I spent my young adulthood in a master’s course on parenting.
That is, at age 16 (I believe it was) our family began hosting foster kids.
Our first placement was a set of three sisters. We were prepared for one, but they asked if it were possible not to split them up.
So I ended up sharing my room with a 6-year-old while the other two bunked in the next room.
Can I just say (and it’s all I’ll say) that going from 3 to 6 kids overnight was stressful.
After them we had a string of boys, one at a time, and I got to watch my parents deal with the vast variety these kids brought to the table. I even had to be one of those skilled adults at times (thankfully some training was provided).
There have been several times when I will tell a story (from my childhood) to, or in front of, my mom. And it’s not about her or to guilt her. In my mind she’s incidental to the point of the story.
And she will say, “I’m so. sorry. I had no idea. I was so young.”
And then I feel really nervous, because I’m currently (or my kids are currently) our respective ages.
Gets me wondering what I’ll be apologizing for in 30 years.
But by the time we were bringing extra kids in, my parents had worked through three kids of their own. Kinda ironed out the major wrinkles it seemed to me, and I just took it all in.
When I had my own kids, I didn’t feel overwhelmed or “completely unprepared” like the sympathetic MOPS speakers always talked about. Yeah, the ever-present daily-ness of things wore me out, but it was a while before I really felt out of my depth.
All that to say that I know the “right way” to do most things.
Whether I have the energy to do those things is frequently in question, but I’ve always got this You should/could be doing *this* in my head.
And I know from months and years of watching and working with parents and children that (for example) it’s a good thing to talk about your feelings, rather than letting them explode all over your environment and the people you love.
So I’m really good at not-exploding.
But I’d had so much on the “emotions” side of things in the last week, that I should have been doing *some* talking at least, and I think I was doing less. Of the meaningful kind.
By yesterday I was so stretched (I was back on the wagon after a weekend of too much sugar and grains, working too hard, and that other, emotional, stuff) that I was pretty minimal on the parenting side of things.
I normally redirect and (try to) teach negotiating skills during after-school conflict, but I was just burned out and laid down a lot more ultimatums than usual.
Anyway, there was yet another sizzling confrontation in the living room, and I walked in on Melody trying to explain something to a concertedly disinterested Elisha.
She was escalating; I ordered her off her brother’s case and she turned to me with her copious tears.
“I just want him to understand!” she said.
“But it’s his project,” I said, slipping into default mode (my default is pretty much autonomy). “Unless he wants to include you in his project, you’re stuck. You can feel what you feel, and ask God to help you with that, but you can’t push in where you’re not welcome.”
I remembered an earlier mom-intervention from that afternoon.
“Not long ago Natasha tried to help you with your spelling, but you didn’t find it helpful. I told her to back off, because that was your project, and it wasn’t her place to tell you what should work for you.”
Melody’s face was now troubled. She was beginning to see both sides, and even for grown-ups, simultaneously holding both sides of a conflict gets heavy.
“It happens to me to!”
I wanted to shout, but said it carefully. Melody looked interested now, through her pout.
“I want to help another grown-up, I think I’ve got great ideas, just like you do for Elisha, or Natasha does for you. But it’s not. my. project. If this person doesn’t want to let me in there’s nothing I can do about that except pray, and give my feelings to God. There’s too much in life we just can’t. control.”
And at that moment I felt something in me relax.
I was still so tired my skin ached, and annoyed at how long it takes my system to level out after eating wrong, but I’d said something I needed to say.
And it didn’t hurt that my little girl seemed to learn from it too.