Friday, November 11, 2011

Of Pretzels, Parenting and Mother Teresa

I don't often get to spend a lot of one on one time with William.
He always wants to be with James, so if you get one, you usually get the other.
But this weekend, James and Lilly wanted to go on an errand with Daddy and William wanted to stay home with me.
David was asleep so I thought, "bingo!  Only 1 kid on the premises, I'm going to lay down and read a book."
William wanted to make pretzels.
I wanted to say no.
I really did.
This was my chance.
Didn't he know the week that I just had?
Didn't he care that I needed a break?
No, he didn't.
All he wanted to do was make some pretzels to surprise James and he needed his mommy to help him.
So, we made pretzels.

So now that I've got myself looking like the most selfless mom of the month, let me tell you why I gave up some me time to have a little me and Will time.
Last week wasn't just hard on me.
It was hard on William, too.
The boy feels things, passionately.
And his reactions to things are evidence of that fact.
And when he is hungry, tired or sick, those reactions are even more....passionate.
I grew weary of these passionate outbursts.
So many in a day.
Until really, there were moments when I wanted to shake him hard and say, "just knock it off, will you!"
I wanted to yell back, have a tempter tantrum, show no understanding for the way he was feeling and certainly not have the patience to help him deal with those feelings in an appropriate way.
I wanted to act just like him.

Things reached a crescendo when William asked Lilly not to sit so close to him.
She, of course, moved closer.
Oh that girl knows how to push his buttons.
He yelled.
She yelled back.
And he ran from the room yelling even louder.
I couldn't make out the exact words, but they were something to the effect of him being so sick of this.
That sounded awfully familiar.
How many times had I told him he couldn't respond like that?
A million?
And that was just today.
I was so sick of this.
I went after him.

Placing my hands on his shoulders, and looking right into his angry eyes, I said, "William, I do not want to be angry with you right now.  I don't want to yell at you and I don't want you to be in trouble again.  But your actions are making it so hard for me to be patient with you.  You can't run away yelling and having a fit every time something goes wrong."
His face was hard.
His body was tense and he wanted so desperately to pull away from me.
I went on, "I just want to give you a hug William.  Just give me a hug back and we'll get through this, OK?"
I pulled him close and without warning, he threw his arms around my neck.
And squeezed.
He squeezed so hard he was shaking.

And in that moment I felt all the frustrations and anger filling his heart.
And in his, I felt my own.
And I knew we were the same.

Sometimes we just want a hug.
We don't want someone to tell us we've messed up again.
We don't want to hear how we were wrong.
We want someone on our side.
We want to be loved.

I could have punished him again--my first inclination.
I could have yelled, "you are not allowed to act like this! I'm sick of the way you are acting!"--my inclination at the end of a long day.
I could have let him sit on his bed and "work it out" while kicking the wall--never my inclination really, although tempting when I grow weary of dealing with the same problem again and again.
But none of those things would have been best for William.

So I listened to the inclination of the Holy Spirit instead.
He is always there to guide, but I don't follow often enough.
And He said, "love him."

It seems simple enough.
So why is it easier to come down hard when my children are acting up?
I know that is not the thing they need.
They don't need my anger or displeasure.
They need my love.
"A harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle answer turns away wrath."
How many times must I relearn this lesson?

You see, there had never been a better day for me to see myself in William.
My 35 year old self in his 5 year old self.
Because there were some  shameful moments when I was no different than a 5 year old.
William was tired of his little sister bugging him, feeling yucky, drawings that weren't working out and all the other significant frustrations of his 5 year old world.
I was tired of cranky kids, housework never done, sleepless nights and no time for myself.
We were the same.
I was shaking with frustration, too.
And when I fell on my bed, crying to God for patience and grace, He gave it to me.
He sent me sweet reminders of His love and faithfulness.
Like I spoke of here.
Oh yes, they convicted me.
But it was gentle.
It was done in love.

And that is the kind of parent I need to be.
One more like my Heavenly Father.
I don't want to push my boy so far away from me in my anger that he will no longer to choose to throw his arms around me when he is hurting.
Instead, I want to draw him to me.
I don't want to stir up anger.
I want to turn it away.
And that's why we made pretzels together.

The pretzels were not very good.
In fact, they were pretty awful.  (bad recipe--cheater pretzels--not the real deal)
But William didn't care.
He loved having the time with me.
He loved me taking all kinds of pictures of just him.
He loved having a surprise waiting for his brother.
We had fun together.
And we're already planning on making some real pretzels together next week. (these ones)
As I was sorting through the emotions and lessons learned over the past week or 2, I found myself returning to the book, Give Them Grace.
Have you read it yet?
I often pick it up for encouragement when I am feeling spent.
I was struck by the words in chapter 4 about confessing our sin to our children.
"Please forgive me for forgetting that you and I are just the same.  We both sin."
I am not advocating that we act as if our children have done nothing wrong.
I am advocating that when they have we remember our own frustrations, bitterness, pride, anger, hurt and discomfort as we talk with them about their own.
How do we handle those things in our own life?
Do we do it right every time?
I don't.
We admit our failures to them because they see them more than anyone else does anyway.
God gives us grace again and again.
I must show that same grace to my kids.

And then, as I was researching quotes about home for this post, I discovered some quotes by Mother Teresa. 
They are so beautiful and each one speaks to where I am on this journey of motherhood.
I hope they encourage your heart just as they did mine. Enjoy.

By Mother Teresa
"Love begins by taking care of the closest ones - the ones at home."

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."

"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family."

"Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well."

And my favorite:
"Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness."

I am so thankful for gentle reminders to love more.
"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
1 John 3:18

Hope your weekend is full of much love.
And maybe pretzels?
Love from,


Anonymous said...

Once again Greta, you have brought me to tears. Not the sweet kind that roll down your face, but the huge ones that make you crinkle up your entire nose and look deformed.

Thank you for this.

I have struggled with Kensington all week and I needed to read this.

She is so precious and when I just yell at her and she looks at me in fear, I break her.
And I don't want to.
I want to have grace and love and a gentle answer.
So gentle.

Thank you.

katie said...

Thanks, Greta. Beautiful words of encouragement for a very tired and impatient mom. : )

Anonymous said...

Oh Greta. This is so beautiful. I love, love, love it. Thank you for sharing this with me.

Betsi* said...

Preach that gospel grace, friend. Loved this. As we've said before, my Isaac is so like your William, the most difficult and the most fragile of my kids. Thank you for the reminder!

Adrian said...

This post really hit home for me. I have had a rough week with my boys being sick and my husband out of town. I have been struggling with my oldest and as I was reading this I began to cry. I haven't been loving him the way he needs me to. I've been harsh and I've yelled. He's been in time out more times than I can count, but really he just needs me to hold him. Thank you so much for this. Because really it's so true, sometimes we just need to be held and we just need a hug. Really truly, Thank you.

Anonymous said...

My son is also...passionate. We had the most dreadful morning. He was angry, I was grumpy, everyone was frustrated, the baby was sick, we were running late and snapping at each other.

Thank you for this post. I didn't pull him close to be this morning, but I should have. Tonight, I will.

Thank you.