I see the entire thing unfold from right where I’m standing as the sound check comes to a close.
I’ve been watching my boys weave in and out of the empty pews. Even though there are countless hymnals, their competitive spirit and quest to conquer makes them lunge for the exact same one just to see who will win. I suspect this will not end well.
As their hands grab the hymnal, one brother snatches it from the other faster than a quarterback snaps a football and proceeds to flash a “Ha-Ha-I-beat-you-to-it,” smirk right at his brother.
Indignant anger rushes across my defeated son’s face. I can see the steam rolling out of his ears–his rage pushing him down a vengeful path which will not be good for anyone.
The last chord rings and I hustle to intercept the fight by separating the boys. “You sit over here and you sit over there,” I instruct. In this moment I know I have a choice to make–a crossroad where I have failed time and time again, but this moment is a new chance for grace instead of shame.
Options for responses flash through my brain like lightning. I pause, breathe and analyze what’s really going on–what’s at the root of his anger? Because obviously, a snatched hymnal alone would never warrant such a strong reaction and I’m guessing this isn’t the first time this morning he’s felt misunderstood and marginalized.
What he really wants is to know he matters.
To believe he’s worthy of winning.
And to experience being valued and loved.
I’ve begun begging God for wisdom, insight, and kindness when these parenting crossroads arrive, and with His help I do the one thing my son least expects.
In silence, I kneel at his level, open my arms wide, and pull him in tight. He’s rigid and resistant, but we connect like magnets and I remain.
Almost a full minute passes before I slowly whisper it in his ear.
You wanted to know you could be the winner, huh?
You want your brother to believe you matter, don’t you?
His body softens and melts into mine. He lifts his arms from his side and wraps them around my back as he nods again.
I wait in silence before I whisper it even more quietly than before.
I want you to know God already chose you as His winner. He thinks you matter so much that He picked you to be His. And you know what? He is never, ever leaving you.
I pause and maintain our embrace.
And you know what else? Neither am I. I think you’re amazing and I pick you too. You’re stuck with me. Forever!
As I pull our bodies apart, I look into his ocean-blue eyes and smile. And he breaks. He pushes his shoulders back and a proud smile emerges, like he believes me with his whole eight-year-old heart.
All his anger is gone. The grace of our embrace cracks the possibility of hope emerging from his little heart, making it possible for him to extend grace too.
To hear someone’s heart is to hold their soul.
And it’s in the holding we feel seen and known and deeply loved.
It was God’s grace that helped me see what his heart needed.
No condemnation for his anger.
No chastisement for his response.
What he needed was to be heard and for his heart to be held.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)
Gentle grace melted him and he left feeling seen and known and loved.
Perhaps more important than instructing our boys how to love, is for them to experience grace-filled loving from us.
May they love well one day, not because we told them, but because we showed them–as we surrendered our hearts each day to be the conduit of this same grace God has given to us.
Some resources and encouragement for receiving grace for ourselves and learning to give more grace in our parenting:
I get this call from my girlfriend, the one I have known and loved for over 20 years. Her voice is sad and weary, which is not like her…but it’s the kind of voice I’ve come to know for moms that usually means whatever the particular burden, it’s about one of our kids.
I don’t know how to feel, she tells me, and I know what she means. She parents a senior in high school, her beloved firstborn whom 18 years ago she carried under her heart. Her girl is older now, and can speak up for herself. But though she’s older, the instinct of her mom hasn’t changed–ready to pounce, ready to take on and challenge anyone who hurts her beloved baby.
Over the next hour she tells me more, about how her daughter has been bullied; abused, really. And it’s all come to a head only one week before her graduation where thank, Jesus, she will never face these mean kids, again. Just as this practical thought about separation seems it might help, the private Facebook page comes to light — the one she never knew about that the ringleader has started and her classmates have joined in saying they hate her and other mean things – and even the knowledge of them separating soon doesn’t do anything to help heal the damage in her heart. And so, her mom hurts, too.
We moms know there’s nothing that hurts more than your child hurting. Hurting kids make our own emotions go wild.
The situation with my friend reminds me of one of my own – different, but similar when it comes to emotion: that day in 2002 when my husband loses his job and I have three kids under the age of 4 pulling at my legs, needing for me to fix them dinner, when all I want to do is get in my closet in a fetal position, shake my fists at God and cry.
We moms know our own pain doesn’t mean we get to stop parenting. No matter how much we hurt, for the sake of our children, we must press through.
But pressing through doesn’t mean ignoring. No, we are still human under our supermom skin. And being human means we hurt and cry and get upset and can’t figure things out, whether it’s how to pay bills with no money or how not to hate our soft bodies or how not to crumble when our own friendship we have invested in suddenly goes away. We don’t know how to wipe the tears fast enough so our kids won’t see and try to guess what is wrong. We don’t know how to not overreact over spilled drinks and say to them in a way they can truly process: It’s not really about your spill, honey. I promise.
The truth is: there will never be a break from parenting despite emotional obstacles. Life doesn’t stop for us to collect ourselves before we mother our kids.
But, good news. Parenting our kids through our own painful emotions might be tough but it’s not impossible. That’s why God. That’s why prayer. And remembering too, these few practical things…
Being present is key. When it gets tough, as much as it seems it would be easier, don’t withdraw from your little people. They need your touch, your presence, ragged is it is. Stay close. Hold them often. Pure love, not perfection, is a healer.
Don’t ask your kids to save you. Staying present and asking your kids to be your savior are two different things. Staying present reassures. Smothering complicates. Your emotions are yours to handle, and no child needs the job of making his mom be ok. That’s God’s job.
Use your alone time well. There will be those moments, though brief for moms of littles, that we find a moment alone. Put down the phone and shut the computer. Instead, pray. Sleep. Do something to refresh and renew.
Don’t make their pain about you. I know. This is hard. They cry; we cry. They struggle; we struggle. We think back and remember cruel things said to us, our hard high school years, that mean bully who once bullied us. But we have to stay above that in order to parent them through with wisdom and grace. They need this from us, the older and more experienced in the relationship. They need a mom to follow.
Our emotions won’t kill us, even with the stress of mothering through them. Instead, they will help both us and our kids become stronger as the watch us face hard things, with God’s help, together.
I Want God (Lisa Whittle) – because our own spiritual life is the very most important for handling emotions
To help you get ready and prepare for handling the back-to school mornings, I’ve got four ways to be organized. It’s tough going from summer fun to suddenly starting school, but here’s some great ways to help with this transition.
1: Prepare your home
It’s time to exchange the beach bags for backpacks! Does your homework area need to be reorganized? What lunch supplies are needed? Does everything have a place and do your children know where that place is?
The main areas to prepare are as follows:
Closets: It’s time to make sure everything fits and is in good condition. Go through all their clothes and check. Here are some helpful hints for organizing your children’s closet.
A command center or launching area: A launch area is the place where they will “take off” each day. Before bed they need to have everything in that spot so they won’t be late to school because they are hunting around for a stray book. They also need a place to “land” when they get home so they can unpack their lunches and get going on homework with ease. Here’s what my command center looks like.
The Kitchen: Meal planning for breakfast and lunch in advance eliminates unnecessary trips to the store. You may also want to prepare a special cupboard for packing school lunches like this one.
A Homework/Homeschool Area: The kids need to know where to find pencils, paper, pens, markers, etc. Whether you use a cupboard, kitchen drawer, desk or an old hutch to keep your supplies organized the important thing is that you kids know where to find what they need to get the job done!
Evaluation is the key to thoughtful parenting of your children in every area. Take some time to stop and reflect on the previous school year. What worked for you and what didn’t? Don’t forget to talk with each of your children and get their evaluations as well. Your children will feel loved and appreciate the time you spend planning. Have your children take inventory of their school supplies and clothes from last year and decide what they actually need.
3: Daily Routine
I’m a big advocate of having a daily routine! Kids need it whether they are going to school or homeschooling. If you expect chores before or after school, set up simple routines for that. Do they make a lunch each morning? Will they have clothes picked out the night before? How will your morning look?
4: Practice Practice!
It’s hard to have a good routine without practicing it out! Try practicing a few times, the week before you start back to school.
Some things to practice include:
Getting dressed first thing
Getting up to your alarm
Your morning and evening routine
Using the launch pad
The younger kids need to practice more than the older ones, but you should also have your tweens get up and ready a couple of mornings rather than hanging out in their pajamas till noon during that last week before school starts. Clearly explaining your expectations and practicing them as a family will make the transition to the busy school days much easier for everyone. If you want more help getting organized, visit Organizing Made Fun.
She was simply searching around on the internet. It was no big deal, she mused. A mindless escape from the sibling rivalry going on down the hall and the mounds of laundry piled high on the couch.
When his picture popped up on her screen, all the memories of their former connection came into focus as clearly as his smiling profile. Of course, that was 15 years ago. By now it was water under the bridge and way out into the sea.
Still, she dug around to see what his life, without her, looked like.
Eventually, she clicked off the computer and walked down the hall to check on her kids before starting dinner, but try as she might, she couldn’t stop thinking about that special first date-the best one she had ever been on, with him. Her husband’s phone call jolted her back to reality. He would be late. As usual.
What if? She wondered…….
And that’s so often how it begins-the seemingly innocent day-dreams of relationships and days gone by caught in a mental time capsule of constant youth and happier times that rival sharply with cheerio encrusted floors and over-worked husbands.
The fantasy doesn’t give reality a fighting chance.
The ethereal nature of wishful thinking is a coy but dangerous mirage that is one of Satan’s favorite tactics to destroy our families. When moms and wives begin to believe that the life they are currently living is a mistake and that the “other” option would have been better, they are on the road to forsaking the real possibility of joy and happiness for a corrupt trade of certain pain and loss.
Moms, longing and lust are powerful emotions! You don’t have to look too far to find a family that has been torn apart by a spouse’s unfaithfulness. But it doesn’t even have to lead to an actual physical encounter for harm to be done to your family. Discontent in any form infects the way we parent and creates a barrier to true love and intimacy with our spouses. We can never be the moms we desire to be if we dabble in any kind of romantic thoughts that are outside of marriage. The acidic nature of discontent erodes the happy tone of our homes that are meant to be a safe and joyful atmosphere for raising our children. Look at what the Bible has to say about it:
He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. Proverbs 6:32
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Mathew 5:28
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18
So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life. Proverbs 2:16-19
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5
When temptations begin to dance around the edges of our hearts, we need to silence the orchestra of thoughts that we are entertaining. God tells us that the way to combat temptation is to flee from it! If you are struggling with contentment and with your marriage, then the wise thing to do is to pray and to work towards strengthening your bond, not escaping from the vow you made before God. The harm that infidelity will do to your innocent children is reason enough to resist temptation.
Letting our emotions take over our need for romance will only lead to manifold heartache-for us, our spouses, and our children. It’s in direct opposition to the stewardship that God has given us as mothers to love and nurture our children by creating for them a stable home life. Lust will always feel right but it couldn’t be more wrong. As mothers whose roles are to be both a model and a light to our children, let’s be very careful about living in an alternate reality that is bathed in darkness.
A Prayer For The Mom Who Struggles With Discontent:
Dear Heavenly Father,
Keep me from temptation. Rid my heart of longing for anything or anyone that is not pure and true and right. Lord, create in me a new heart that seeks to do to others as I would have them do to me and replace my selfishness with humility. God, thank You for helping me to resist temptation. Help me to take every thought captive and to think on things that are good. Strengthen my marriage that my husband and I would be an example of sacrificial love to our children and may they feel secure in our bond. In Jesus Name, Amen!
“I heard that 85% of what we worry about never actually happens.
I figure this is good news…because it seems that my worry is productive. I worry, and consequently, 85% of those calamities never see the light of day!”
Well, that’s one perspective, but in reality, it doesn’t rid us of the worry and fear that can grip a mom’s days and nights and skew her perspective.
My son just got his license…will he get home safely tonight?
What if the youngest falls from a tree?
If a storm comes up while they’re out on that boat…
Fear is really the mother of worry, and it’s easy to let this pesky duo rule the day. Understanding some truths about fear can help us shut down fear’s field day.
Fear is a paralyzing emotion. It keeps us from doing, going, reaching out, moving forward.
Consider what you may have missed—or what your children have missed—because of your fear. But don’t stop there. Vow to “let it go.” Remind yourself in fearful moments, “What am I standing in the way of?”
Fear doesn’t share well; it crowds out all the good around us and makes us miss the joy.
Think back to a time when your fear got the best of you. The word “joy” is probably nowhere in that picture. A replay of that time leaves no room for wonder, excitement, or new opportunities God may be calling you to. Now replace that memory with a time you can remember stepping out in joy and fun and wonder with your boys.
Fear is based on a fallacy—the misconception that we can control everything around us.
Who’s in control? It’s so easy to think we moms make the world go around. When we shed that misconception, we can rest in One who is greater. There’s freedom in realizing you are not the bottom line, Mom. Psalm 46:1,2 reminds us:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…”
It’s freedom, not fear that we want to pass along to our sons.
But how do I get rid of worry and fear?
I say, look up and look around.
God will help us with our fears if we only ask, but we can’t go to Him with tightly clenched fists…we have to open our hands and relinquish our burdens. We have to drop them at His feet. We have to let go and trust Him to take care of our boys, our families, and us.
And once you’ve looked up, remember to look around. Moms need community, so don’t try to go it alone. Find another mom to encourage you. Let her be a blessing to you, and be one to her, too.
Fear paralyzes us, narrowing our focus and blinding us to all the blessings around us. But when we shift our focus to the One who takes care of everything, He crowds out the fear. We may not understand what God’s doing, but we can rest in His love for us, and trust His heart. We can remember his words:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will up hold you with my righteous right hand.”
Reach out for His hand, Mom, and banish your fear.
Model trust for your boys and they’ll learn to lean on the One who’s really in control.
Some more resources on dealing with worry and fear:
My husband would tell you I come from an emotional family. My family (men included) cries at commercials, movies and meaningful happenings in our lives. After seventeen years of being married, I’d say we balance each other pretty well. I still cry when the news shows kids running to their fathers returning from active duty. I held my child in the backyard the other day and cried at the mercy and kindness of the Lord that our kids teach me on a regular basis.
A year ago the Lord hit a huge pause button in my life and what I thought was a life of limited emotion was actually overflowing with undealt-with emotions from both my kids and me. I had reached a point where I yelled, got frustrated, and lost my temper over things that did not merit that kind of emotional outburst. It hadn’t happened overnight and the stress that had coiled around my heart and head would not unhinge quickly either.
As my heart and head unwound and I realized that fear -the one emotion that had driven me beyond distraction – was rippling out from me and being replicated in my kids. I feared that my kids would fail…that my son had ADHD…that I was a terrible mother…that I wasn’t engaged as a mom…couldn’t keep the laundry up…the floors, the meals…the list went on.
Emotions Must Be Dealt With
Emotions must be dealt with. As my mom says, emotions are like trash: When they are not dealt with, but stuffed in a closet somewhere instead, they begin to rot. And like trash, it stinks and begins to leak, and no matter how much you try to keep the door closed to avoid the smell or leaks from seeping out, it just gets worse over time. You begin spending all your time and energy keeping the door of that closet closed and the stink at bay, until you collapse in exhaustion, unable to control it any longer.
What seemed like punishment from God, when He hit the pause button, actually allowed me to open the closet, take out the trash, and deep clean the closet for (healthy) future use.
His Word Heals
Over time, I began reading the Word more. I read it in a different translation, which gave me new perspective, and read His words to me more consistently that I had been in recent months. I spent more time praying. C.S. Lewis says “Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes me.” I would agree wholeheartedly. I prayed and spent time in His word like it was the oxygen. I wish I could tell you that I faithfully had been reading all along, but when fear begins to wrap its way around you, there is a loss of perspective.
Giving back all those emotions to the One who created them, asking for Him to take over and help you manage them, THAT is freedom, my friend. If you struggle with anger or frustration with your boys, check out our No More Angry MOB (private) group. It will encourage you and hold you accountable.
You Are Not Alone
Know you are not alone. We all have emotions that need to be dealt with. I am praying right now that He will provide the perfect friend to help you “take out the trash” and walk alongside you as you heal.
Lord, bless and protection these sweet women who ache to control their emotions, the emotions of their kids, and maybe more. We give you our emotions and ask that they be used for my good and Your glory. Thank you for the host of amazing, Godly women that contribute to the MOB Society and that You surround us with, to affirm in each of us that we are not alone. Amen.
Here at The MOB Society we are committed to equipping and encouraging parents to raise godly men. And as a community of BoyMoms, we’re learning to delight in the chaos of raising boys along the way! Click here to read more about our story and the heart behind our ministry. And to meet our co-founders Brooke and Erin and the rest of the team, click here.
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