FFF#36–Serve the Children

This will just be a quick post, as I have a ton of things to do today and I didn’t get this written until everyone was up and in my face.  But, at our house things have been a little busy.

Yesterday, Speedy has his wisdom teeth removed.  Surgery went well.  We got some food and pain meds into him within a relatively short time.  The bleeding eventually stopped.  Slim hung out with him most of the afternoon watching movies while Speedy just laid there.  It was good.

The night before surgery, Slim brought Spike up to our bedroom about 12:30 a.m because Spike couldn’t breath.  He said they had given him a breathing treatment but he was still wheezing horribly.  Spike has croup.  I could tell from his breathing.  After nine children, I can tell by the sound.  We took him into the bathroom and steamed the snot out of it and then just sat in the misty air for about 15 minutes.  Then I rubbed some croup medicine on his chest and we put him back into bed.

All heck broke loose at our house about 4:00 p.m yesterday afternoon.  I was trying to clean the kitchen and get dinner ready before I took Sun to her theater class.  For some reason, she kind of emotionally exploded in anger, threw something at Slim and hit him.  Then as we were explaining the choices she now had before her, her feelings got hurt because she felt she was being ‘punished unjustly’.  She stormed off to her room and slammed the door.

After about 10 minutes, I decided to go and see if she would talk to me about her feelings and why she was upset.  Her door was locked and she wouldn’t open it or talk to me.  I told her that if she didn’t open the door, she might lose the opportunity to attend class.  She just ignored me.  I decided to give her a little more time to cool off.

Ten minutes later, I went to check on her again.  I could tell she was trying to open the door, but it wasn’t working.  “Sun?  Are you stuck in there?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“OK, let me go and get Slim and see if he can help us.”

We spent the next half an hour trying to free her from her bedroom.  In the mean time, Speedy was late taking his pain medication–by only 15 minutes.  But he was in so much pain, it brought him to tears.  I got Speedy pain medicine, while Slim climbed through Sun’s bedroom window and started working on the door from the inside.  People were hungry.  Dinner wasn’t quite finished and it was time for us to leave.

Miraculously, I did not explode or lose my temper throughout the entire ordeal.  I have definitely matured in my ability to control my temper and my stress level with the children.  I knew Spike, Speedy, and Slim all didn’t feel well.  I could tell Sun didn’t, by her behavior.  What good would it do the children if I let my emotions of stress or irritation join in the chorus of unhappy souls in my household?  Would it help the children to feel loved and valued and cared for?  They are only children (with the exception of Slim).

A friend of mine was over the other day and she shared with us the difficulty she has as an adult in expressing, feeling, and labeling her emotions.  She has this issue, because as she grew, when she would express her feelings of frustration, or sadness, or being overwhelmed to her mother, her mother would turn the tables on her and invalidate her feelings by telling her she didn’t have anything to feel that way about.  Her mother’s life was hard, and here is why her mother could feel those things, but as the child, she was not allowed to.  Now as a grown woman and mother in her own right, my friend struggles to understand how she feels and why.  The treatment she received as a child, from her mother, has retarded her ability to manage her emotions as an adult.  She has to learn how to do that now, because something that should have been a normal part of development was not available to her.

Unfortunately, emotional development (or moral development) does not happen on a strictly linear time-line.  Just because you are an adult, doesn’t mean you understand how to behave like one or act like one.  Adults should be able to put their own emotions in check in order to help children manage theirs.  Right?  Sadly, that rarely happens.  Now, I understand we are all going through things and probably most of us did not grow up in an ideal home where our feelings were valued and nurtured, much like my friend above, and even my childhood did not have those things.  So  how then do we give those things to our children? 

The first thing to do is to recognize our shortcomings.  We have to know where, when and how we are struggling.  That takes some soul searching and some serious time.  In our busy day to day schedule, we will not just have the information drop into our laps.  We have to take time through prayer, and pondering, to understand why we behave the way we do, analyze if that behavior is in line with the principles of the gospel we know and believe, and then decide what we are going to do about it if they don’t.

In the above example, my friend recognized what she needed from her mother and didn’t receive.  I think most of know those things.  We have a pretty good idea of where our parents ‘messed us up’.  I think most of us also try diligently to compensate in our parenting for where our parents were lacking.  A silly example  in my life is that I never felt I had enough underwear growing up, or socks without holes in them.  As the mother, my children are never lacking underwear or decent socks.  We probably have WAY too many!  But it is my attempt to compensate for things I lacked as a child.  And that is not to say that I have bad parents.  I think they too were doing their best to compensate for the things they lacked in their childhood.  My mother religiously took us to the dentist because she did not have dental care as a child and that really bothered her.

But beyond the temporal, we need to address the emotional needs of our children.  We need to validate their feelings.  With yesterday’s happenings, yes, my daughter behaved inappropriately.  She received consequences for her behavior.  But she also deserved and needed my emotional understanding.  By choosing to get angry about the door issue (we had to pull it off the hinges and remove the molding from the door, all of which now needs to be repaired), I simply add to her negative emotional burdens of her behavior.  She really felt bad enough that she threw something and hurt her brother and that she broke the door.  She did not need the added burden of my anger and frustration.  She really needed my understanding and love of her when she misbehaves.

She was also late for her class.  Why should I care?  My daughter’s emotional stability is more important to me than whether or not she was late to one class.  We are usually on time.  If I am more concerned about what the teacher or the other students think of me because my daughter is late for class, then my priorities ought to be reexamined.

A few years ago, the first time I was the Bishop’s wife, I had been asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting.  I had seven small children, ages 12 to about six months, I think.  Drew was gone to his meetings.  Church started at 9 a.m.  My talk wasn’t finished.  I was working furiously to get it finished.  I could hear the children screaming at each other in the kitchen.  The baby was crying.  I wasn’t dressed and not many of the children were ready.  Church started in half an hour and it took 15 minutes to drive there, and I HATE being late.  I decided to stop fighting for my agenda and take care of my children.

I left the computer, called all of my little ones into the living room.  I asked them about their disagreements and desires.  I told them that Heavenly Father loved them.  It was His day and He wanted us to be happy.  There wasn’t happiness in our home and the Spirit could not be there.  We needed to pray and ask Heavenly Father to help us to be happy and to be kind and to invite the Spirit into our home.  We did so.

 I had to let go of my time-table.  We finished the prayer.  We made assignments for siblings to help one another so we could be ready to go to church.  We got into the car and drove off.  We were late, but we made it into the foyer for the sacrament ordinance.  When the doors opened, my little family filed into the meeting and sat on the bench.  When it was my turn to speak, I left the children in the pew and went to the pulpit.  I gave my prepared remarks.

When I got to the point where I didn’t know what to say, I realized that my experience of that morning fit perfectly into my talk about how we should spend our time.  I shared our story of that very morning.  I had actually made the right choice!  I stopped fighting for my agenda and for the expectations of others and I took care of those precious children within my charge and my stewardship.  I nurtured their feelings and their emotions and I helped them accomplish the tasks they had before them.  In the process, the Lord took care of me and the responsibilities that I had.

As adults, let us always be thinking about what we can do to serve, love, and help those precious children who the Lord has given to us.  They deserve our time, our effort, and our emotional maturity.

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