Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Who Put These Brick Walls in My Padded Room?!?

Living in a household full of girls has its advantages. It's really a lot of fun, but every so often, the kids grow into a new phase of "fun." (Nudge, nudge ... get it?) The first few weeks of those new phases always throw everyone for a bit of a loop. On the younger end of the scale, ornery snarkiness ensues. Life plummets into a pit of woe unmatched and completely impossible for anyone but my poor girls to understand. (Who knew that there were TWO such heinous pits? Worse yet, that they could both coexist in my front room or the kids' bedroom or the bathroom ... They sort of roam -- usually simultaneously.) Perhaps because they are each settling into their own mobile cave of sorrows, the girls feel a need -- once firmly entrenched -- to shout loudly enough that the other pit-dweller will hear every snippy word. Occasionally, the pits collide, unleashing a whole new attitude about the one who dares disrupt the joy of personal woe. Let's face it; sometimes it's like walking through 900 square feet of emotional landmines.

I'm ashamed to say that during these first few weeks, it's rather easy to get caught up in the emotional baggage of the whole thing. One would think that after ten years of being a mom -- and with the consistency of the new phase adjustment thing -- I'd be prepared for the next upcoming onslaught, but somehow, it always surprises me. During this occasional adjustment, it's easy to feel off kilter. In fact, there are times that I feel like they've hauled me to the funny farm, only instead of the lovely padded room we've all been taught to expect, I'm the victim of budget cut-backs and they've had to make-do with bricks.

It seems to get worse as the kids are getting older. It used to be that when we hit these phases, I could at least talk to them -- sometimes even reason with them. Now though, it seems like every time we hit a new phase, two little sets of ears just plumb fall off. My words, that once bounced gently off the padded walls, now implode upon impact. It's almost as if they only exist in my head.

The remedy is still the same. Step back, remind myself that I'm supposed to be the adult and that tantrums aren't attractive in a three year old -- they're hideously unattractive on a thirty-five year old, and shift my own perspective so that I can remain calm and cheerful in spite of the roaming pits of despair. It seems that both before I refocus and after, there's a lot of praying that heaven will help us and God will grant me patience. It's a process, and I think, that with more than a little divine intervention, we'll all -- mostly -- cheerfully survive ...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dear Easily Offendeds,

I am taking back perspective on my own life. I have decided that the effort of constantly figuring out what wrong I may have committed to offend or upset you this time is too heavy a burden. What's more, it's not really mine to bear. Being offended is a choice, and while I will be sincerely sorry for the offenses that I commit -- intended or unintended, I cannot carry the weight or bitterness of that choice when you make it. I have my own burdens to bear. And quite frankly, I am more minutely aware of my flaws than you will ever be.

Contrary to what you may think, I don't actually live my life in an effort to offend you. Neither do my children. To the best of my knowledge, none of us have actually ever claimed to be perfect in living what we believe. We are simply doing the best we can with what we have to work with. Unfortunately that means there will be times when we fall short.

By the same token, I don't live my life looking for reasons to be offended by you either. I don't spend my time passing judgement on your choices, attitudes, or behavior. The fact that you use mine to work yourself into a snit, while frustrating, is no longer my concern. You don't have to like me or my kids. I'll keep treating you kindly and teaching my kids to do the same. I'll continue to teach them that we all have our own choices and that we don't determine what's okay for everyone else.

I've decided that I don't have to take on your insecurities in an attempt to make you feel better. I don't have to parent in a style that is less than what I feel my children need because you don't like our choices. I don't have to change our standards of modesty, manners, and entertainment to ease whatever irritation it causes you. I will teach my children to respect your choices, but I will not lower my expectations for myself or my children in order to do so. I won't be offended by your offendedness, but I'm certainly not going to offer to carry it for you either.

We're all sent here with our own kind of light. I believe that God means for us to shine. Unfortunately, a burned out light bulb is most obvious when it blows out in a dark room. If we're reaching for the stars and doing our best, then our shortcomings are, by nature, going to be more obvious. I believe in Christ's atonement. I believe that He has atoned for any flub-ups that I have made or will make. He doesn't pin me down with my human frailties, and if you want to, well, you're going to have to get a cardboard cut-out. I'll be too busy living my life to linger in your scorn ...



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My M ...

My M has always loved to be in the middle of things. She loves people, and she loves to have fun. It will likely come as no surprise that sometimes, she'd rather play than sit down and eat her dinner. Tonight was no different. Although she had plenty of food and 40 minutes in which to eat it, she was more interested in playing than in eating. Not only that, but she decided after 20 minutes that she was full and wanted to save the second half of her food in the fridge for another time. Life continued, she decided she wanted to play at a friend's house, and time passed. Fast forward until 8:35 ish ...

M was hungry -- tragically, tear-jerkingly, meltdown inducingly hungry. (We're not going to mention the twinkie she ate at her friend's house or the crackers that I offered and she turned down. :) Because well, that might make it seem like she was just overwrought because 4th graders occasionally get worked up that way.) I did let her have a small bag of cereal out of the snack basket, but by then, she was in a true snit that she didn't get to eat her bowl of chili in her bed since it was after bedtime.

After great woe and a phone call to her dad to pour out her misery, she informed me that she needed me to help her calm down. (Admittedly, there was a part of me that was pleased that she recognized that she was being unreasonable and she needed to calm down.) I told her that she could think of her happy thoughts, say a prayer, and sing a primary (gospel) song. She walked down the hall. (Always a good sign -- it means that we're no longer upset enough to stomp huffily ... )

A couple minutes later, M came back out -- again. She asked for a paper so that she could write down her happy thoughts. A sweet voice of reason penetrated my own huffy "just get in bed!!" attitude and prompted me to ask her where her journal was. She wasn't sure, but luckily, I happened to know where the diary she got just before that was. (Yes, I'm the mom who keeps getting my kids journals because each time I do, they write a few pages and draw some things. I figure that something is better than nothing and that they, and their children, will be thankful to have it someday ... )

After retrieving her diary, my sweet M read an entry she'd written before the cats found a new home. It made her little heart break all over again, but then she read an entry where she'd copied a verse from the Bible into her diary. She had to come out to tell me that she'd felt so much better after reading it. As she was speaking, you could literally see an epiphany forming. Suddenly, she burst out with, "Mom, I know what would help me feel better! Reading my scriptures will make me feel better." She grabbed her scriptures and headed back into her room. She wrote in her diary about what happened with dinner and then listed her happy thoughts.

Finally, she read an entire chapter in the Bible. Since she was little, she has loved the story of when Jesus was tempted. When she wants to read, that is often where she turned, and tonight was no different. She was excited though that this time she actually read the whole chapter by herself. She was calm and happy and ready to settle in for the night.

What a blessing that my sweet girl is learning that peace can be found in the scriptures. I love that the story she often turns to is one that is specifically about the Savior and a challenge that He faced. How I hope that she will continue to draw near to Him when her heart is bruised!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Things my kids have learned so far this year ...

* To make oatmeal
* To make grits
* To make a variety of sandwiches
* To safely use the microwave
* How to measure liquids
* How to measure brown sugar
* How to safely stir hot things on the stove
* How to wash the dishes they need if what they need isn't clean
* To brush their own hair every morning (Up until now, it's been a bit of a battle ... )
* That tangles don't take over your head when you brush your hair regularly
* To do basic hairstyles in their own hair
* Where babies come from (Yes, in detail -- they asked and they're both over eight. Besides, you've heard some of the things they hear at school. They need to know. I followed it up by telling them that while they can talk to me about anything, anytime, they need to not talk to their friends about it because their friends' moms will no longer want them to come for play dates if they talk about stuff like that.)
* About sex changes and what our beliefs about them are (see A Doozy of a 4th Grade Day )
* To run their own bath water
* To consistently crack eggs
* The difference between wet and dry ingredients
* That wet and dry ingredients often have to be kept separate
* To stand up for what's right, even when those around them are not

I realized today that there are a lot of little, everyday milestones in the girls' lives that I don't make note of. While there may not be a need to remember all the little details, I'm finding that these little things add up to build the foundation of who my girls will one day be. I find that I want to be able to look back on those details and to see how they work into the Lord's plans for my kids. I'm proud of my girls and the people they are now. I'm just as pleased at the indications of who they are becoming. They're not perfect, but then which of us is? Their momma is definitely a flawed character in many of her own ways. ;) But they're amazing! Bright, vibrant, and strong. When I see them, I see God's love for me, and I'm so thankful that he's allowed me to be a part of their eternity ...