Good Dog: Date Night

GlitterToes with hot dog

One of the best antidotes to a crabby day is to ask your kid out on a date.

GlitterToes and I try to have a date once every month or every couple of months. This past Friday night, we went to a hot dog place (with ice cream, of course) and then to WalMart to look for “the perfect” swimsuit for her.

Where I said no to the bikini and had to explain what “modesty” means.  As well as age-appropriate clothing.

We had the most fun not when spending money on dinner or figuring out which swim suit would look best. The best times came in the car, when she started doing this weird helium-like voice I’ve never heard her do. And we played the spontaneously-made-up Opposite Game where we said the opposite of what we meant. That was a fun, mind-bending game which left us with aches in our sides from so much laughing. And racing down the escalators – that was fun you could not plan or write on a to-do list.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your kids is to spend time with them.

Though toys and clothes and fun food are all great to a child, whether they know it or not, they just yearn for YOU. 

Their tummy may tell them they are hungry for ice cream, but their hunger pangs are for you.

Their eyes might light up at seeing the newest Transformer, but their eyes will beam when you look at them and smile.

As my date and I talked about my buying her new running shoes, I realized that we had spent a lot of money that night. I pulled her aside and began to explain to her how I wanted her to know that date night didn’t have to be spent going to fun places and to restaurants…

and this was the one time I didn’t mind her interrupting me. She said:

“yeah, date night could be us sitting on my bed in my room and hanging out and stuff.”

Sometimes it’s best to be quiet and let your child teach you.

fry and crush

We had a great time that night. It stormed heavy and I drove with hands clenched around the steering wheel while she chattered on in the back. We got home and went to bed happy and tired.

The next day the whole family was crabby and the two siblings bickered like crazy. It was not a good day and not a Good Dog day.

But date night was a Good Dog kind of day.

So I learn, once again, that when we fall we must get right back up and open our hearts and ears to what God has to teach us.

As well as the children.

On knees, head low, arms high…

Good Dog: When Anger Morphs

This is my second “Good Dog” post, the series where I talk about my adventures (nice use of word) trying to lower my yelling ratio. I found I was yelling at more than loving on my kids.

My ego kept making excuses: These are your stepkids. You weren’t ready for full-time motherhood; you didn’t know how to be a good motherYou were thrown into this role too fast, no wonder you’re stressed so much.

But I know Truth. I know Jesus has given me His mind and that mind does not create the thoughts I have when I get so angry that ugly spits out of my mouth. I know that I can control these negative thoughts; I can take them captive.

So no. I could not blame my yelling on my circumstances, only. I could not blame it all on the fact on my inexperience or lack of readiness.

Because I believe God never puts in a place where we won’t be ready for. We might not be ready yet…

but God turns our yet into yes.

I might not have been ready at first, but through God’s molding, God’s refining, I become ready.

I just have to accept the training God gives me. 

So there’s no blaming anymore. I was yelling because I felt out of control due to our various family stress. I was yelling out of fear, pure and simple.

I was not listening to who God says I am.

I am listening now. I join other parents who have had enough yelling and want more loving.

I’ve been journaling about my yelling and anger for a few weeks now.  I’ve tried alternatives to yelling and worked very hard. My yelling has actually decreased.

But the anger hasn’t.

So what happens when the yelling decreases but the anger still remains at the plateau?

My yelling morphed into things I, personally, think are even worse:

sarcasm, meanness, snapping, rude weariness. 

Seeing those words typed out in loud, bold print, seeing my most ugly side out there for all to see – it’s humiliating. I catch myself thinking I am the only one with this problem and I must be the worst parent in the world.

But then I read The Orange Rhino’s latest blog entry and read some of the community’s comments and I know instantly that I am no where near alone on this island of anger.

We’re all trying to find some paddles to swim to safe land. We find them differently. We even paddle differently.

So with this revelation of my yelling morphing into still-damaging coping mechanisms, I continue the uphill battle of loving my kids more.

I find myself spilling over with attitude and grumpiness, crankiness and hard snaps. Then, I feel awful and get into the horrible cycle of feeling bad about what I did and then being so stuck that I keep doing it.

How to rise out of the molasses?

One trick I did which I learned from The Orange Rhino: launch into an animal noise.

Seriously.

I cock-a-doodle-do-d my way out of my anger

I cock-a-doodle-do-d my way out of my anger

I crowed like a rooster to jar myself out of my icky-place. And, by jove, it worked!

The anger left me and I felt more able to talk appropriately.

So my yelling has decreased, but somehow my need for control has found new ways to grip life hard.

I want to stop that as well.

I will not let this biting sarcasm and sharp off-hand comments harm my kids anymore than I would let my yelling.

I cock-a-doodle-do-d my way out of yelling, I can moo myself out of snapping.

And I will.

Because I have two things, among many more, on my side – but these are the best two:

Grace from God

and

a host of animal noises to make. 

With a baah baah here and a neigh neigh there.

On knees, head low, arms high…

my stepson's school art project that he gave me

my stepson’s school art project that he gave me

Good Dog: First Good Dog Post on a Bad Day

So I’m so happy to see the response that I have received from various people about my Good Dog endeavor (if you are not yet familiar to this, please see the page titled as such on this blog over on the third tab). I was all psyched up about it and kept up on the blog-reading and self-talk and journal writing, trying to untangle the messy web of anger that resides inside me.

And then I came home from work and I just felt grumpy and resentful and I made a few parenting mistakes and I just failed. Horribly failed.

I know what you’re thinking: she’s too hard on herself.

And I say, if I’m not hard on myself, who will be?

And then I hear a whisper: why does anyone have to be hard on you?

Well, I stammer, because I can’t keep doing this. I just can’t.  I’m miserable, depressed, anxious. I come home with hands shaking because I don’t want to deal with child-confrontation.

But how messed up is that?

It hit me today, the main objective I want to get out of this Good Dog endeavor:

I want to take delight in my children

Shouldn’t that be easy?

Long story short, I made plenty of mistakes in just three short hours.

But there is a very important concept – not just a concept, but a gift, that God gives us.

And that is grace.

“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are

and does not leave us where it found us.”

~ Anne Lamott

So…as the Bible says, His mercies are new every morning. I tell GlitterToes every night she goes to bed angry, upset, or sad: tomorrow is a new day, wiped clean.

Perhaps I ought to listen to my own words. And ponder what grace, literally, means:

unmerited favor

God bestows grace upon me because He created me. Not because I did or didn’t do something.

Grace is truly a hard thing to wrap your mind around because it is so counter-intuitive to our culture and, frankly, quite uncomfortable to truly comprehend.

Do murderers get grace? Do thieves?

Ah, the hard questions. For now, I’ll focus on us angry parents who yell too much and who want to stop the angry imprint and, instead, build up a loving child’s heart.

Love more, yell less.

I wrote a lot of observations in my “Good Dog” journal (while I put myself in a time-out in my bedroom). I won’t share them now due to the lateness of the hour, but I do hope to share some of the things I realized, such as my triggers and how I show my anger (which, to my surprise and horror, has changed somewhat recently) and what could be achieved if I did meet this goal. I will share these things in time.

So in the meantime, I wish to extend the reminder of God’s grace to each of you.

And take it in, myself.

On knees, head low, arms high…