|“Switch Jammies” Night was quite a hit.|
Joe was yelling his displeasure in the car. He wanted to play hockey and, mean old mum that I am, I would not allow it because we were late. I buckled him in his car seat while he shrieked and cried. Anne sat in her booster seat, fingers in her ears.
“Mum! Why don’t you YELL AT HIM and make him stop?”
I was close to yelling at him, I admit. I was flustered and tired. I am also 14 months pregnant and my fuse? It be short.
But when she said that, I saw how she had been yelling at him to stop things. How she had taken to slamming doors in his face and refusing to share her toys. How she was using intimidation to rule him, sighing like a martyr when she had to endure his very toddler-ness. Mirrors aren’t always pleasant, are they?
And even though those things are normal, I don’t really like normal sometimes.
Instead, I paused the day. Who cares if I’m 5 minutes late? (Only me.) This is the nice part of being home in this season; I can always take the time for the moment at hand. It seems that tinies (and teenagers) rarely have their life crisis or “teaching opportunity” when it’s convenient. A bit of margin to look in the mirror and admit that you’ve been handling things wrong, that it’s time for a course-correction is necessary.
So I talked Joe down off the ledge. He just needed to feel heard. He needed to know I was paying attention to him, that I was connected. Once I did that, he was fine. And he said “Sorry, Mummy, for yelling.”
Small victories. For us both.
I want my mothering to reflect the same love, freedom and wholeness that I receive from God. I want to parent them the way that God has parented me.
I don’t want to govern by fear or intimidation. I don’t want to make decisions because I’m afraid of what people will think or say about me or them. I yearn to be a voice of truth and passion, love and justice, giving them hands and hearts to serve instead of being the harried woman in the front seat, barking orders and threats.
I don’t want to be the worst kind of servant, the kind that heaves sighs from one’s feet like a hormonal teenager asked to empty the dishwasher, so that they always feel like the biggest inconvenience of my day. I want them to know that I delight in them, that there is nowhere I’d rather be than here, living life with them.
I want my life to be an example, a wide and straight path to follow for a generous life.
“I don’t yell at him, Anne, because yelling is wrong.”
There. I said it. And trust me, they hold me to it.
“If it’s wrong for you to yell at Joe, it’s wrong for me to yell at him, isn’t it? If I want you to use your words to love, then my words have to love, too.
There isn’t one right thing for kids and one right thing for adults, you know.
I know it’s wrong for him to yell but it would be just as wrong for me to yell right back, wouldn’t it?
I need to teach him a better way.”
She was thoughtful. (And Joe was listening.)
“Then I guess I shouldn’t yell at Joe, either?”
She turned to him and seriously informed him that she was sorry for yelling at him. And did he want to play Barbies when we got home?
Small victories. For us both.
(And, no, we don’t spank.)