I have been focusing on kind, compassionate love, starting with my children. It seems as though this might be an easy task but I would argue that this is more difficult than it sounds. The love I have for my boys is unconditional. I want the very best for my kids. I want them to enjoy being children, and my wish is that they grow into caring, compassionate, kind adults. I want them to grow through play, but also through slowly accumulating responsibility. I want them to learn to be self sufficient but to know when to ask for help as needed. There is a fine line to walk. I want them to live with love and joy but also to be respectful. This can often lead to the perception that we are "hard on them", expecting them to listen, to follow directions, and to make good choices while being kids.
There were evenings when I would go to bed feeling defeated. I felt like I'd spent the day battling with my kids. Days, when I had raised my voice too many times, when I felt like I was at the very end of my patience and spoken much too harshly. When I stepped back for a moment, I realized most of the things that were so frustrating to us all were because of my response to the situation. That was a shameful revelation. I am the adult and I do love them like crazy. How could I be speaking to them in a way that I wouldn't talk to anyone else? Speaking to them in a way that, if someone talked to me, I would be crushed. The guilt that brought on was devastating. This was NOT okay.
So what was causing the escalation?
1. The boys didn't understand what I needed them to do.
2. The boys didn't understand the relevance of the things I was asking of them.
3. I was losing my patience because of choices the kids were making without taking into consideration that they were making age appropriate kid decisions. Kids are not perfect nor are adults. Helping kids learn to make safe and appropriate decisions is very important but expecting them to make decisions using adult thought processes is ridiculous. My seven year old does not have the capacity to make the decisions of a 35 year old man (it could be argued that 35 year old men don't always make great decisions but I digress) and my 4 year old cannot make the decisions that his big brother can work through.
Scripture is my husband's world, not mine. I know, I know, it is accessible to everyone but I tend to get overwhelmed by it all. I often feel like because I don't know the history or the context, I won't understand the meaning. As I said, this is P's profession and gift and it's no secret that I often seek both God and spiritual inspiration and fulfillment in other ways and places.
That being said, I began to think about some words that are frequently quoted, "Love is patient. Love is kind." That's it. Simple. Straightforward. It happens to be half of 1 Corinthians 13:4 but that is not the point. The point is
Love is patient.
I am love.
Love is kind.
I am love.
I am practicing loving kindness in words and actions and I am starting in my own home. I would say that our house was already filled with love but I can feel the shift this has made.
It seems so easy but it does take some discipline for me. When all I want to do is lose my cool, I stop for a second to think about my perception versus what is really happening. For instance, this morning I told Micah 212 times to get his brand new, fancy, blue winter jacket on for school. I tried being nonchalant, asking gently, demanding, explaining, lifting him to his feet to put it on him, and letting him put it on himself. During this exchange he turned to Jello, dropped to the floor, and had a meltdown. He deteriorated from whining, to crying, to howling. We were now late for preschool and my patience was hanging on by a very fine thread. I felt like I was one second away from shouting at him in anger. Micah doesn't respond to being yelled at (which is true of most kids). He cries and digs in his heels. I know this. We've repeated this problem a hundred times.
My perception - Micah is being completely obstinate. Doesn't he know that he is going to freeze in his sweatshirt and shorts while he is in his nature classroom this morning? They spend an hour outside and it is 28 degrees. We are already 15 minutes late to school. Grrrrr. I hate being late. I bought this expensive jacket and he won't wear it because he's being ridiculous and ungrateful. I've asked him a a hundred times why he doesn't like it and he just won't tell me.
The reality - Micah is 4 years old. The coat is new, a little big, and doesn't feel like his old one. He has always been sensitive to clothing and is very opinionated about how things feel. He is unhappy and doesn't have the language to tell me exactly what the problem is. He can't see how putting his coat on will help keep him warm for the next 60 minutes. He doesn't understand seasons. He believes that because it is sunny out, it must be warm. He has no concept of time and so "being late" has no meaning for him. He has no concept of value and so doesn't understand that the coat was expensive and that he is lucky to have a warm coat that fits. He just knows that he feels the most comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. He also has very little control over things and this is something that he can express his will about.
In that brief moment, Micah's behavior has not changed. My perception, however, is different and therefore my reaction can be adjusted. I let go of the time constraints. It does not matter if he is late to preschool. If we take the time to address the concern today, over time, this situation will get easier and we will likely be able to reduce the time it takes to get dressed and out the door. I can't change the fact that he doesn't like how it feels but I can adjust the clothing under the coat to try and help him feel better. I can't change that he doesn't understand the season and the weather but I can shift the focus a bit. I had already taken him outside to show him how cold it was, time for plan B. I pulled up the weather app on my phone and showed him that the "temperature" was "in the 2s" (28 degrees). I told him that if the first number was in the 1s, 2s, or 3s it was long pants and warm jackets and if the first number was in the 4s, 5s, 6s, or 7s he could wear shorts and a sweatshirt.
Don't get me wrong, he was still upset, grumpy and dragging his feet on the walk but the end goal was completed. He was at preschool, in the appropriate attire for outdoor play, and it didn't take me losing my patience with him. Was I frustrated? Of course. Was he upset with the outcome? Likely, but when I picked him up from school, he was happy and dancing around. When love is practiced in this way it also demonstrates respect. Respect for the way each person perceives a situation and respect for people's individual differences.
|photo courtesy of Vance Briceland|
All of the little win/wins add up. I wake up with determination to be a mom and wife filled with love that is patient and kind. My goal is to be able to lay down at the end of the day with patience still intact and satisfaction that my family knows how much they are loved. That they are loved beyond measure through both my words and my actions. My hope for them is to shine this love and respect into the world in their own ways.
|Photo courtesy of Jamie Collins|