This morning started out on the right foot. I slept in a bit, woke up to T making breakfast for he and his sister, and all seemed right in the world. We got ready for the day, loaded up to head to my meeting and since we didn’t really sit and have a family quiet time, we spent the first few minutes of our car ride praying over our day. I was determined to not get wound up in the rushing rhythms that can often overtake our day to day, and trust that I could move to and from wherever we needed to go and whatever we needed to be doing.
After some milk for the littles, and a cup of coffee for mama, my meeting went wonderfully. One of those meetings where you realize your ideas aren’t as crazy as they seem, and people really do want to see you bring them to life. Great meetings, right? Well, sitting on Cloud 9 was only temporary because as soon as the meeting was over, P had made up her mind that a DIY Glitter Princess Headband kit was coming home with us. While gifts are definitely a love language both of my children speak fluently, we sincerely try not to over do it. (Plus, we’re working extra hard right now to knock out our remaining debt and save for our ten year anniversary trip. So extra niceties are just not in the cards for anyone).
Normally, when we tell P ‘no’ she complies with the saddest smile, we talk about it, and move on with our day. Today, was not one of those days. After asking repeatedly to put said glitter nightmare, I mean wonder, back on the shelf. She slowly morphed into a lump on a log, it was not as humorous as it sounds I assure you. With one finger on the box, she sat there, 99% compliant with what I was asking her to do. It was that stubborn 1% that just didn’t want to let go.
Things quickly escalated from there, (naturally, toddler storytime was going on just around the corner so mom guilt was in full effect) and I was helpless.
As I stood there, on the verge of tears wanting to be the mama she needed, so many thoughts raced through my mind:
How do I calm her down while still addressing healthy emotional coping?
Does this situation require discipline? What is the appropriate action?
What is the root of her reaction? Is she acting out or struggling to communicate?
How do I respond?
Why does this feel like too much?
I just want to scream.
Do I just walk away?
Oh my gosh, I can’t handle this.
And I couldn’t. By the grace of God, she let go of the box and T returned it to the shelf. She held my hand, screaming, and walked out of the store with me. We got to the care, and she started kicking, screaming, and crying even harder than before. I broke down in tears, but still trying to convince myself that I am right where I should be, in the space I should be in, and trying to love my daughter with grace and not my own broken human-ness. I managed to get her into her carseat, in the rain, and then surrendered myself to my own tears even more as I climbed into the driver’s seat. I sat there, overwhelmed. If you have never experienced high anxiety or PTSD triggers, I don’t know how to explain the feeling. For me, breathing feels like a boulder is crushing your chest, all sounds are like nails are on a chalkboard, and if everything doesn’t stop all at once, I might actually implode. In those moments, I am literally worthless, but never am I unworthy.
As I shared earlier today right after this fun little scenario unfolded, perspective is key. I had to keep reminding myself who I am, who she is, and what my purpose as her mother is: to shepherd her heart into a responsible, loving, and diligent individual. My inability to deal with her meltdowns, does not make me a bad mom. In fact, recognizing that I know my limits and being able to cry, and still offer a firm kindness in the midst of chaos was a win. However, there was a much bigger picture at play. Do you know what made her stop crying? I called her father.
As I sat there listening to Sam on speakerphone, P immediately stopped screaming. She knew she was heard, she knew she was loved, and she knew she was acting out. Her father’s voice is what guided her through it, helped her see it, and brought her peace.
When she handed me back the phone, Sam asked me if I was alright – I knew I would be, but emotionally in those situations, everything in me wants to curl up into a ball and go to sleep. I know that’s not always a healthy response, but sometimes rest is the key. In this situation though, it was remembering who I was and what I was made to do.
I was reminded that even in the midst of a storm, I have the power to overcome, and it is okay if I can’t do it alone, because I wasn’t meant to. I spent most of the afternoon thinking about that stubborn 1% that didn’t want to let go, and realized how quickly things escalated when P wasn’t fully ready to let it go. Man, that’s wasn’t just her struggle. It is mine. How often am I stubbornly holding onto that last 1% because I want it, or have convinced myself that I need it so badly, I’m not willing to let go and trust the wisdom that’s right in front of me? How often do I let things escalate so quickly that I can’t handle myself and it takes the gentle voice of my Father to remind me who I am? That 1% can kick our butts, and make things a bit horrible for those around us. But when we let go, and trust that there is something better coming, that there is wisdom outside of our own ways of living and thinking, there is an inexplicable peace and calm.
As I was driving home from soccer practice, I decided to listen to the next chapter of Romans since that’s what I’ve been reading through this month, and this is what I heard:
“Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them – living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end’ attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.” Romans 8:5-8 MSG
I’m not sure He could have made it any more clear. I have to be willing to let go of the 1%. I don’t want to do it on my own because I want FREEDOM. An open and spacious life can’t happen if I’m clinging to that last 1% and trusting in my own results. If I want to live a life that is pleasing to Him, then I have to let go of what He is asking me to surrender. Bottom line.
So remember how I said perspective is key? I didn’t just see my daughter losing her mind because she wanted a toy. I saw a little girl, not trusting in wisdom because she was trusting in self, and friends, that’s just not the way we were designed. So here’s to those meltdowns bringing us one step closer to a open, spacious, free life where letting go of the last 1% is done willingly with joy.