Imagine this scene: A red faced, 5 year old little boy hysterically running around a tiny apartment screaming angrily "I want to go to the Retirement Center! I want to go to the Retirement Center!" as he throws himself onto any and every piece of furniture he can find.
I know this won't surprise you, but it happened here today. Let me explain. I woke up late and slightly cranky this morning. I would like to say that is a rare occurrence, but....well, I just can't. Mid-morning, still cranky, I told Micah and Sophia that it was time to go sit and read books with mommy (as we often do). Well, Micah wasn't down with this idea. So, he decided to protest (as he often does) by throwing a fit (as he often does). As you may know, crankiness and patience do not go hand in hand, therefore I had zero tolerance for his little display. So, I jerked him up hastily, spouted off some cranky reprimand and took him to his bed where he was to sit until story time was over. I then made my way to my bed - the only place to read to kids in an 1100 square foot apartment when Noah is working in the living/dining/office/school room :). Sophia and I cozied up and got ready to read the first book. It's a book of bible memory verses that a sweet friend passed on to me a few years ago. I opened it up to the first page and I was punched in the proverbial gut with this: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1. Hmmm. Wrath. That's a good word for what Micah dishes out when things don't go his way. I've been on the receiving end of Micah Wrath quite a few times. And thats just today. And harsh words....well, I know a little bit about those. My kids are on the receiving end of mine more than I even care to think about. I know this is an area of struggle for me - the harsh words - so as I'm reeling from the gut punch I once again resolve to control my mouth and my tone and quietly ask my Father to help me, as I am obviously incapable on my own.
I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon being very conscious of the way I spoke to and responded to the kids, especially Micah. In spite of my efforts, it continued to be like mortal combat around here.
Every 1st Monday of the month at two o'clock we join with a couple of other families and visit Regency Retirement Center on the other end of town. The kids make cards and crafts and sing songs for the residents. At about 1:15, having just gained what I thought was another victory in another round of combat with Micah, I told him that if he wanted to go to the retirement center he would have to put on the clothes that I gave him without complaining or throwing a fit. Clothes are one of our biggest battles. If he has to wear anything other than "sports shorts" or stained t-shirts he loses complete control of himself. Anyway... needless to say, when I handed him a pair of jeans and a Batman t-shirt sans stains (a very reasonable ensemble in my mind), he flipped his lid. So, I told him he wasn't going in when we went to the Retirement Center. That we would still take Noah and let him go in with our friends, but that I wasn't going to take him in. Which leads us back to the scene....and the dilemma. It's not exactly in my parenting plan to squelch the desires of young children who desire to visit with the elderly and brighten their day. But, I'm also pretty big on "I mean what I say". So, I sat in the car outside of the retirement center with Micah for an hour while Noah went in and visited with our friends. For the first few minutes I sat there in unbelievable frustration. I just couldn't believe that despite my best efforts at not "stirring up anger" with my harsh words I was sitting in the car with a child who was so explosive I was afraid of being totally humiliated if I dared take him inside. (And let me just say, it has happened before. Micah once had a total come apart in one ladies' room over a Hershey's Kiss.) But the longer I sat there, the more I could hear what felt like a little chuckle from God. He slowly began reminding me that I can't make them be who I want them to be. All I can do is be who I want them to be. Unfortunately for inconsistent me, I'm going to have to be that person more consistently. I do believe that if I continue to use "gentle answers" I will see a difference in Micah's wrath-o-meter. I just can't expect a few hours of no harsh words to transform my 5 year old into an angel :). God certainly doesn't get that kind of response from me, and yet he is patient and loves me with a perfect love.
So, there you have it. A fly on the wall view of a snippet of our Monday. Monday, Monday.... Thankfully, days are made of moments and we had a few redeeming ones today too. Guess I better go gear up for Tuesday!