If you are reading this, you are probably a busy parent. So, I will cut to the chase. The secret to handling all of your parenting problems is this…run away. At least it worked for me.
If you have a few more minutes to spare, I will explain.
One of my children raged in a tantrum. Voices raised and frustration mounted.
This behavior had escalated over several weeks, and that day I reached the end of my rope.
In a desperate moment, I stormed up the stairs, grabbed my running shoes, and announced to my husband that I was done.
I would be back in twenty minutes.
(I know. Only twenty minutes, right? This is a true story though.)
I escaped, leaving my belligerent child in tears.
I’d say I pounded down the pavement, but that might conjure false images of my moving quickly. Rather, I slogged down the sidewalk.
My thoughts ran much faster than my legs.
During that first stretch, I realized this time apart was necessary.
I saw that much of my frustration was because I didn’t know how to handle this problem.
The emotion had snowballed to where I didn’t feel like I was doing anything right. You might as well award me now with “The Worst Mom Ever.”
I was berating myself for not being good at every aspect of parenting.
However, doctors, teachers, and professionals in nearly every occupation go to school to learn their trade and then participate in continuing education for the rest of their lives.
When a new problem arises, they don’t discount their years of training and experience.
Why would I expect less of the most challenging job on earth?
I took a deep (albeit belabored) breath and looked at this as an opportunity for “professional development.”
I decided to be kind to myself.
As I turned east toward the lake, my frustration melted into sorrow.
My poor child.
Suddenly, I was walking in my son’s shoes.
I saw the anger in his face and heard his screams again.
This behavior was not okay with me, but did I honestly think my child was enjoying that moment?
I tried to see where he was coming from. Why would he consistently react like this?
There was obviously just as much frustration and confusion on his part, as there was on mine.
I was filled with compassion.
This was not a “him against me” situation. This was an “us against a problem” situation.
I realized that the only way I was going to be able to actually help him was if I actually understood his problem, not just mine.
After several blocks, I turned right again, and my legs got into their rhythm.
Just before passing the park, I saw a woman in her yard fixing a sign proclaiming that her son was a soldier.
I stopped and thanked her for their service and sacrifice.
We chatted about her immigration and life here, where her son had served previously, and where he was now.
She thanked me for my gratitude and wished me luck as she turned to enter her house.
As I gradually picked up my pace again, I thought on the sincerity of my appreciation for this woman, her son, and others like them.
And you know what?
Appreciation changes everything.
Suddenly, I was filled with thankfulness for the freedoms we enjoy, my healthy body, our comfortable home, our family, the mental list went on.
And I knew I was especially grateful for my son, this little soul I have been called to nurture.
He was having challenges and it was my opportunity, my blessing, to help him figure out how to handle his emotions.
As I reached the last turn that would take me back home, I was now in the mental state to be humbly honest with myself.
No mommy is perfect.
What had I done to exacerbate the problem?
Was I inadvertently causing the issue?
What was I going to do now?
With my heart filled with compassion, gratitude, humility, and honesty, I was ready to find my answers.
And they came.
Specific steps entered my mind of how to help this child with the deeper, underlying causes of the frustration.
Suddenly, I was home.
I was renewed.
I knew I could be the mom this boy needed.
Lying on my front lawn, I thought about how I had reached a completely improved state of mind in a matter of twenty minutes.
What unfolded as I reflected was a pattern of principles I have used repeatedly to solve my parenting challenges.
- Set Apart time to learn.
- Be patient with yourself as you grow.
- Counsel with your spouse or confidant; read a parenting book, blog, or religious text; or call your mom or another “grown-up.”
- Pray. I believe in a God who loves these Littles even more than we do.
- Answers often come in quiet moments when you turn the radio off in the car or go for an unplugged run.
- Walk a block in your child’s shoes.
- Appreciate your specific circumstances and opportunities.
- Focus on You. What did you do wrong? What will you do now?
Did you get there miles before me?
Apart, Walk, Appreciate, You.
While we don’t expect life to be problem-free, we do want to feel good about the way things are going.
We want confidence that we are doing our best to help those precious little ones within our care.
We want to move forward with kindness and maybe even a little grace.
So the next time a new parenting situation has you befuddled, don’t let the frustration and discouragement take over.
Remember to run AWAY. Put yourself in the position to find your answers.
And I guess if all else fails, you could actually run away.
At least for twenty minutes.
Marielle Melling loves reading and history, music and math. She loves nature and all things athletic. She loves her huge family, four children, and fabulous husband. She loves life and sharing what she is learning. While we’re on the subject, she loves chocolate chip mint ice cream, puzzles, and her toilet paper to roll from the top. Marielle is trying to figure out Instagram, but you will most likely find her at her blog Lovin’ Life with Littles where she shares parenting insights, activities for kids, and funny tidbits about life with Littles.