I swear I say it in every post, but we are struggling. We are barely keeping our heads above water. It’s a billion different things that all come together into a giant tidal wave. We found ourselves in Holland. We had a death in the family. I finally saw a good doctor for some chronic health issues; this doctor discovered I have serious gluten and dairy sensitivities. I swear just figuring out what I can eat has felt like a full-time job in the past two weeks (I have a host of other food allergies in addition to the gluten and dairy).
I can’t quite figure out how to both meet and survive the needs of each member of this family. My bucket is empty. I can’t breathe – often literally, always metaphorically. The waves just keep coming, and there isn’t enough time to stand up, brush ourselves off and brace for the next one.
I’ve told you before about the Orange Rhino. This inspiring mom has built an entire community around the idea of learning to yell less and love more (an idea I can totally get behind!). I first decided this was a change that simply had to made, just like that. I did really well for a while, and then I struggled. I had the honor of guest posting over at the Orange Rhino about my struggle and my commitment. Those words still resonate daily and deeply. I’ve continued on my journey to becoming an “Orange Rhino”, a once believed mythical creature (my kids thought it was a fairy tale when I first told them about her!.. hey Orange Rhino, when’s your children’s book coming out? Seriously, next project!) known as the mom who doesn’t yell. I’ve had big failures and big successes.
Yesterday was hard. Hard, hard, hard. I was working so hard to manage my emotions, my physiological response to stress, my fight or flight. I did a damn good job. It wasn’t perfect, but it could have been a serious disaster. When we struggled, the kids and I talked it out. We reconnected. I made hard choices. Chicken nuggets got thrown on the table for dinner, because I knew they needed to sled with their mama. Grocery shopping didn’t happen, because I knew I had to continue on mission damage control to make it out of the day with everyone in one piece. I skipped my workout, because my kids needed me, plain and simple. It can’t happen every day. My bucket’s as empty as it can get, but I made the necessary choices yesterday. My reward was a peaceful and calm bedtime, and a beautiful piece of wisdom from my son.
I have a calendar where I color the days orange if I go the whole day without yelling. Lately that’s not been very often. At bedtime tonight, the boys and I were talking about our day. It had some rough spots (many of my own were thankfully exhaustingly concealed from the kids), but we had some bright spots too. B asked me if I was going to color today orange, and I told him no I didn't talk very nicely when such and such happened, but it's ok, we forgave each other and we focused on love and grace. We make mistakes and we help each other to try again.
Then Ben asked if he could have a calendar like mine to color his days because he liked that idea. I told him sure, we could make one tomorrow. He got quiet and thought for a moment... and then he sadly said, “I don’t think many of my days will be orange.” He has a hard time. Emotional regulation is just part of our journey in Holland. It’s no small feat for me, so I can only imagine how hard it is for him. I said, “I know it can be very hard but we keep trying. We give each other love and grace in the meantime. We love each other no matter, we try our best, we say sorry, and we forgive each other.”
As so often happens with this boy, his face lit up and he told me that he had a great idea! His idea was that we should put a heart around those days that we can't color orange, those days when we fall short. It can help us remember that we are loved and that we love each other no matter what.
Oh. my. word. This kid knows grace. Seriously, he just blows me away.
I talk about grace a lot. I need it. I know I am broken. I know I fall short, in every way possible. But there’s still a part of me that is scared to trust this grace stuff. I just want another checklist, a criteria by which I can evaluate myself. I can either fill in a whole month of orange numbers on a calendar and feel validated, or I can be faced with a white calendar staring at me with failure, with my inability to be a better, calmer mom. There’s safety in that… the success and even the failure. It’s black and white, or in my case orange and white.
But I *know* better. I know that beating ourselves up with our failures does not inspire us to do better, it does not equip us to make changes. I know it doesn’t work with children. That’s why we strive to parent the way we do. That’s why I say it over and over again every. single. day. Love, grace, and courage.
So maybe that calendar isn’t covered in orange, but it’s covered in love. Those red hearts are a reminder that I need more love. When I am struggling, I need to give myself more love. I need to be a little kinder to myself so that I can be kinder to others. And the same goes for my kids.
With a whole lot of love, even more grace, and as much courage as we can muster… we can all yell less, love more… judge less, connect more… criticize less, listen more. Love, grace and courage can change our world, and then they can change the world.