Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Meltdown Meter

Today was our last full day of what was already a brief beach trip and P woke up feeling puny. I am still not sure what the culprit is...exhaustion, heat, dehydration or some sort of little viral bug...but his tummy and head ache and as of late today he is running a temp just above 102. So, after attempting an outing this morning that resulted in him announcing "I think I am going to throw up" in front of a half dozen people, I put him back to bed. After a 2 1/2 hour nap he rallied a bit only to (predictably) crash again during dinner tonight.

I always find it interesting when a child is on the verge of illness what a microcosmic picture of parenting it represents. Maybe I am the only one whose crazy Mama brain works like this:
Am I being overprotective to make him stay in once he has perked up?
I am being unconcerned by allowing him to return to play?
Do I quarantine everyone else away from him? Or live a little and trust that everyone will be OK?
And what about his siblings? Do I make them stay inside all day too (at the beach...on their last day) so as to not burden my friends who have 5 other 5-12 year olds to supervise? Or do I take my friends at their word that it is ok to send them along while I stay back with my boy?

Meanwhile I am being asked 100 other questions by my inquiring 7 year olds, about how this is all going to effect them. I confess it is not the best version of me.

I realized this week (while traveling with two other Mamas and their older brood) that I really do have an internal meltdown meter of sorts when it comes to gauging my kids.

(This picture is a couple of months old, but it seems to fit the meltdown theme.)

I have been trying to be cool this week and let them stay up a little later, eat more junk, have more freedom...but I can sense when we are almost at the point where things are going to start falling apart. When I attempt to start reigning things in it is met with great emotion--strong denials, promises of strength, energy and endurance that I know are false and heavily influenced by wanting to be with their friends. They aren't purposefully being dishonest, they are just blinded to their limitations because of their strong desires. Yet, they are growing up and sometimes the only way to know if they are old enough to handle expanded boundary lines is to try. Sometimes it goes well and other times it does not. It is the tiniest glimpse into peer pressure... and it terrifies me.

I want the wisdom and discernment to choose my battles carefully. I don't want to 'die on a hill' unnecessarily and/or deprive them of a fun experience and sweet taste of age-appropriate freedom. I don't want to throw down a gauntlet for the sake of 'proving' my authority. At the same time, I don't particularly enjoy picking up the pieces after a failed experiment.

The truth of the matter, at this age any way, is that I KNOW my children. Their strengths, their weaknesses, their vulnerabilities. Not only do I know them, but I LOVE them too. When my heart is right, my reservations are built on my protectiveness of and for them. When my heart is not right, my decisions are based solely on my own convenience.

I must constantly remind them that I am FOR them...but because that is for the long run it may not always make sense to them in the short term.

It is a reminder of the way I think God parents us. Many times He answers our prayers with "No, not now/not yet/not this time." Not because He is a big bully on a control trip...but because He loves us. His heart is pure. His perspective eternal. He knows what we can handle. He knows what else is on the agenda. He is for us. He knows us and He loves us.

It makes me a more graceful Mama to stop and consider the ways my children's frustrating behaviors reflect my own relationship with God. It also makes me love and cling to Him all the more. Thank you God for this sacred (and sanctifying) role of parent.

1 comment:

Paige said...

There are so many times I read your blog and think, "YES! Me too!" That happened again just now. It is such a difficult balance to strike, particularly when extra eyes are around. I feel like quite the "bad guy" when well-intentioned family tries to eliminate boundaries that are so needed. Thanks for sharing your observations. So glad to know I'm not the only one walking that high wire!