This day started out for me pretty much like all the others. I hobble out of bed on feet that are still sore from standing on them all day the day before, bleary eyed and begging for ice water and coffee. I thankfully leave the baby in our room under the watchful eyes and hands of our #2 and #3 Littles, as I make my way into the kitchen. I go through my to-do list, resolving with each task not to let it stand in the way of loving on the kids. Then I bark at them for asking me a question while I'm in the middle of reading something. Yes, this day started just like all the others, and as it wore on, it became more and more like all the days before. So, when my #3 Little came bounding into the office screaming for my attention because her "hiney was itching," it was an issue I was prepared to deal with.
I should preface this story with an admission that my third little is a bit of a stinker. She has the ability to love, encourage, and nurture other people in a way that almost nobody can match. And this outstanding sweetness comes out once a week--if we're lucky. The rest of her time is spent scratching, clawing, and screaming her way through life, afraid that if she lets her guard down, another Little will steal her seat or her food or her Barbies.
So, when she came running in, screaming and complaining that her hiney was itching, I almost didn't look up from the computer. And it didn't get better right away. Once the bath started, she argued with me about the depth of the water or whether or not she would play with her toys. From the time she got in the tub until I got her out, I was breathing deeply and praying for patience, daydreaming about naptime as a way of escape.
I only mention this story to illustrate that our life is not perfect, and our kids don't always behave. But today I am publicly committing that this summer I WILL NOT YELL. No matter how many times she squeals at the top of her lungs because her little brother is looking at her, I will not yell. When he, in turn, snatches her Barbie and runs down the front hall at top speed, stepping on the cat and scratching the wall, I will not yell. These days are so long, but the years are so short. This summer will be over with a blink of my eye, and I do not want them to remember it as the summer that I yelled myself cross-eyed.
So, here are the guidelines I am setting for myself in the I-Won't-Yell-Summer project:
If I feel like I have to yell at them to get their attention, that means they are too far away from me. I must decrease the distance between them and me, even if it means stepping away from what I'm doing.
Yelling at them means I have lost the battle, and I will not lose the battle. As much as I love the kiddos, they can't rule this house.
Consequences for poor choices must be not only swift, but also calm. Their timeout on the stairs is no more effective when I yell it out than when I calmly enforce it. In fact, the crying is so much quieter when I am quiet.
Whatever I do, I must not use more wine to increase my patience! No further explanation necessary; we all know the result of too much wine.
I have to remember that the struggle is real. And what I mean is, the struggle for their hearts is indeed far more real than the struggle to keep my cool under pressure. As hard as it may be to keep my voice low when they are fussy, it is not as hard as regaining their trust and their allegiance after they have pulled away from me. When I communicate to them with my harsh words and exasperated facial expression that they are a burden to me, they feel that they are going at this whole life thing alone. When they feel like that, I will lose the battle for their hearts.
And to put it all into practice, I will resolve that when I want to yell, I will lower my voice . The angrier I feel, the quieter my voice will get. It works better that way, anyway.
Obviously, I can't follow my rules for the I-Won't-Yell-Summer project by myself. In fact, left to myself, this sweet little summer project will be over TODAY at the exact time that the "witching hour" begins--which is around 4:30 for us. Without God, this is also the precise time that the white wine gets opened. But with Him, I can choose patience. I can smile when they tell me that the reason the baby is crying is because his tummy has a cold, and the reason they know that is that they poked him in the belly with the thermometer and the reading was under 98. Without constantly leaning on Him, these types of scenarios are super frustrating. With Him, they are hilarious. So with every breath, I will praise the Lord. And I will not yell; I will not yell; I will not yell...