01 June 2017

Freedom, Interests and a Change

I’ve had freedom on my mind a lot lately… in all areas of life. Time freedom. Financial freedom. Travel freedom. Freedom to be me. Freedom from rules and laws because Jesus came to throw that stuff in the garbage and give us true freedom in exchange. All of that. And more. Swirling around in my head. FREEDOM.

At the same time, I was feeling like I was grasping for control. In parenting.

Control.

Control vs Freedom.

Innnnteresting.

Some days I felt like an exhausted enforcer with my children… using all my Mommy energy up in an attempt to just GET MY KIDS TO DO WHAT THEY SHOULD BE DOING. Follow the rules. Do as I say. Obey me now. (Which is not bad in and of itself. Kids should follow rules and do as I say and obey me now.) But the problem was that that for me, the root of enforcing was NOT a healthy one.

The root was control.

Blech.

Frankly I sometimes just felt just so darn inconvenienced by all the kids we got running around here. If they’d just do what they’re supposed to ALL THE TIME then my life would be much less inconvenienced, thankyouverymuch.

Being enforcer Mommy was exhausting and sometimes fruitless, leaving all parties unhappy, frustrated and disconnected.

This realization spurred on in me a heartfelt desire to grow towards freedom in my parenting. What good is enforcing a bunch of rules if it’s just bringing frustration in both parties? What is the point of that? What it the child learning? Why am I enforcing this and that and the other thing? What are the values behind all these rules and expectations? And how is my relationship with each of my kids in this process?

Also.

If freedom is such a gift that has me thinking so much… why am I giving my kids, uhhhh, basically none of that? Don’t I want them to learn how to be decent people in the midst of the freedom?

So.

I started feeding my ‘parenting worldview’ with media that would stretch me towards a parenting approach with more freedom. I hoped that this would move me away from enforcing and more towards joy and connection.

I read articles, blogs and listened to podcasts.

Sidenote: I’ve also recently been fascinated with how a personal worldview can change quite drastically according to what that worldview is fed. They say “We are what we eat”, right? Well maybe it’s true also for the media that we ‘eat.’ Wanna buy less and declutter? Read all those tidying up and simplifying books that are so popular. Wanna write more? Listen to podcasts about starting to write. Wanna lead a healthier lifestyle? Follow people who post awesome whole food meals on Instagram. YOUR THOUGHTS AND LIFE WILL CHANGE. It’s amazing.

True for me in this scenario.

Maybe it began with just saying ‘yes’ more, even when inconvenient.  Giving them more freedoms. Joining with them in their interests. Purposefully laying down ‘the law’ less (especially in areas where my rules seemed haphazard and value-less), and therefore spending much less Mommy energy enforcing ‘the law’.

This was the basic start.

And it has brought change.

There is a tangible difference in my relationship with my older children.

It’s still a process and it’s so new that I’m still trying to get my head around why and how it actually worked?

One thing all the people on the internets were raving about when it comes to kids’ interests is this:  If you show interest in what your child is interested in, then they will show interest when you have something different you’d like to present to them.

Ummmmm.

It’s TRUE. They did not lie.

There are some things that my ‘enforcer Mommy’ counterpart would almost never say ‘yes’ to. Enforcer Mommy has things to get done, you know? Enforcer Mommy could not see any value in video games. Enforcer Mommy doesn’t want to ‘waste her time’ on a silly school project when H could just get it done himself and it can be in our past. Enforcer Mommy feels guilty if she sits down to watch a movie in the middle of the afternoon.

But when Enforcer Mommy started showing up less (no, she’s definitely not entirely absent) and ‘Interested Mommy’ started showing up more…

Things changed.

I’ve watched my boy play Minecraft. I’ve worked alongside him on the salt-dough and paint school project. I’ve watched funny YouTube videos with him in the evenings. I’ve sat at the table and colored Star Wars posters. I’ve walked N through making an apple cake more times than I wanted to. I’ve helped them with chores when I haven’t had to. I’ve brought them snacks without them asking because I knew they would like that. I have laughed through many Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes. I’ve helped mop the water off the balcony after a slip n slide session.

Wow, even typing this out I’m surprised at how many of these things I would have previously tried to avoid doing with them. Okay, while I’m at this, let me process further why I would have avoided these things.

Usually the reason for avoiding would be one of the following:

-The child should/could be able to do this alone, so I don’t want to waste my time helping.

-The child made the mess. The child should clean it up.

-It’s the child’s chore. Why should I help him/her with that chore when I do a hundred of my own chores each day?

-I’ve got more important things to be working on.

-I have no interest in that.

Wow. I’m learning so much about myself by typing all this out…

Another reason why I’d say no is that I get just plain TIRED and I want to relax and be alone. Which is fine and is truly valid sometimes. It just can’t always be the cop-out for always saying no.

Anyway…

I suppose what the change I see is that I’VE JOINED WITH THEM instead of wishing they’d just do stuff independently and leave me alone. Am I making sense?

SOOOOOO normally if we want to do a devotion with our kids, we’dhave them come  sit on the couches with us after dinner and we’d all sit there while we read something. Then we’d have them answer this question, that question and then make them say a prayer. And I would often become frustrated (and show it) if they didn’t show interest or want to answer any questions or really engage at all.

But.

One day after a month or so of Interested Mommy being around more…the kids got home from school one day and I told them that I had something cool I wanted to show them in their Bibles from my study earlier that day.

{Held breath for reaction}

“Okay Mom! Can you help me find my Bible?”

“Sure thing buttercup!”

There was no “But I juuuuuuuuust got hooooome” or “Naaaahhhh Mom! I wanna build my human canon ball machine in Minecraft right now!”

It was a cheery and happy ‘Sure!’

For real.

We had a great time learning in the Bible. We looked up Old Testament prophecies and then found where they were fulfilled in the New Testament. We talked about the teensy weensy probability that those prophecies could have been fulfilled by chance (1 in 10 to the 17th power, in case you wanna know). If they had a question or an answer, great! If not, fine! And at the end I felt moved to prayer, so I prayed… without guilting one of them into praying with me. It was such a interesting study and we learned so much and they loved it and basically I could go on and on.

Then they asked to do it again another day. I even heard ‘Every day.”

{Heart explosion and moderate shock}

Then they ran off to build a treehouse world together in Minecraft and my heart basically burst again.

So, in my tiny data set of research… it seems that the show-interest-in-them-and-they-will-show-interest-in-you thing really works. We are still in the beginning stages, but at this point I’m so encouraged. My home has more joy. I’m seeing them more as little people instead of children who should meet all the unrealistic expectations I have for them. We are more eager to help each other. We are sharing life more. We are learning tons and having so much fun doing it.

And the best part of all of it?

I can feel my relationships with my kids blooming. And I can hardly believe that a little worldview feeding and a few changes here and there has brought such a tangible difference in such a short time.

Of course I have to say that it’s a process and that some days The Enforcer still shows up and some days we don’t have joy. I do get tired. So tired. Obedience is still an issue that needs work and some rules still stand! Some days I just wish everyone would do what they’re supposed to and leave me alone so that I can check things off my list of things to do. But in the midst of those days are also excellent days full of sharing and connecting and learning. My worldview is evolving, our relationships are blooming and it feels so good.

Freedom has brought change.

Thank you God.

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