Every once in a while it’s helpful to press the reset button in life. I used to be intentional about this when it came to my family, but in recent years I’ve grown accustomed to riding the crazy train at full speed. Well, the train finally caught up to me and I’ve been on the verge of a major emotional crash for the last two months.
It’s been a good three years since I’ve taken time out from everything to take the temperature of our family relationships. Finally, under the pressure of difficult circumstances with a struggling child I’ve been forced to re-evaluate. I’ve read so many blogs and books and watched video’s on parenting, but leave it to a book on business and leadership to finally get through to me. My God-given leadership responsibilities as a mom are lacking, and I’m feeling the weight of that recent trend.
I’ve lived in survival mode too long. Instead of stepping up to the plate as things have become hard, I’ve fallen back into the shadows for fear of screwing up. Many days it feels as if our life is going to hell in a hand basket. Coast for too long and you find your relationships going downhill fast. I wonder if the positives of ministry in foster care have hidden the realities of a coasting family.
I recently read that Where authenticity and humility are present, unity is often the result. Sometimes I wonder if I even know how to be authentic. Sure I’m an open book, but relationships are not my cup of tea and I’ve never been good at them. I love my family with my life, but I’m not even good at relationships with them. I could write the ‘how to manual’ on how to be the world’s best introvert…even with my family!
I know I will never be a perfect parent or a perfect wife, but I do want to see transformation and growth in my life. I want to lean hard into grace knowing I can’t do it on my own, but I also want to be transformed and grow in the fruit of that grace. Faith and works. Works and faith. It makes my head spin sometimes.
I would love to say that if we just simplify things, we would experience more peace in our family. The truth is, we can only simplify so much with our large family and it will never be enough to achieve that peaceful easy feeling. We have to lean harder into grace. We simply cannot order our world enough to get where we want to go. We have a lot going on. We always have a lot going on and that is not going to change anytime soon. Simplicity will never bring the kind of peace and family unity we are looking for.
Routines and schedules help the crazy train not fly off the tracks, but they do not build good relationships. Good relationships and family unity happen when people are connecting. If I’m constantly living life in the shadows, I’m not connecting. If I’m halfway listening because I’m on my phone or computer, I’m not connecting. If I’m being the warden and not the coach, I’m not connecting. If I’m just looking to my husband for a helping hand and not looking for ways to serve him, I’m not connecting.
Authentic connection is what seems to be missing most in the life of our family. We’ve coasted for too long. I’ve forgotten what it looks like to connect with my husband and my kids in an intentional way. Authentic connection builds trust. Authentic connection leads to family unity. It goes without saying my time with Jesus has a direct impact on my relationships with my family. There is no doubt about this truth, but there is also a God-given responsibility on my part though to love my family as I love myself. I have a choice to respond so, or completely ignore this truth.
It seems there are 3 ways to positively connect with my children in an authentic way. They are listening, coaching and connecting.
Listening goes beyond the smile and nod. In recent months I’ve found myself cutting off my kids in the middle of a sentence because I already know my response. In doing this, I’ve exasperated them and taken away their voice. I may not agree with what they have to say, but I should be a safe place for them to express their thoughts and feelings. Giving them a voice builds trust and trust leads to unity.
God gives me a voice. He tells me to cry out to him and he will answer me. He gives me his undivided and full attention. Building healthy relationships within my family requires giving my family members a voice and responding appropriately.
It is easy to get in warden mode with my family. I know what needs to be done (or think I do) and so I bark out orders. Barking out orders will never build relationship and is not good leadership. If I want my kids to learn to make their bed, it won’t help to tell them to go make it. I will more than likely be met with frustrated cries. They need me to physically show them how to make their bed and work with them as many times as it takes for them to learn. Coaching them through life builds responsibility and trust and ultimately relationship.
This even applies to issues that I may view as discipline issues. I want to be my children’s coach, not a voice of condemnation in their lives. Yes, they need to know what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t, but if I choose to play the warden in these instances, they are learning to become the warden. When two wardens come together over a disagreement, you get disaster. If my child speaks disrespectfully to me, I let them know it isn’t acceptable behavior and have them re-do the situation. Asking them for a re-do, instills better habits in their brain than barking out order’s and taking away a favorite toy. I realize there must be consequences sometimes, but taking the time to connect and have them respond with a re-do is much more effective than doling out punishments and preaching sermons to them.
I have to admit this is so difficult for me, especially in the midst of the daily grind. I’m just looking to carry out the items on my to-do list for the day. My son loves to play H-O-R-S-E with the mini basketball goal in his room. My daughter loves to do crafts and my other kiddos love to play outside. We have 20 loads of laundry every week, school that has to be done, therapy appointments to go to and meals to be cooked and cleaned up. The last thing on my mind is taking time to smell the roses.
This is the easiest thing to dismiss, but probably the most costly. They need to know they are worth my time and more precious to me than my to-do list. Connecting with them over things that are fun build relationship and trust. I don’t want them to think I’m too busy for them. I don’t want them to believe that God is too busy for them. They matter.
As I take the temperature of the relationships in my family and learn to lean more into grace of Jesus Christ, I will do my best to focus on the areas of listening, coaching and connecting with the most important people in my life. My family.