Life as a stay at home parent with 5 kids is hardly ever dull, especially considering that four of my kids are rowdy boys. The things they say and do, and the “creative” (pronounced shocking) ways they do it, never cease to amaze me.
Just the other day, what started out as a funny water fight in the bathroom led to my oldest getting angry and dipping a cup into the toilet bowl water to fling at his little brothers. Fortunately, there wasn’t any waste in the toilet.
In the heat of the moment, my wife and I were furious. So furious that I was speechless, which is new to me. My wife took the reins on this one because she knew that I would have Hulked-out, never to return to my human self again had I walked into the boys’ bathroom.
While my brain was short-circuiting, thoughts raced through my brain. “Why would ANYONE throw toilet water around?!” “What a mess this is going to be!” “How should we handle this?” “My children are DELINQUENTS!!!!” After I calmed down and the bathroom was cleaned up (by the 10 year old), I thought that this can be something to laugh at later around the Thanksgiving dinner when the entire family reminisces about the good ol’ days. But for now, it was the source of my migraine.
For me, finding the humor in crazy situations is very difficult. I wasn’t raised in an environment where you shouldn’t cry over spilled milk. If milk was spilled, we got in trouble for it. If I broke a window with a baseball, there would be hell to pay. If I clogged the toilet…you get the picture. Life as a kid was calm so long as Dad was in a good mood and nothing went wrong. That’s reasonable and realistic, right?
So, fast forward to now, where I am a father who lacks the coping skills for stressful situations. Did you catch that? Stressful situations. Is spilled milk a “stressful” situation? No! But for me, it is. Call it PTSD.
“PTSD over spilled milk?” Yep. If you were yelled at (and sometimes much worse) and called “stupid” for spilling milk or breaking a window, you’d freak out over the slightest things as well. Those loud crashes, the huge messes, and the muddy clothes signal a response in me that says, “Kids! Run for your lives! You’re gonna get it!” But I am realizing that it’s not MY kids that are going to get in trouble. It’s ME. I still have that fight or flight response from when I was a kid and Dad would flip out when I did something wrong. Fortunately, through the grace of God, and with the support of my saint of a wife, I am gaining better control over this response.
In hindsight, every mess my kids made, and everything they have broken, can be laughed at now. But the trick is to not wait until hindsight, right?
So what can I do? What can YOU do to find the humor in the moment when the kids do something utterly frustrating and inconceivable?
First, let’s remember that they are CHILDREN. They do not have the maturity and reasoning that we do. It’s not their fault they aren’t as mature and conscientious as we are. Surprisingly, this is hard for me to remember.
Second, every “stressful” situation ends and life goes on. A flooding bathroom, a broken car window…it’s just stuff. Frustrating, but stuff just the same. Is it worth wounding your child’s peace and your sanity over something that is trivial in the plan God has made for us? Not at all.
Finally, what are we teaching our kids when we flip out over every little thing? We are supposed to be stable and in control, and to teach our children to act the same. My kids already mimic some of my bad habits when it comes to handling life’s little inconveniences. I need to shape up or they will grow up without the proper coping skills.
We cannot expect to laugh at every little thing our kids do wrong. There will be times when they do something they knew was wrong, but did it anyway. Didn’t we all? I think the most important thing to remember is to STAY CALM. Talk quietly and take deep breathes. It’s OK to be mad, as long as we can control it. I don’t know about you, but if I saw my dad calmly scold us without raising his voice, I would have pinched myself!
A great resource that I keep close to me for parenting help is Dr. Ray Guarendi’s book, Discipline That Lasts A Lifetime. If you haven’t already, check it out! Dr. Ray is a wealth of knowledge.
(If you click the Amazon link Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime: The Best Gift You Can Give Your Kids and purchase the book, you’ll help me earn some pocket change to keep my blog going and to expand my mission!)