I finally finished the bible study for the book Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst (again, I’m not important enough to get paid to say things like that). To say that I changed during this study would be an understatement of huge proportions. I’m not sure when God changed me through it; there were a few aha moments during the study, but there isn’t a definitive moment where I can say “that changed me”.
And really, that’s how it works. Though, as a society, I believe we want stories with a clear moment where we awoke from our slumber. They are more interesting; more hopeful, perhaps. I’ve come to realize that lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process; sometimes it’s slower than we want, but it’s a process nonetheless. I remembered thinking, as I was surrounded by these women, my friends, that I honestly couldn’t figure out why they were doing the study. They were so…together, while here I sat thinking “I hope they never know how much more I need this study than they do!” I’m a yeller of epic proportions; I always have been. I couldn’t even remember a time where I handled something stressful in an appropriate manner.
Then I had this day, and I woke up anew. I cannot recall what prompted it, though I’ve tried. And after that day, each day got even better. I responded to the kids differently. When The Little One would whine, I redirected her. I laughed. I tickled her. I stopped saying “no” to things that didn’t really require a “no”.
And it worked, especially stopping the automatic ‘no’s. Saying yes more prevented me from a situation where I said no to something trivial and then backed down out of sheer exhaustion. This not only prevented tantrums, but it allowed me to be more consistent. There were fewer standoffs between us, replaced by more silly fun.
It should be common sense that yelling back at a toddler gets you nothing but an escalating temper tantrum, but it wasn’t. I couldn’t see my role in the chaos in the house, even though in retrospect, my reactions to The Little One were probably 80% of the issue. I’ve said quite often that I don’t feel like I’m not good enough, because I’m just me. If I’m doing my best, that’s all I can do. I don’t have the same strengths as other people do, I have my own. I cling to this and it keeps me sane.
It never once occurred to me to think the same way in regards to the kids.
It’s no secret that The Oldest One was an easygoing, lovely, friendly and polite child; she still is. The Little One isn’t; she never was, and I don’t anticipate a major personality change anytime soon. She’s more difficult and has been since my second trimester when my pregnancy deteriorated to a life-threatening state. So, knowing this, why do I consistently put her in situations that are too much for her and then get frustrated when she doesn’t behave the way The Oldest One did? The Little One has her own strengths; she’s incredibly strong-willed and advanced in a hands-on way. Her problem-solving is incredible for her age. Patience is not her strong suit; it may never be. And really, it’s not her job to acclimate to what I can handle. It’s MY job, as her mother, to customize my parenting style to HER needs.
I slowly realized this. And even before I did, I felt myself saying it in bible study. It’s funny when God speaks through you; when what you are saying makes so much sense you know it couldn’t possibly have come from you. This happens to me frequently.
They say the best way to change someone is to change yourself first, and that’s what I inadvertently did. By changing my reactions, the meltdowns became fewer and further between. And when they did happen, I could deescalate them much more quickly. My husband frequently commented on how impressed he was, which gave me more drive to keep it up.
There are still times where I want to scream into my handbag, like the woman on the cover of the Unglued book. I’m sure there will be in the future; and really, even THAT is progress, because I’m no longer yelling at the kids, or my husband, or the door frame that jumped out and stubbed my innocent toe.
And it’s not just our home life that has improved; The Little One’s daycare director mentioned today that they’ve seen remarkable growth in her behavior over the last two months.
Will there still be meltdowns? Absolutely. She’s a strong willed two year old, after all. Now, though, I am more conscientious of the triggers. Is she past her nap time? Am I?
The biggest thing I learned was that even if someone looks like they have it all together doesn’t mean they aren’t mentally screaming into their purse. To think that those around us are better at it all than we are is brutally unfair to us and them. Strangely, being surrounded by women that all struck me as perfect mothers was reassuring to me. I wasn’t too far gone to make changes, and it wasn’t the impossible feat it appeared to be. It’s a daily, imperfect progress.
And that? Y’all, that is an attainable goal.