor us with our Christmas tradition of Gingerbread-making because they know the day will come at the end of the Holiday Break when we will bring them all together again for: Demolition Day!
Yes, we are “those moms” that give our sons Nerf guns and hammers and on the count of 3… let them wreak havoc on our cookie creation. The whole thing is usually reduced to rubble in seconds while the two of us try to capture the fleeting moment for a scrapbook, dodging bits of gingerbread and candy flying past us!
This is how we look at it: children are constantly told to “be still, be quiet, don’t touch this or that, stop running…” It must be so difficult to contain all that frenetic energy bundled up in these growing bodies, AND obey all the adults that want them to stop acting rambunctious! Of course we can’t have children completely run amok (!!) but there should be some balance in their behavior training.
There are times we can create appropriate moments to run, yell, jump, wrestle, and touch everything in sight. So that’s what this day is about for our Gingerbread Warriors. They anticipate this day greatly, and we all dive in to the fun of it. So when we say “be still,” they can, because they trust us to tell them when it is time to “run with abandon!”
Enjoy the “play”; these moments are treasures tucked into your children’s hearts. They will become more important to you than all those moments they were quiet.
“Open my heart, Lord, to the gifts of this day!”
When my son was 4, his definition of patience was “waiting my turn.” Kids get a lot of practice with this at school, at home, at church, and on the playground. The adults around them encourage and reinforce taking turns.
As adults we probably get more “practice opportunities” than we would like…waiting our turn in traffic or in the grocery store line, being on hold, listening to toddler-babble all day long, waiting for news of a loved one’s life event, or biding our time until it’s our turn for a promotion. Sometimes we even have designated places to practice patience: those chilly waiting rooms outside of surgical suites and doctors’ offices–where time becomes squishy with an unusual mixture of uncertainty and hope. All these practices without a designated coach…it can get a little tricky with all of us out there trying to make the big play yet committing countless fouls in the process. This road to Patience is bumpy.
I asked Siri for a definition of Patience. In her all-knowing tone, she told me that having patience is to “remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people.” Geez! It’s probably good that we don’t have visible cartoon thought bubbles broadcasting how we reealllly feel in these daily situations of stress. Misplaced keys, a cracked phone screen, getting cut off in traffic…we face frustrations each and every
day hour. How we respond to these hassles reflects upon how deep our level of patience is and how quickly we can tap into it. And all of us know that our darling children are watching, always watching.
Somehow the “big” trials seem to ramp up my patience and I churn out the calm vibes at warp speed. On the other hand, those little daily hassles can trip me up. Running late can zap my patience with my kids super fast. Those last five minutes exiting the house can be quite dicey as I’m calling out reminders in my not-so-calm voice: “grab-your-jacket! Got-your-water-bottle-for-practice?Remember-we-have-your-music-lesson-right-after-school-so-bring-your-instrument-now-so-it-will-be-in-the-car-later.Did-you-turn-off-the-lights?Your-shoes-are-in-the-family-room-where-you-left-them.Come-on-we’re-runninglate.Put-the-sword-down.Don’t-forget-your-backup-soccer-jersey.Get-out-of-the-fridge-we-don’t-have-time-for-a-snack.Oh-and-bring-out-the-trash-as-you-come-please“…[just insert all those “Mommy messages” here because it’s exhausting reliving those moments; oh, and remember to add “please” at the end of the monologue–gotta keep it “nice”–ha!] Needless to say, countless apologies have been made in the car as we’re scurrying to a soccer game, violin lesson, or (gasp!) even to church.
To get better at patience, we probably have to know our “buttons” – our stress points. If we aren’t sure, our spouse and/or children will be able to provide us with some quick insights. (ouch!) Patience can be quite a strength if we practice and build up our ability to use it consistently and effectively. Maybe one way to “bulk up” our patience is to spend a little time trying to deepen our sense of calm.
I have a friend that loves to color. It’s soothing and helps ground her. After a coloring session, she has more mental clarity and is more prepared to tackle her next challenge. Coloring books for adults are now marketed everywhere, so go for it! It’s not just for kindergarteners anymore; it’s “socially acceptable” for grownups!
I tend to find myself cleaning out closets or my car just to have a sense of control over something tangible when life circumstances are off-kilter.
For others, taking a walk to burn off nervous energy might help restore calmness.
The beauty of being unique individuals is that we can each have a different arsenal of responses to any given situation. Whatever flavor of calmness technique you adopt, it probably works best if it “fits” and feels natural to you.
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience.” Proverb 19:11
Patience may be one of the Fruits of the Spirit that we need more time to develop. It’s about being patient, not doing patient. It’s not a one-time “I’ve got it!” experience either. It’s an on-going process that we continually have to reboot. Patience is tough. It keeps us on our toes. As with many things that are difficult, though, it is so worth it. Just wait, and you’ll see.
“…for such a time as this…” Esther 4:14
When presented with a new opportunity, we stand on the threshold of something new. We can cross over or stay where we are. Crossing over creates a sense of anticipation; remaining in place feels familiar and comfortable. A threshold seems like a place of limbo. We stand between two options, looking ahead to whatever is on the other side while retaining a sense of where we’ve just been.
A threshold gives us a chance to pause, to take a breath and consider our next action. We may linger here a bit, needing to observe the traffic flow and consider who is passing through. Are these footsteps here some that we can follow? Is this the time to pursue this particular path? How will this change of course affect our perspective? How could it impact our family?
Some thresholds are fairly easy to cross. There aren’t big differences in the landscape. The footing is similar from one side to another, inviting a gentle transition. We can ease our way through at a natural pace. Some thresholds are expected transitions and we are part of a group that is facing the same changes (passing from one grade to another or starting a new semester of classes). We feel comfort in the shared process.
Other opportunities may generate a keen sense of excitement – a new adventure, a risk. These thresholds are more intimidating. You naturally hesitate, feeling the need for more preparation to cross over. Sometimes rushing through may cause you to stumble. You may need a tug from someone ahead of you to steady you, or perhaps a gentle nudge from someone behind you to encourage you forward.
As a parent it’s extremely helpful to have a mentor a step or two ahead of you, encouraging you to step across the threshold into the next season of parenting. This can provide a sounding board for setting realistic curfews, handling emotional outbursts, or figuring out how to manage playdates when you may not feel a connection with the other parent even though your child is begging to spend time with a new friend.
So, we take a step or two into this new phase, consulting our mentor and getting our feet wet…
These last few days of December seem like a threshold to new beginnings and opportunities, offering us a chance to make some adjustments in different areas of our lives. As the New Year beckons us with a fresh start and many open doors, may you be able to discern which thresholds to step boldly across and may you have a steadfast companion to accompany you on your journey!
“Commit your way to the lord; trust in Him.” Psalm 37:5
The words we speak in our homes are so powerful. Words can be spoken in a way that edify and result in strengthening the connections we have with one another. Or our words can tear down and fray those tender threads that link us to our loved ones.
Words within a family carry underlying messages:
“I know you.” “You are meaningful to me.”
“I want to continue our story together.”
“We have something shared that’s unique to us.”
Not only the content, but the tone conveys so much….are we communicating warmth? criticism? rejection? belonging? This is a daily struggle. I have to be intentional DAILY in my choice of words, my timing, and especially my tone of voice. The words we have posted throughout our homes are as much for us as parents as they are for our children. They are reminders to maintain the peace, to speak truth, to be kind.
When we think about the “tapes” in our heads from our own childhood, what do we hear? Think back to those tender junior high lunch encounters, those rowdy high school band trips, those tension-filled college interviews. How many of those events had a word or phrase etched into the memory? How many of these were more negative than positive because it felt seared into us at the time?
The lines repeated to us the most and grooved into us are most likely from our closest family members and carved in deeply during intense interactions filled with highly charged emotions. What are we as parents instilling in our children’s heads? What tracks are we laying down? When our child is in a tough spot, does our voice pop in with an encouraging tone “you’ve got this!” or a negative tug “what did you do NOW?” Home is where we practice our words and reactions with one another. It’s where the training ground is for communication.
My husband and I have been working toward fostering a ‘no criticism’ buffer around our dinner table, redirecting and reminding our sons to rephrase negative statements they make to one another. Recently, we capitalized on a sermon we heard about not using a filter of negativity with one another. The pastor’s message was about how much we “filter” over our interactions, not being true and genuine, often putting a negative spin on others to cast ourselves in a better light. Since we heard this message as a family, I made a #nofilter reminder sign and place it in the center of our table. When this reminder was first invoked, my oldest son was particularly quiet throughout the meal. My middle son noticed this and complimented his brother on respecting the #nofilter rather than make critical comments to correct his younger siblings’ stories. We acknowledged both of their efforts and moved on, not dwelling on it. It’s a little reminder with a powerful impact: this time and place is a protected space to be yourself
The family dinner table is a small zone to cover, but so far seems manageable. It creates a safe zone when we all come together for a meal, especially if we’ve been scattered in different directions throughout a busy day. This safety zone invites us to linger a little longer over a meal because feelings aren’t being hurt by inadvertent comments or direct put-downs. It’s slowly becoming a family norm so we as parents don’t have to police the verbal barbs quite so much.
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11
One night shortly after starting this new routine, I served baked apples as a fall treat. I suggested to my youngest, who was my dinner helper, to come up with a quick family game. He chose “Apples to Apples” to coincide with our dinner. We did a 10-minute round of the game, which ended in a greater sense of family closeness and much laughter at my husband’s expense. (Now we have a new family catch phrase “Glitter hands!” that we can use as a tension breaker, but that’s another story!) I think I had more energy to prolong the dinner into a family activity because we hadn’t been refereeing negativity. It’s a simple shift in a specific family routine that hopefully will gradually extend into other interactions.
Where might your #nofilter zone be? At your dinner table? In the car? At bedtime? During school drop-off? The 30-minutes right after a child’s sporting event?