I’ve been a little reluctant to post this week. After the excitement surrounding our parenting breakthroughs with Eli, I got a little unrealistic and almost expected that all our battles would cease and life would be all zen and slow motion to a moving soundtrack. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.
We had battles over getting dressed, battles over watching shows, battles over Hudson being helpful and trying to bring Eli his milk in the morning (he was rewarded with a swift kick for that one), battles over Hudson being allowed to play more on the Tablet than Eli (after time had been taken away for some infraction), battles over Hudson not jumping over the imaginary fence in the living room when he wanted to just walk over to Eli. And I get sucked into all of them, to the point where I find myself pleading with Hudson to just jump over the ‘fence’ so we can preserve the fragile peace.
I’m still finding the emotional toll of the relational interactions tough. I’m still struggling not to automatically withdraw when harsh words are directed at me. I still take things way too personally when the wails at bedtime begin when whichever unlucky sucker finds out they drew the ‘mummy card’.
After a particularly trying morning when it took almost the entirety of my will and energy to herd the kids into the car, we escaped to Savers. So many times I was tempted to just give into the intensity of the current and pull the plug on the outing, but we persevered and I am so glad that we did. Somehow just getting into the car and pulling out of the driveway pushes the magical ‘reset’ button for us all. By the time we arrived at Savers, the world seemed a friendly place once more. I motored through the aisles, scoring bargain after bargain for the kids’ Christmas stockings while they immersed themselves in the wall of toys.
There are some moments that you know will stick with you forever. It was in the boys’ clothes aisle and Eli and Hudson were asking me if they could please, please choose a toy from the wall when an older European lady walked past and smiled. “You have three beautiful boys”, she said. “Thank you”, I replied, though quickly explaining that Ivy was ambiguously dressed in blue but that she was actually a girl! The lady shared with me how she has four children all grown up now, but that life is just so different on the other side. She remembered well the chaos and stress of the early years, but admitted that she was so lonely now in comparison. Her children still called her every day and visited for a big fortnightly family meal, grandchildren coming in and out regularly, but oh how she missed those days that passed so quickly! I shared how difficult our morning had been, but how comforting it was to hear that sentiment from her. To gain that perspective in the midst of our whirlwind of chaos was just what I needed.
Last night we had House Church at our place. Dwain, Caryn, Dan, Dave and I savoured hot fudge sundaes and chocolate together while sharing vulnerably and deeply about our hopes, frustrations, battles and fears. It is amazing how inspiring and life changing a simple shared conversation in a safe space can be where no questions are scorned, no feelings looked down on, and no battle too shameful to discuss together. More and more, Dave and I are realising that it is in these moments, not the dutiful Sunday gatherings, that souls are reformed and friendships cemented. We are changed immeasurably when we open ourselves up to each other, choosing to shed the masks that we keep firmly in place most of the time.
There were two sentiments that struck me as we laughed in helplessness over our current reactions to parenting battles. One, that there can be no winner in any battle with a child (or anyone for that reason). It is merely a power struggle which can easily turn to violence when either party becomes sufficiently frustrated. If we wish to avoid the battles we, as the parents (supposedly with self-control), have to be the ones to abdicate power and choose a relational approach that expresses the hurt and damage at a time where the child is more likely to hear it. Two, that gratitude can be a significant weapon against the struggle of anger, frustration, and tunnel visioned perspective. The difficulty is that this has to be practiced and learned over and over (rewiring the brain) for it to have any real effect.
Knowing these nuggets is one thing, living them is the hard part. I’ve already failed this morning in heading into battle mode as my first response. But the gratitude approach- noticing Hudson’s tongue slightly protruding in fierce concentration as he whisks the pancake mixture, seeing Ivy’s cheesy two-teethed grin and arms flapping wildly as she expresses her excitement at the breakfast table, appreciating Eli’s thoughtful caring for Gus as he makes a bed for him in his room and talks to him in a soothing voice, listening to Ivy’s enthusiastic ‘Da-da!’ when she catches a glimpse of Dave, being able to log into our online banking account and have enough money to pay bills, savouring sips of my piccolo latte in a peaceful cafe as Dave wrangles the kids at home- all these truths pile up within me until there is no angst anymore.
Life is an incredible gift but that doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, exhausting and chaotic. Before I know it, I will be the older lady at Savers wistfully celebrating a bygone era…. So I’m choosing to notice those fleeting moments now.