Thursday, June 2, 2011

Revisiting calm and peace

New blogger devorahs commented on this post and asked:

When you realised you were "no longer a mother trying to force a little timely nutrition, but a force for calm and peace in my home", what did you DO???

That’s a good question. As in, how does a force for calm and peace do her dishes? That sort of thing?

It’s fun to revisit my first post. I’m going to try to consider the question and not get stuck on what an odd word “force” is.

Here is my experience: my actions flow from my thoughts. So when my behavior sucks I miss the mark, I take a look at my thinking.

Here’s an example. One afternoon last week, I bought my kids ice cream. I give treats for one of two reasons: either as a reward for triumphing over their impulses, or as a demonstration of love. And I always try to be clear which it is, so they can have pride in their accomplishments or, alternately, feel that I love them and give them good things because of that pure, unearned love.

Yes, I analyze everything this much.

That particular Thursday was a “just because I love you” ice cream day. The girls were sitting around the table finishing off their treats and being sort of whiny and irritating in that after-school-transitional-way and they kept yanking at the table runner and ignoring my admonitions to stop.

So I shouted, “Hey! Stop doing that!” And they both immediately stopped what they were doing and gazed at me in rapt attention with contrite and solicitous expressions, murmuring gentle apologies.

Or not.

Rather, they continued their rowdiness and I rolled up the runner and moved the vase out of their reach. All the yelling accomplished was to create a tense and negative atmosphere in the house.

So I asked myself, why am I yelling? What am I thinking when I start to yell at my kids? Here’s what I heard:

“I got them a treat and they owe it to me to behave. They aren’t behaving because they don’t appreciate me at all and there’s no point in doing special things for them. No one is listening to me.”

And you know, it just isn’t so. Here are just a few things wrong with that reasoning:

1. My kids don’t owe it to me to behave. It’s my job to teach them proper conduct, but that’s a long-range goal. I don’t want to raise people who only act right to please their mother.

2. I got them a treat because I love them, not to buy their obedience. Even if that were possible . . .

3. They weren’t behaving because they didn’t feel like behaving and they have very limited (and age-appropriate) impulse control.

4. God is listening to me, even when no one else is. My sense of serenity is not dependent on my children’s behavior.

. . .

So my mistakes—yelling at or punishing my children, whining and complaining, sulking and martying myself—they don’t come out of nowhere. When I find myself falling into these ruts, I know there’s something wrong with my thought process. I try to identify where I’ve gone off course and reconnect.

So what do I do when I remember that I’m a force for calm and peace? I do what the moment requires of me: read a bedtime story, listen to what my husband is saying, cook for Shabbat, laugh on the phone with my best friend until I cry—one at a time, usually. And I do it with attention and awareness, because I am connected to my ultimate purpose.

. . .

Postscript: I just read this post to A.N., and she commented, “Yelling is not good.” True words.

3 comments: said...

thanks chaya- the scene of the kids pulling off the runner made me laugh. One day a few years from now, I think, you will be so happy that you have all these stories of the antics of your teensy weensy children (i.e. keep blogging please! I'm addicted!)

mother in israel said...

LOL about analyzing everything, and the gaze.
So true about thought processes---the trick is to catch yourself.

ds said...

Hmm, do what the moment requires of me...I think I can do that. I do foresee a lot of teeth-gritting while I try to calmly brush those teeth/clear up that spill/get that child to strap themselves in...well, I'll let you know how it goes in MoreQuestionsThanAnswers I suppose:)

Post a Comment

Hi! I love comments. Please choose a name to comment, anything but Anonymous.