The picture above was taken early this week.
Gallon smashing – my eleven year old calls it, apparently, is a lot funnier on YouTube than in reality.
I had just come home from a shopping trip/errand run…my three younger boys, who had come along with me, complained the entire drive. My 10-year-old daughter had stayed at home, tired, after a night of throwing up. I had a migraine which had come on after yet another sleepless night. I drove into our garage, turned off the vehicle and turned back to my wild, crazy crew.
“Boys,” I said in a gentle but firm voice, “I want you to help me carry in the groceries before running off to play.”
And the miracle was, they did it! Without complaining, the older two boys exited the van, opened up the trunk and each grabbed an armful to haul in. I proceeded to get my youngest out of the van and clean up some garbage when I heard it: A thump, some yelling from one boy to another, and a heartbroken wail coming from the younger of the two helpers.
Before I even opened the door to our house I knew what had happened. Something had accidentally been dropped, probably from carelessness, and a big mess would await me inside.
I took a deep breath and went in to assess the damage.
A few years ago, I would’ve seen the full gallon of liquid, splattered everywhere, leaking underneath my permanent island and FREAKED OUT, probably sending every child to their room, guilty or not. I would’ve screamed, I would’ve yelled, I would’ve LOST IT.
Simply put, I would’ve looked only at the spilled milk.
But as I walked into my house, I barely saw the milk. Instead, I saw two big blue eyes brimming with tears. I saw my six year old brace himself for the reaction he expected. I saw his fear. And mercy gripped my heart. I couldn’t bring myself to get angry at him.
He had tried to carry two gallons at once, they had been too heavy for him to lift on the counter and one had slipped. I found myself kneeling before my son, comforting him and thanking him for doing his best to help.
I’m aware that I write a lot about how I’ve changed in a good way these past few years. And I can point to many different things that may have been a factor, but the truth is, I simply began seeing the fruit of my authoritative-based parenting…and it wasn’t pretty.
First of all, of course, I noticed it in my children. My children seemed to no longer be able to speak a kind word to each other. They would yell at one another for making simple, honest mistakes. They would harshly accuse each other of terrible things, without waiting to hear the full story. And I, in return, would try to discipline these behaviours out of them. However hard I tried, my discipline didn’t seem to be helping, in fact it seemed to be making things much, much worse.
In reality they were simply copying me, my pride, my overreaction to their mistakes.
I wasn’t a terrible parent, I was giving it my all and doing as best I could with the resources I had at the time.
If I could just be more consistent, I thought. Maybe if I was just a little more firm, maybe if I would be involved even more, maybe then these things would change.
Yet, the more involved I tried to be, the more frustrated I became until I came to the end of my rope in parenting and had to take a big step back to find out where I had possibly gone wrong.
And finally, after many months of reflection, reading, parenting courses and support groups, I came to an eye opening conclusion: My core beliefs in parenting were wrong.
They were wrong! They were causing my harsh responses. They were causing the lack of connection I felt with my children. They were causing the extreme ups and downs of each emotional outburst.
I believed that the stricter I was, the better behaved my children would be. I now realize that control CANNOT shape a heart the right way…only peaceful love does.
There is much more to say about this, but I think I will leave it at that. I have much more to ponder today.