I believe at the end of my days, most of what I know about life will come to me through relationships. For a while now, I’ve been reflecting on how living in a family refines us. I read recently that specifically parenting “undoes” us and “remakes” us. There are many ways in which I’ve been undone. I am not yet fully remade. The work is in progress.
Parenting (and marriage, too, for that matter…) brings to the surface things about ourselves that we didn’t see before. Sometimes it’s the fierce love that takes me by surprise. Sometimes it’s how incredible I feel when I sit back at a distance and watch the kids interacting together. The smallest things: a word, a smile, an expression, can stir up quite the surge of emotion. I find myself lately stopping to soak up the moment.
There’s the other side, too. I never considered myself all that angry of a person. But I can get awfully mad at my kids. It feels like I reach a limit. And there have been times when I have become undone. Yes, I know that kids can be frustrating. The training they require, the repetition, the making of the same mistakes over and over. It gets old. But love is patient, not easily angered. It protects (and not just when the object of love is acting worthy of it…). So, I’ve been in a several year journey of learning to separate my emotion, my irritation, my lack of patience, from my discipline. I’m not talking about just not yelling when I’m mad (though there’s been work to do there). I’m not talking about simply refraining from saying (out loud, with words), “I am disappointed in your behavior.” I’m talking about learning to choose love over irritation, to choose protection (especially in moments of discipline) over resentment with my attitude. As I heard a wise pastor say several months ago, “In moments of discipline, emotionally ignore the behavior of your child.” This is very different than ignoring. It means calmly responding with love, modeling God’s kindness that leads to repentance, and letting consequences be the result of a behavior, not making loss of the parent’s favor the consequence.
Here’s where soccer comes into the scene. Ginna and Jamey are both playing this season, both for the first time. They love it. And I do, too. I enjoy sitting on a soccer field three nights a week and on Saturdays. It gets us out of the house together, and it makes me sit and watch, and have some fun with Fin and whichever sibling is not playing at a time of day that doesn’t usually lend itself to that. What has really blessed me about this soccer season, though, is not just the quiet of sitting in a field. It is the coaching. It is so different than what I experienced in my (one season) of playing softball (which I HATED, by the way).
AYSO in general supports positive coaching, teamwork, and has rules against being negative towards players who aren’t playing so well, who miss a play, etc. (though I’ve seen coaches…and parents…not abide by this). Ginna and Jamey’s coaches are both great, but Ginna’s coach in particular has been a great blessing to her, and to me. His daughter is on the team, and watching him cheer for her when she makes a good play and comes so close but misses the goal (I’ve seen him jump up and yell “WAY TO GO!!! in such a way that you would think the ball made it in)….it is making me think differently about affirmation of our kids. And after every game (even on Saturday when they lost 6-0), he remembered something that every girl did well and brought it up in the post-game meeting. He encourages them to do better in areas that are lacking, as well, but the affirmation stands out to me.
Yes, I realize that it is easier to be affirming when a kid misses a goal than when she tells a lie, hits a sibling, or talks back. The missed goal doesn’t stir up the same emotions are the misbehavior. BUT….love is to protect in both of those instances.
What does it look like to emotionally ignore an offense, to affirm in weakness, and to protect in correction? It’s a posture of the heart (remembering what is most important, praying, etc.), but for me, words help reaffirm the part of my heart that I want to come out (the protecting part that remembers God’s love, not the controlling part that wants to not be bothered). So, in moments of weakness (aka, misbehavior) I can say, “(child), I love you very much RIGHT NOW. This event is not going to effect my day. I still plan on having a good day with you. I can’t let you do what you are doing. Here is what is going to happen if you don’t stop.” And then, I can teach him/her to say calmly, “I don’t want that to happen. What can I do to keep it from happening?”
I am sure there is still more “undoing” to come for me. I am glad God chooses such a joy-filled path for me to learn to love a bit more like He does. And I’m thankful for an image lately of a God that cheers for us, even as we make mistakes along the way.