Thursday, September 23, 2010
Bigger Picture Moment: Like A River
On Tuesday, I believe I ran across my worst day of parenting thus far.
The day began innocently enough, with an overflowing dirty diaper which had been slept in and rolled around upon all night by my toddler. How she could rest in that mess boggles my mind. But, no matter. It wasn't anyone's fault; it was easily cleaned up, and thankfully without the payback of diaper rash to hinder our day.
And that was one of the high points of our day. The overflowing poop was a high point. It almost makes me cry to see that in writing. Because if poop was a highlight, the lowlights must have been like a black hole.
We had some fun activities planned -- baking banana bread and writing pen-pal letters -- which never quite materialized. Oh, we made the banana bread, and yes, had some fun doing so. But it burned during the time it took me to break up an argument about whose turn it was to throw all the pillows off the couch.
Early on, it became clear to me that our resident 2.5-year-old was having a record-breaking day of tantrums and whining and joyful rebellion. She was insanely badly behaved, by my standards. I couldn't get a grip on my patience, and therefore every little thing that went wrong quickly became disastrous.
Because I started yelling.
I hate yelling. It only makes things worse, which has never been more true than it was that day. I stomped around, threatening physical punishment (Which is just as bad as actually using physical punishment in that it accomplishes the same thing: control through fear. Which I don't want to do. Sigh.)
We ended the day with my sweet little (terror of a) toddler whispering as I left her dark bedroom: And tomorrow you won't be mad again?
I made no promises.
That night, though, I prayed. I prayed so deeply that I forgot what I was praying about, and it became more of a conversational monologue. I prayed for patience and understanding and creativity to get through the next day. Nothing beyond that. Only one day at a time.
But mostly, I begged forgiveness for losing myself so fully to the anger I'd let run unchecked through my day. I don't want my kids to be raised by a rampant, yelling mother. I don't want them to cower before me or behave because they're afraid of what I'll do in punishment. I do want obedience. But not like this.
The next morning, the tension in my neck had abated to a dull restlessness. I had high hopes. I prayed again, still hoping for some spiritual guidance to reach down from the heavens to bestow upon me the gift of patience and clear-headedness.
Instead, the morning was completely regular: fits and games, tantrums and peace, spread intermittently all around us.
But here was something different: there was a song running through my head, unbidden. It snuck in and made itself at home.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, a peace that was meant to be....
On it ran, singing its words through my mind, ringing soundly over one simple phrase. Let it begin with me.
I want it. And it can only begin with me. In my home, under my watchful eye. It begins with being patient with my children. It begins with not losing control of my temper when their choices are out of my control.
It begins with me. It travels to my children, and to their friends, and to their teachers, and to the entire world. That sounds like too large of a bite to take, but break it down, look at it carefully, and...
It's about the tone of my voice. It's about the fall of my foot. It's about the look in my eyes.
Let it begin with me.
Link your Bigger Picture Moment at Hyacynth's place this week -- we'd love to read your moments; big or small, all are welcome. I'll be hosting next week, so keep the Bigger Picture in mind until then!