Some days don’t feel like our life together began with adorable wedding invitations designed to look like books and entitled Marital Bliss.
Some days parenting skills are almost irrelevant because the children have their own agency and make choices for themselves no matter how much I pray and plead and hope.
Today Mary stole toys that weren’t hers again, and hid all her laundry in her drawers, and “lost” her homework (twice) so she wouldn’t have to do it.
Alex threw such a big baby fit, like a real toddler tantrum, that he even threw his mattress off the top bunk onto the floor below.
Kirk ran his little mouth, arguing and back talking about everything in a most uncharacteristic kind of way.
Barrett punched Alex in the face, which made most of us want to cheer, except that’s not okay.
Anber pinched Kirk, told three big lies in a row, and pointed out (again) to all the other children that Grandma only wants to buy her presents and not them and only wants to sit with her and not anyone else. She can be so mean!
Nathan and I wanted to lose it. We were so angry! And frustrated! And disappointed!
At one point, I just left the battlefield and crawled back under the covers. I set the timer on my phone for three minutes, had a good cry, then washed my hands and face and went back out there. No matter how much easier it would have been, I couldn’t just leave them all out there by themselves to duke it out via Hunger Games.
Except I can, because they have their own lives to manage.
I’m the mom, so it’s my job to pass out ice packs and give hugs when the dust settles, but it is not my job to regulate for them or rescue them from consequences.
Oh, yes, it is time for dinner, except you are hanging up clothes from two days ago. We will save a plate for you!
Oh, I do see your mattress on the floor. That’s gonna be a rough night of sleeping, buddy. It will be just like camping out! Enjoy!
No, I don’t think I feel like taking a break to have a Dr. Who date with you, because unkind words don’t make for very warm company.
I am sure you would like to go out and play on the swing set since it arrived tonight, except you are on a safety plan that means playing by yourself for now. You will get a turn tomorrow, while the others are doing a group activity.
Hey, I heard you were good at pinching, so how about taking this bowl of beads for me and clasping them all closed? Fancy hair braids are for ladies, not bullies.
It’s been a long time since we had an fancy braids at our house!
And it’s true, that natural consequences or those they have chosen for themselves are best.
But we can’t just end there, in a hot mess of trouble and drowning in consequences.
That would be too easy, for us all to just go pout while boiling over with emotions.
Except that’s a spirit that tears families apart.
It’s not of God.
And so while we cannot rescue them from consequences, we can urge them forward, trudging through the mud and mire to the other side of the river.
We can, carefully and peristently, draw them full circle back toward us with that increase in love part that’s supposed to follow discipline.
Do you want to sit in my lap as you cry? You are remembering how your mother stole, too? You don’t have to give your body away. You don’t have to steal to stay alive. You are safe now. I promise.
Do you want to sing a song with me to chase your mads away? We all make mistakes, sweet boy, but we must not give up. Never give up. And never believe that a mistake means you are unloveable or not worthy. You are worthy, because of whose you are and who you are and what He has done for you. Nothing changes that. Let’s sing our “Try again” song.
Listen, little boy, you got your mouth from your other mama and from me. You better watch it, or al kinds of trouble will fall in your lap. Trust me. Ask her. It’s especially bad, somehow, when you have such a gift for kindness and caring for others. Don’t betray you. Protect who you are. Be wise in your words, not careless.
Just because you got beat all the time doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to do it. Just because the only thing you remember is the screaming and the hitting doesn’t make trying it out alright. We promised this was a safe house, a no screaming and no hitting house, but that means everybody does their part – including you. Your feelings are so big, but that’s because they are. Name them. Learn them. Make friends with them. Talk them out, draw them out, put it all to words. But do not use that power to strike against someone else.
You are a warrior. But a warrior is wise and cautious, not impulsive or cruel. A wolf takes care of her pack, and keeps them gathered in line instead of scaring and scattering them. These other children need you, and you need them, siblings long before foster care or adoption. Your story is made of eternal stuff, so don’t sell it for porridge.
Some days we need a collective intervention of stories or music or distraction in some way to calm everything back down.
Some days Kyrie can’t breathe, and we get a reminder of more important things.
Other days she can breathe, and she’s a brat of a toddler, and we all run for our lives.
But the funny thing is, no matter what we do to chase away the Spirit from our home, nothing coaxes peace back as quickly as legit forgiveness, letting go of grudges and resentment, and the whispering of softly spoken words and cuddles in giant, donated, sofa chairs.
And sometimes a short song from a little girl who just wants to breathe well enough to make a little music.
Enough music to make the children laugh again, to sing again, and then dance again.
(But not on the roof.)