I've been finding myself discouraged about something lately. Each night as I go to bed, snippits of the day go through my mind, and I pick out the moments I was harsh, snappy, impatient, barky with my kids. I hear myself sighing...you know, that big, giant, melodramatic sigh in which it sounds like you just found out that the world itself was coming to an end... I always said I wasn't going to be a sigher. It started when I was pregnant. The effort of going from sitting to standing made me sigh, and I got in the habit. No, I'm being serious. I've had a sigh habit ever since then! But I really hate that I sigh AT my kids when they are exasperating me. Not only is it not nice or necessary, but I always thought of sighing as something only old mean people do. I am not old (or mean, I hope!?) Anyway, back to the original point of being patient, gentle, and kind...I have a one-year-old and a two-year-old. Ahem. I'm not excusing my lack of the aforementioned fruits of the spirit. I'm just sayin', I HAVE TWO TODDLERS. And I expect perfection from myself (Doesn't every mom?) I think we all do, at some point. Even though we know it's not realistic, we beat ourselves up when we feel so blasted far from perfect that it's really not even funny. Note: Having toddlers + wishing to be the perfect mom = recipe for failure/anxiety/mommy meltdowns/guilt/discouragement. Not good!
You might think I'm going to talk about grace now. Well that would be good, but not this time. Although grace is everything, this post is not about that. It's actually about four things that I've learned/am learning that help me out on the subject of gentleness/patience. And I thought I'd share my tips with you other lovelies, because I'm hoping I'm not the only mama out there who struggles with this sometimes! Obviously I'm no parenting expert, but I think we all benefit from sharing our stories and tips as we go, not just when our kids are grown and gone, so here goes. (Don't laugh at the first one. I'm serious that it helps!)
1. Take a look at your diet. Are you getting enough B vitamins? If not...you might be prone to feeling anxious! Deficiencies in vitamins B1, B2, B6 and especially B12 can lead to anxiety, irritability, restlessness, fatigue and emotional instability. Do your research before jumping on the bandwagon though. Be sure you're taking the right amounts (you do NOT need 16,240% RDA!!!) And make sure it is a whole food-based supplement; I cannot stress this enough! All I can say about this is that I have noticed a direct correlation between my B vitamin intake and my overall ability to stay calm without having to think about it. The days I really blow it, or find myself being short with the girls and being impatient...at the end of the day, I always realize that I forgot to take my vitamins. (I am only a recent advocate of taking any kind of supplements, but I am a firm believer after much research. More on that topic later, maybe?!)
2. PRAY. (duh). I mean pray out loud and in the moment. Lately, if I've been on the verge of speaking harshly to Addison, when she is reeeeallly pushing my limits and her boundaries, I'll take a deep breath, close my eyes, and say out loud, "Jesus, pleeeease help me to be patient with Addison right now. I'm about to flip out. Help me not to yell at her. Amen." First of all, this calms me down immediately. And second, it seems to help her stop whatever she's doing. It's like she sees that she has gone too far and that mommy really is upset. Or, maybe she is just curious and thinks I'm being strange. Either way, the stressful moment usually passes, and I'm able to then calmly and sweetly chat with her about what she was doing that was inappropriate/disobedient/etc. And then we are able to happily move on with our day!
3. Yelling leads to more yelling leads to more yelling... Thankfully, this is not our household on a regular basis, yet it is precisely why I am focusing on patience and gentleness early on in my parenting journey (so that we don't become a yelling household). I so admire moms who, even in the midst of stressful situations, temper tantrums that are escalating to epic proportions, and the like, are able to keep their cool and speak in an even, calm, even soothing voice. Conversely, I know moms who are constantly, and I mean constantly yelling and snapping and acting exasperated with their small children. All I can think is please God, don't let that ever happen in our house! It makes me sad, as yelling and sighing (guilty, although I was exaggerating earlier!) at your kids all the time shows them that they are a burden, not a blessing. Plus, yelling is a cycle, and once a child gets used to yelling, it looses it's effect. Then the parent has to yell louder to make a point. And one day the child will yell at the parent, and they'll wonder why! I [try to] save the yelling for when Addison or Lily is running into the street or shoving a bobby pin in the electrical outlit, at which point I believe yelling is perfectly necessary and acceptable (and potentially life saving, unless they are used to yelling and just ignore you!)
4. Last and most important is this last one. This one struck me deep in my heart, and is one I'm still processing, letting it sink deep down into my soul. It comes from an article I was reading at tutus2.com (article: Our Desire for a Meek and Quiet Spirit). I quote from the article:
Can you see how the way I think about a situation determines my response to it? When I am thinking of my time investment with my children as a part of bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, then I see my role in a joyful, loving positive light. I can accept the difficulties because my eyes are on the future outcome for my child's spiritual benefit rather than the immediate difficulty for me. When my thoughts are on my hardships and myself, then every struggle is cast in a negative light and becomes a burden driving me to anger.
This is so profound to me. Reading it was one of those moments when so much became clear. I realized that the source of so much frustration for me is pure selfishness. I get exasperated when my toddlers act out, not so much because I am upset with them (it's to be expected that toddlers act out), but rather because it's causing me the trouble (for the umteenth time in the past hour) of stopping what I'm doing to go deal with another situation. In all reality, I should welcome each opportunity as a teachable moment; an opportunity to shape their fragile, moldable, soft, sweet little hearts toward the Lord. What a difference this concept can make in the everyday lives of us mamas!
I hope one or all four of these things helps you when you're having 'a moment', as we all do! (Don't forget the grace part when you fail!) And to all the mamas out there (especially my mom, my Gran and my mom-in-law!)...Have a beautiful, blessed, Mother's Day!