Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A little something I've gotten wrong a thousand times.

Jen and I don't line up theologically very often these days,
but this is good, practical counsel.

A little something I've gotten wrong a thousand times. Parents are human people, which was a strange thing to figure out as an adult. I never thought of my parents as real people - they were just parents whose job was to center their lives around me. 

But now I know: human beings. Prone to all the ordinary, awful things humans are prone to - anger, exhaustion, frustration, disappointment, fury. It's no joke trying to rise to your highest self during this parenting gig day in and day out. Nothing has held up a mirror to my best and worst self more than parenting. Not even marriage.

I've found a few tips to avoid the meltdown, the mom eruption:

Walk away. Seriously. Go to your room. It'll keep.

Take very, very deep breaths and count to 22. I don't know why 22. But I'm usually better by then.

Send your cherub to his or her room before saying any more words. It'll keep.

Stop talking until you've put a snack and two drinks on the table between you and the offending child. Something about a shared table can flip a switch. Just dump some cookies on a plate. At the very least, it will freak your kid out.

Just quietly leave the place. Your kid coming unhinged at the park? Load up calmly and go home. Your silence and resolve make it clear who the adult in the room is.

Start singing. The more absurd the song, the better. It will shock your kid out of their spiral and will absolutely make them laugh after a minute or two, no matter how hard they try.

Just stare blankly and steadily at the kid. Whatever crazy awful thing just came out of his or her mouth deserves a long, uncomfortable, silent stare. This is a game of chicken. Don't lose.

Get a q-tip and start cleaning out your ears. Tell your child: "Wow, I must really need to clean these suckers out, because I am positive I didn't just hear what I think I heard out of your mouth. Let me get these silly things back in working order and REALLY hear what you have to say."

Feeling less whimsical than that? Try this: "You get exactly one do-over on what you just said. I will erase your first version completely and replace it with this new one you are about to try. Take two. You get one second chance. Make it count."

Last, sometimes we know the kids are exhausted or stressed or ten hard things have compiled and they just snap. We get this. We do this too. So when it makes sense, offer crazy, unexpected, unearned grace. Don't try to resolve the thing. Don't try to tie it with a bow. Don't wait for them to fix it or be sorry or admit their error. Just absolutely let them off the hook, tell them how much you love them and you're sorry they are having such a bad day, and let it go entirely. I've seen this work almost more than anything else. When kids get a pardon instead of a sentence without deserving it, they can hardly believe it.

We can do this, mamas. And when we blow it, we apologize and move on. IT'S THE BEST WE CAN DO. Grace. Let there be grace.

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