Last week my brother, Josh, came over to play a bit with the kids. First they hit the trampoline and then headed to show him the latest in their club house (formerly known as the front porch). A few minutes later Josh walked in shaking his head, "I've never seen them be so mean to each other."
Sigh. In some ways it was confirmation that what we are sensing and feeling isn't just us- its for real. And in some ways it was discouraging that after several weeks we are still so in the thick of it.
We don't have a lot of answers, but I am guessing that the issue of trying to weed out behaviors or attitudes is pretty common. So here are a few of the things that we're doing.
1. Praying. We're trying to pray a lot. Even in our prayers as a family, we're trying to often ask our Father to root these things out of us, give us patience with each other, teach us to love.
2. Creating words for it. Sometimes you want to talk to your child about something but there isn't quite the right way to say it, or how you say doesn't seem to be resonating with them. Some simple definitions of love (wanting what's best for someone else) and selfishness (me, me, me!) have helped the conversations start.
3. Diggin' in. Some of the behaviors, I think, have evolved out of some attention seeking. While we still want to work them out, even more so we want to get to the heart of the matter: a child feeling insecure. We've been trying to do more one-on-one time, trying to seize the day, all day, every day! For Garrett, that looks like being available in the evenings, finding ways to be alone with the kids, a lot of physical play and wrestling, and checking in with the kids about their hearts. For me, I feel like I have been really freed lately to let go of peripheral things and see my kids. More dance parties, reading books, listening to long stories, asking specific questions, seeking kids' input about things.
4. Evaluating the intake. I've been trying to keep a better eye on the subtle things of what the kids watch. Though they usually only watch kids shows, some of those kids shows are full of behavior that we are working so hard to keep out of our family culture. This occurred to me for the first time the other day when I heard Ella talking about how much she likes DW on Arthur. "DW?" I thought, "She's such a brat." Hmmmm.....bratty little sister who stomps her foot and uses a whiny voice to annoy everyone and get what she wants. Sounds familiar.
5. Slowing down. I know, you're tired of hearing about how I'm trying to slow life down. But guess what I'm discovering about life in the slow lane?
In the slow lane, we color and we finish crafts and we paint. And they love it.
In the slow lane, we eat better-tasting and better-for-us foods and we linger over meals. And its good for us.
In the slow lane, we have time to see the friends that we love because we're home. And relationships flourish.
In the slow lane, I have time to think about Advent and the coming of Christ and what that could mean in the lives of my seven, five, three and one year old. And that feels a lot like what I hoped I'd do as a parent.
In the slow lane, I am more cheerful and funny. I sing and I dance and I grab my kids and squeeze them til they think they just might pop and I let them tell me lots of things when I'm trying to put them to bed.
In the slow lane, there is time for the long, drawn out, make-yourself-comfy-cause-this-is-gonna-be-a-long-one heart talks.
In the slow lane, we don't go to things just to go, we don't say yes just cause we're asked, we don't assume that if the time is open that we are available.
In the slow lane, we guard our time and lavish our love (instead of the other way around).
I think with these things, and ultimately the grace of a kind God who desires their hearts to be whole more than we ever could, we are making some progress. The tantrums are decreasing, the whining is slowing, the patterns of selfishness are being challenged. I know its not something that we'll arrive at (don't hold your breath for the post "when you cure your children of sin") but there is certainly room for us all to grow. And I think we are growing, which is a great sigh of relief.
Guess that wraps things up for tonight. Hope the end of November is finding you fighting your own battles for good.
See ya Friday.