Parenting is so hard. I’m feeling it lately, heavy on my shoulders. These dog days of summer are starting to bark and nip at my heels & the heat makes them mean. It’s 2016, which means I don’t have to pretend that I love every minute of it—neither do you. At least not here.
Lucy learned that in some households, children may stick out their tongues at parents. She also learned that our household is not one of them. Atticus has taken to turning the stove knobs on and off—I swear to God. I. Swear. To. God. My jaw is tight just writing it. We caught one of them peeing in the bird bath. Who does that?!
So yes, tensions are high and tempers are hot. Which means we are rotating these little emotional and behavioral ice packs on and off every fifteen minutes, just like the doctor ordered.
1. Breathe. Just breathe. We always inhale first. I get down to their level, hold their hands and beg them to breathe. Four counts in, hold until you need to exhale. Four counts out. As our lungs fill up with air we physically grow, we feel stronger and more capable of Love. Rae, who hyperventilates when things don’t go well for her, puts her face into her lovey animal and breathes deep, good breaths. I love breathing.
2. Pray. Lucy likes this one. “God please help me find good words.” I wish I was as brave and self-aware as she sometimes is; I tell myself that breathing is prayer.
3. Use words. Use words. Use words. “What are your words?” I ask them (and myself) this question at least twenty times a day.
4. Take a break. I created a safe space with pillows and a rug, away from the common areas in our house, for them to be whoever they need to be. That’s where they get to:
5. Hit a pillow.
6. Yell into a pillow or lovey animal.
7. Hug/love their bodies and their anger/fear/sadness.
9. Rip up paper, that they must then clean up.
10. Color a picture of their feelings on paper (and sometimes on walls).
11. Identify feelings. It’s always fear, ps.
12. Finish meals they refuse to eat at the table.
13. Think about an unloving offense, think about what they should have done instead, and think about how they will make it right.
It’s not fair to the rest of us to have to hear your yelling, but I believe yelling helps. Go take break and yell into the pillow.
You may not disrespect your sister by spitting bell peppers at her, but you may go hit a pillow.
You may not stick your tongue out at me (I say while tightly holding her tiny pink tongue). But you may go color a picture to show me how you feel. Go take a break.
You may not sit here at the table ruining our dinner time. Please go finish eating in the take-a-break corner. Or, find your joy and we would love to continue eating with you at the table.
If you’re not ready to apologize for pouring my coffee into the house plant, then go take a break until you are ready.
I usually ask them to pick two or three of the anger-easing icepacks on that list; they know all the options by heart and pick their options accordingly. LP likes to breath, pray, and hit the pillow. Rae breathes and smiles while ripping up paper. Atticus stomps.
Creating helps store the energy of anger somewhere other than our heart, so I like to color, arrange flowers and write. Writing letters to anger helps, too.
Dear Anger, Thank you for showing up, but I am not in danger and there’s nothing for you to defend or protect. No bears charging my children, no robber breaking in, nobody is punching me. Please stand down and back the fuck up.
Many of us learned that acting angry as a kid was a bad thing, that having a voice at all was a bad thing. I’m trying so hard to raise children who have freedom and power and voices, which often means they’re using those voices at me.
Parenting is wearisome work, a constant treading. We all feel the glory, the wonder, the honor of holding a little human. Sometimes though, if feels like we are drowning. The more we allow for the submersion, the less scary is becomes. The more we allow our worth to stand grounded in God, the less we care about their tantrums, and our own.