Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Adjust Your Expectations...You are Stronger Than You Think!

Last week I had a new experience of being a stay-at-home mom of 4 youngsters for 4 days while Daddy went on his first business trip.  Approaching the week, I think that my husband may have been more concerned than I was.  Of course, he was concerned about our overall safety, etc., but there was more to it:  he was worried that the stress would be too much for me.  In his defense, this is entirely my fault!  I have come to depend on him immensely; I depend on the support of an outstanding father to my children all the time.  He is immersed in their lives, adoring of them, and a constant help to me.  The day-to-day stress of raising 4 children--home schooling also--can be quite a lot to handle at times.  When the stress feels overwhelming, I know that I can depend on my husband to help relieve some of it for me.  And he is glad to do so.  I have many friends who could echo this about their husbands and it really is a blessing!  Having said that, I too often release the cares of my day onto my husband, rather than onto the Lord.  Not that it's wrong to share my feelings and experiences of the day, but when I dump them on my husband first (rather than in the lap of God), I am placing a burden on my husband.  This burden, I believe, is not altogether wrong, but has the propensity to cause undue concern.  So, the fact that my husband was probably more worried about how I'd do for 4 days without his help, is due to how I handle my role as a mom and....my expectations of how I handle this job!

I had a conversation with a good friend on the third night sans Daddy.  She asked how things had been going.  I had recently been asking myself that question.  You see, on a day-to-day basis, I sometimes feel as though I may not make it to bedtime with my head screwed on.  However, while preparing for my husband's business trip, I kept telling myself, "We will be just fine!  I can do this!"  So, my answer to her question was, "You know, it's been really fine!"  "The kids have been behaving better than normal; they've played together nicely most of the time."  "We've really been okay and I feel fine about the whole thing."  As we talked, I told her it was as if God had allowed everything to go more smoothly since I'd been without Ron's help.  She agreed that this could be, but she posed another thought, "Maybe you adjusted your expectations of yourself and so you've felt better about your time."  Light bulb!  I responded, "You know, you might be right!"  "I kept telling myself we'd get through these days, and we're doing just fine!" 

You know, our expectations of ourselves can be very complex.  We think certain ways, therefore we talk certain ways...which leads us to think certain ways...and respond in certain ways.  You see the pattern?  You are what you eat, well maybe, but you really are what you speakAs one pastor said, we frame our world with our words!  I am not taking any credit for this idea; it's been the topic of motivational speaking and Bible teaching forever.  And there is truth to it!  It's really not new to me, but this recent experience put it into new perspective.  I have certain daily expectations of myself based on what I am thinking (or saying to myself).  I react accordingly.  I've had days that were really okay, overall, but I allowed just a few negative incidents to overshadow the entire day.  By the time my husband walks through the door, I unload it all!  (....as if I hardly survived it!)  I know, how ridiculous!  Then, I find myself irritated when he worries about me surviving 4 days with the kids without him!  Well, this is my fault!  You see, we also train other people to react to us based on what we expect of ourselves.  Examine your relationships and you'll see that this is true!  Sometimes, I feel disappointed that my in-laws don't offer to watch my kids more often (as they do for my husband's sisters).  Ron reminds me that they probably assume I really don't need much help; you know, the squeaky wheel gets the oil!  And, in this example, I present myself to his family as one who handles being a stay-at-home mom of 4 with little struggle.  But, as I explained earlier, my husband has seen all of the emotions-on-edge. 

This certainly could be a subject of intense study, and I'm not necessarily trying to dissect it all.  But, as my friend and I talked (and the light bulb went off) I realized I could probably adjust my expectations for every day...and every situation.  If I approached every day with the expectation of, "I can handle this~of course I can handle this~it's not too much," then how different might my attitude be at the end of the day!  So, we got through my husband's time away without a hitch!  We really did!

Then Sunday came, and you will not believe what the visiting Pastor at our church talked about.  Ready for this?  You can handle the pressure because you were made by Almighty God to handle it!  I'm not making this up!  He reminded us that we should not shy away from pressure (when the going gets tough) because we need it to perfect us!  I am not going to re-preach his message, but I am literally shaking with excitement as I recall his words.  Engineers test products for pressure-capacity (or something like that) and we are engineered by God in Heaven to handle what pressure comes our way too!  When it seems like it's too much, that's good because we lean on the One who knows we'll get through!  We've heard the cliche,"What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger."  Well, there is truth in those words!  There is biblical truth, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)  I believe that part of that way out is speaking about ourselves what God says about us, despite what we feel, "Let the weak say 'I am strong'."

So, needless to say, I have been so encouraged and strengthened in these past few days.  As much as my children and I missed my husband (and as glad as I am that he's safely home), I am so thankful that he left us for a few days!  I could do it again!  Even more amazing, I can do today!  I can accomplish everything that I am supposed to do in this life because I am created in such a way that I am able to handle it!  I can handle the pressure!  All I have to do is adjust my expectations!  All you have to do is adjust your expectations--you are stronger than you think!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Building Friendships

Okay, so I'm learning (while stumbling quite a bit) how to allow my children to develop their own relationships with one another.  I have always had a desire--a strong desire--for my children to be friends.  However, I understand that as much as I long for this, I cannot control it.  I can steer them here and there but I cannot control the outcome.  They are individuals with unique characteristics, views, and temperaments; they will develop relationships according to what works for them throughout life.  Having said that, I really want them to like each other, enjoy each other's company, and to learn to be there for one another.  What I am learning is that in order for these friendships to be built, I have to back off a bit. 

There is a delicate balance, I believe, in allowing them to form their own type of friendship with one another, and helping them to resolve conflicts with one another.  I have never wanted to be a hands-off or even permissive parent that leaves her children to fend for themselves, so to speak.  I fear, in wanting to help them learn to work together appropriately and to resolve conflicts, that I have probably interfered now and then in opportunities for these relationships to form naturally.  It is a delicate balance!  I'm learning that it is good and healthy on occasion to allow them the opportunity to work out a conflict on their own.  Of course, if I hear ear-piercing shreaks or furniture being overturned, I should intervene.  However, when I have allowed for this, usually they work it out (even though from time to time there are raised voices or childish names being called).  Generally, when they see that I am not running in the room to settle the dispute, they come to some sort of a compromise or way of making peace.  Surprisingly, I think that even they prefer peace!

So, it is my goal to give myself the permission to back off a bit more often.  And, I am purposing to afford my children more opportunities to learn to work and play together.  Sometimes, when I least expect it I see evidence of their love for one another and their enjoyment in each other's company.  Just this afternoon, Jaden and I had finished his home school work and he was putting together a Lego set.  Luke was busy with a toy.  I had just finished some yoga stretches with Ella (who always tries the stretches with me....and does fairly well for a 3 yr. old).  Tessa was laughing at us and lying down by us from time to time.  After this, I put gates at the stairs (so Tessa wouldn't attempt them) and ran upstairs for a super-quick mommy shower.  (Yes, I am one of those awful moms who lets her children survive without her for 10 min. while she showers....with the bathroom door open so she can hear almost everything!  And, yes, I have had to run downstairs in a towel with soap in my hair before!)  Anyhow, as usual, when I turn off the water I listen carefully or call down to see how things are going.  As I listened I heard soft talking and the sounds of pleasure...really!  Not fighting or bickering!  I quickly dressed and ran downstairs.  All 4 were gathered in a close huddle around my daughter's tea set.  They were arranging plates, napkins, and forks and placing them in the basket.  They told me they were going on a picnic.  Tessa, almost 19 mos. old, had no idea what she was doing but she was right there with her brothers and sister.  I told them their rest-time would be soon, but they quickly asked for more time to do their picnic.  Of course, this was not a difficult request to fulfill!  I delighted in watching them march around the house hiking to their picnic spot.  It was pure mother's joy...completely precious!

So, as much as my children argue, bicker, and disagree, they are developing friendships with each other.  It does my heart well!  I see that certain ones play more often--or do particular activities--with another.  I see that dynamics change depending on the day and who is around or not around.  Just as I like certain things about each of my kids, I think they have certain characteristics that they like about each other too!  My baby, for instance, plays with her sister most often.  But, she trusts Jaden alone to pick her up, get her out of bed, or buckle her in her booster seat.  However, her brother Luke is the one she goes to most often to hug or give a spontaneous kiss--she adores him.  There is nothing wrong with this.  It's good and healthy.  I'm so looking forward to watching these friendships grow and develop over the years.  As often as I choke up at the realization of how fast these early years are moving, I honestly get such a sense of excitement thinking about their teenage and young adult years.  I can almost see and hear them sitting around a table playing games, laughing, and reminiscing.  It does my heart well!  Personally, this evidence and development of sibling love is as much a reward of parenting for me as the reward of my own relationship growth with my children.  What a true joy to see them learning and desiring to love one another!