Sunday, February 28, 2016

That Must Be Hard

My oldest child has been making me crazy. He has been bossy, controlling and difficult about every single decision that is made in this house. I choose the wrong type of bread for his grilled cheese. I am supposed to be at this beck and call when he doesn't feel like moving. And I clearly do a poor job disciplining his brother and sister because he makes it a point to take care of it himself.

I have been a correcting machine. "Bud, you can get that yourself. Please don't ask me." or "Who is the parent? That's right. I am. I need you to back off." He argues further. "But Mommy, I was just (fill in the blank)." I have noticed, however, that he seems as tired of it as I am. I watch his face fall each time he is corrected and last night, he started crying.

"Come over here bud," I said, trying a new tactic.
"No. I don't want to talk to you right now."
"Okay. Come on over when you are ready." Given freedom of choice, he was suddenly ready and willing to give me his time. He raced over and leaned against me.
"Are your sister and brother making you crazy?" He paused and looked at me, gauging whether or not I wanted to hear the truth.
"Yeah," he began tentatively. Seeing my open face, he picked up speed. "It's just that I wanted to do an obstacle course and I had it all planned and Rosie keeps moving the bike and Drew keeps taking the cars and I just want them to leave me alone!" He looked up again to see if he had crossed a boundary.
"That must have made you so mad," I said simply.
"Well, yeah. Of course it did! They are always messing with my stuff and my ideas!"
"I know. I get it. My sister used to drive me nuts, too. Want me to bring them inside so that you can do your obstacle course?"
"No, that's okay," he said as he wiped his tears with his sleeve. "I'll just play with 'em anyway."

I watched him rejoin the fray and, for the first time in a few weeks, I felt a warm place in my heart for him. We were on the same side at that moment. We were working together to get through something frustrating.

Later in the evening as I bathed the other two kids, my oldest called to me. "Mommy! I have a surprise for you!" I followed his voice to my room. "I picked out your outfit for tomorrow! The whole thing! It was kinda hard to find your bras, though. Is that one good?"

I stifled a giggle and noticed that he had laid everything out, just like I used to do for him when he was little. "You thought of everything, didn't you? Even jewelry?" I said as I looked at the mismatched bracelets and necklace.

"Well, yeah. I just wanted you to look pretty for your big day of training for the hospital."

I wrapped him in a hug. "I will because of you. Thank you so much, love."

I thought later about how much time I had wasted fighting with him. Although it is necessary to take a firm stance with our children, I also feel it should be balanced with understanding. He has been acting out because he's dealing with new frustrations. Isn't it my job to help him learn how to face them and correct him for doing it the "wrong way"? He must have felt so misunderstood. Once I reached out and met him where he was, he reverted back to my sweet and thoughtful little boy.

It made me think about how easy that is to do in all the relationships in our lives. We want to tell people they need to stop doing this or start doing that in order to fix their lives. And yet, all they really need to hear is, "That must be so hard." Isn't that all you want to hear when you are having a hard time?

My goal? To give simple and loving responses that help the people I love to finally feel understood. Will you join me?

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