One evening last week my mom, who lives five minutes from our home, called to say she needed some extra hands to refresh the mulch in her yard. Knowing I have a number of extra hands laying idle around the house this summer (or wrapped around an electronic gadget of some sort), I readily offered to bring a few over for her use.
She called about mid-morning the following day, wondering where the extra sets of hands were. I asked my daughter tell her we were on the way as I hustled up the stairs to my 17-year-old's room to roust him from his slumber. "Tell her we'll be right over," I yelled over my shoulder as it dawned on me the day was only going to get hotter and I didn't really know exactly how much mulch she was talking about spreading.
When we arrived a few minutes later, I could see my mom was covered in a lovely mix of mulch and sweat because she had taken to lifting several 56 lb bags from her car into a wheelbarrow before moving them to the front yard and spreading them.
My mom, who has the patience and persistence of a saint, immediately began to give my less-than-enthusiastic children their jobs. Sweeping was met with a roll of the eyes, weeding with slumped shoulders and muttering under his breath, moving and spreading the other dozen or so bags of mulch was met with, "How am I supposed to do that?"
I could feel myself about to blow a gasket.
I wanted to say, "HELLO PEOPLE! THIS IS YOUR GRANDMA the one who would give you the shirt off of her back even if it's twenty below zero! She's changed a bah-zillion of your diapers and cleaned up your puke over the years....GIVE HER AN HOUR OF YOUR TIME FOR GODSSAKE! "
But, I didn't.
I took a moment to step back. I then asked myself why am I really getting upset here? What about the setting was triggering me to want to lash out at my kids instead of approach the situation in a way that would be a win-win for all of us?
I realized the reason I was so bent out of shape was because I wanted MY children to be the kind of kids who had an inborn desire to help others in need. And when they weren't meeting MY expectation, it set me off.
Here's the thing...you see, God gifted me some GREAT kids, but in that moment they didn't want to do the work and they weren't meeting my need to have them behave as I felt they should.
This is the subtle, yet often continuous struggle we face as human beings and parents. We often have hidden agendas to our daily life. Mine, at the time, was to show my mom just how wonderful and cooperative my kids can be (totally feeding my own ego).
Since I hadn't yet flown off the handle, I had the ability to change the course of my actions. I decided my mom could handle the kids and the rest of the mulch just fine on her own and that I would take her car to run the errand she needed and then get it cleaned up for her because it was filthy from the mulch mess.
Would it have been easier to yell at my kids....HELL YES!
But, by taking a moment and redirecting myself to something other than making my kids feel bad about themselves, I was able to acknowledge their essence and desire to do something other than working outside in the yard.
It wasn't anything personal, they love their Grandma! They just didn't feel like putting forth the effort. Once they got into the job, that changed.
By running the errand and then choosing to get my mom's car cleaned, when I returned their work was done and they saw their mom had gone the extra mile to do something nice for her own mom.
The next time you are ready to fly off the handle at your kids because they aren't behaving in a way you'd like them to, take a minute to question yourself about what is really making you angry and where it's coming from. Yes, it requires effort on your part to slow down and to react differently than you might normally...but, part of becoming a more conscious parent means making it a priority to figure out what your children's (or spouse's, or coworker's) behavior is triggering inside of YOU.
Has something similar happened to you before? How did you react to the situation? I would love to hear your story...comment below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.