I am a big believer in the effectiveness of modeling as a parenting tool.
Well, wait a second. That's a silly way to say it. Sort of like saying, "I'm a big believer in the effectiveness of breathing for the purposes of respiration."
Modeling is effective whether I believe in it or not.
Let me try again. In the past year, I've become much more tuned in to the behaviors and approaches to life that I am modeling for my children, and I have made a great effort to be extremely mindful of what I am teaching them through the behaviors and responses I model for them on a daily basis. (That's better, right?)
I am an extremely emotional person. It is no surprise to me then that one of my children is also extremely emotional. Dacey is my Mini Me - not so much in appearance, but definitely in personality. Around the time she turned four, I realized that I would need to focus in earnest on teaching her how to manage the many big feelings she experienced daily.
As I sought out ways to teach my daughter, it became obvious to me that I needed to better learn how to manage my own big feelings.
Although I wasn't raised in a home where happiness is the only acceptable emotion, I also wasn't taught many coping skills for anger and frustration as a child. I'm more prone to stuffing anger down until it comes out in a big, ugly explosion. I know all too well what it feels like to experience seeing that in a parent, and it is not something I wanted to repeat (and model) for my own children.
One tool that has been extremely helpful for me is the "time-in." It's very simple to utilize. When I start getting cues from my internal anger reader that an outburst is impending, I tell the girls, "Mama needs some time-in time." And I go sit on my bed and engage in some self-talk to try to get things in perspective, acknowledging the factors that are causing anger and frustration for me while trying to get my mind re-focused on The Big Picture.
When I am in time-in, usually one or both of the girls wants to come with me. Sometimes I tell them, "I need a time-in and some space. I'll be out in a minute." But oftentimes I welcome them to come sit with me. I practice taking deep breaths. And almost always, I pray before I get up: "God, I am so thankful that You are bigger than my feelings. Help me experience Your peace."
Photo by seantoyer
Planting seeds is a laborious process. The time between the planting and the bearing of fruit is time of hope and expectation, but also a time of worry and concern. What if the seeds don't take?
Yesterday, I got a glimpse of the ripening of the fruit on the tender young shoots I've been nurturing.
This has been Dacey's Spring Break week, and we were gone for half a week before that. My routine-thriving child is totally off-schedule. Yesterday morning was particularly rough, and I was working in the kitchen when she came to me, tears streaming down her face. She kept tugging on my hand and pulling me towards the bedroom. "What, honey? What? What's wrong?" No response. Just more tearful tugging. I thought maybe she had broken something - I couldn't understand why she kept pulling on me.
Finally, she managed to get out the words, "I need a time-in!"
We went and sat on my bed, and I held her and comforted her and eventually we were able to talk through her upset. Although I've accompanied her to time-in time before, it has always been under my direction - "You need time-in time. I'll go with you." But this marked the first time that she asked for time-in. So encouraging.
Yesterday turned into a not-so-great day for me. My emotions were already stretched thin and taut when I received a very upsetting phone call. The tenuous grasp I had on perspective snapped, and I crumpled on the floor of the laundry room and sobbed against the whir of the washing machine.
Dacey wandered in just at that moment, and though I don't really like for the girls to see my that upset, there was not much I could do. She saw that I was crying and sat down next me. "Are you sad, Mom? I'll pray with you. Dear God, please help my mom to not feel sad. Please help her to feel better. Thank you for this beautiful day. Thank you for our family and our house and . . ."
What a welcome gift in the midst of my hurt. I smiled and held her close and thanked God for such unexpected blessing. Such hope in knowing that as I've turned to Him time and again in my weakness, that she has come to know The One who is bigger than our biggest feelings. Bigger, even, than Mama's big feelings.
On this path, there is so much planting ahead of us. It feels overwhelming and sometimes the work is exhausting. Sometimes I have to unfurl from my focus on the little patch of earth in front of me, standing to stretch cramped muscles and brushing the dirt from my knees, and I look back over the ground I've already worked. When new green growth pushes forth fruit, my resolve is renewed.
I pause to enjoy the moment, then turn back to work that waits for me. Hope. Promise. Faith. Joy.