The title of this post suggests that I have mastered something. That is not the case, this lesson is still a work in progress, but I wanted to share my thoughts on something that happened this weekend and that has forever changed my heart for the better. And yet again that just sounds weird. OF COURSE I love my kids! Just read on, and you'll get it..
You see these sweet children?
I try to be a good mom to them. I make sure they have clean clothes to wear every day, a breakfast/lunch/dinner and snacks. I take them to the park to play. We go on walks, ride bikes, make cookies together, read books together. I also try very hard to make sure they grow up obedient boys with good manners, learn to do chores, and respect things around the house (like not climbing all over things or breaking things). I try to get them to help me clean the house, or at least attempt to keep it clean (though I don't always succeed).
Other people usually comment to us what "good boys" we have. And they ARE good boys. Taylor, is, well he is going through a challenging phase for us right now but I know it's just part of being 3 years old (as well as probably his personality as well), but Preston....Preston has been mostly an angelic 5 year old.
The only real times Preston misbehaves is actually usually a direct result of either 2 things: 1) He is tired and ready for bed, or 2) Taylor is teasing and egging him on.
Yesterday, I spent the entire day working around the house. BOTH Will and I did. He was outside most of the day finishing up painting the white trim on our house which we've been meaning to finish for a couple of months. I was working on the inside. I twice cleaned the kitchen (we're talking a thorough cleaning including mopping, cleaning the microwave, etc), vacuumed all the carpets, polished the piano and the dining room table, washed all the bedding and made beds. I also spent about 4 hours going around the house collecting all of the toys I could and organizing them into bins for the boys so all of their toys would be neatly put away and organized now. Preston helped me with that - and we were able to find all of his cars and trains. He was a big help.
By bedtime, I was completely wiped out. Being 11 weeks pregnant, I guess you could say my body has lately been overtaken by the relaxin hormone lately which starts to make all of my joints very loosey-goosey. I've had a history in my last two pregnancies of producing a lot of this hormone which has made my ribs dislocate and slip out of place and have some painful hip problems. Last night, my hips were killing me and I was feeling a lot of pressure in my pelvic area and I knew I had probably overdone it - and needed to just lay down and relax for the rest of the evening. But Will was still outside on the roof painting, and since the next day was church I needed to still get our dirty boys into the bathtub and bathed and into bed.
So I slowly was hobbling around trying to get the bath water started, boys undressed and into the bath. Just when I thought I could sit down for a few minutes while the boys played in the bathtub, Preston came out saying he wanted a particular airplane toy to play with in the bathtub. I knew that this particular toy had just been put away in its NEW proper place in the newly organized labelled bins. I didn't want him getting the bins out and taking toys out since they were all neatly put away for the evening, and I knew they already had other bathtub toys in the tub.
Preston kept asking and I kept saying "No."
He was not taking no for an answer, and so I finally yelled at him "NO PRESTON NOW GET INTO THE BATHTUB!!"
Tears welled up into his eyes, he turned around and walked back into the bathroom, but then he did something he has NEVER done before. He turned back to me and through tears he said "I don't love you anymore Mama because you are so mad at me!" He sobbed. I thought that is what he said but I couldn't believe it. He has NEVER told me that he didn't love me before.
I said, "What did you say?"
And again, he very sadly looked at me and cried and said "I don't love you anymore because you are so mad at me!"
I have to say, that hurt. A lot. To the very core. Preston is my angel, my really really good well-behaved boy. He is usually always obedient, helpful, kind, etc. For him to express such big painful feelings to me and ones that hurt me, it was hard to believe they were actually happening and coming from him.
It didn't hurt me because he hurt me, it hurt because I knew he was right, I deserved him saying that to me.
I went to him and put a towel on him and held him close and told him I was so sorry that I yelled at him, and that was not nice of me to do that, and that I loved him very very much. I held him for a couple of minutes until he stopped crying and then told him he could go downstairs and get his airplane.
He played happily in the bathtub after that, and later that night when I tucked them into bed and told them a story, we snuggled and he told me he loved me.
But that was not the end for me. I went to my room and finally laid down on my bed and just sat there thinking about what had just happened. I thought to myself, "They are not your minions Jenni, they are people too. You need to respect them, and not yell at them."
I really thought about this incident, and it just made me so incredibly sad. I felt like a terrible mom. It hit me that I just expect them to love and adore me because I am their mother, and no matter what I do that won't change. It was the first time I realized that children love people who are kind to them (which is no wonder they love their grandparents so much). I know that sounds like a "duh" thing, but as a parent I think I just expect them to love me no matter what. No matter if I am having a crabby day and yell at them, they still have to love me because I am their mom.
I thought about how one day, as teenagers, I will really have to earn their love because they won't just want to snuggle me or hug me all of the time, and getting them to obey might be much harder than it is now because they will be more grown up and independent.
I thought about what it is like to live life through my children's eyes, and how they just want to feel safe and loved and they want to be smiled at.
I mean yes, I have to set boundaries and rules and I also need them to respect me, but I also need to respect them as individuals and as little people. They don't deserve to be yelled at. I remember when I was a child I really hated it when either of my parents yelled at me. It scared me and envoked great fear. Do I want my little children to fear me? Of course not. I want them to feel safe with me and to feel loved.
I laid there in my bed last night wondering how I could do better. How can I handle situations better so that I don't have to yell? Sometimes I feel like when they are being disobedient, the only way to get their attention is to yell at them. This needs to stop. And I know I am going to need my Heavenly Father's help every day until I master this because being a parent doesn't come with an instruction book. I'm not sure how to do things differently yet so in those "situations" I don't have to resort to yelling, but I know with God's help I can at least have more patience and figure it out.
In church today, it was perfect that part of our Relief Society lesson talked about unity in the family. The teacher asked the class "How can you have more unity in your family?" and some of the answers helped me. Love and Respect, Communication, etc.
Many years ago, the sister that I visit taught (this was before I even had any children of my own), was telling me that she was really struggling with her kids and getting mad at them and she prayed about what to do. And she got the answer that she needed to read her scriptures daily. And she said once she started reading her scriptures daily, she found that she had the spirit with her more often and was more patient and kind with her children, and there was a better feeling in their home. That always stuck out in my mind - something I tucked away as something to refer to in the future if I ever needed it. And well, I think this is one of those times. I have never been someone who is good about sitting down and reading, but I am going to try to get something in every day whether it's listening to scripture, watching the church's youtube inspirational videos, or reading the Ensign.
It is time for me to work on being a better mother - not just providing their needs and playing with them, but also making sure that I consciously try to make sure they feel loved by me each and every day.