I love to entertain. Well, it’s a love-hate kind of thing, honestly. I enjoy having people over and making them feel special. Holidays, especially, are seasons when I love lighting the candles and setting the stage for fellowship. My prayer is always that those who enter our space would feel loved, the joy of the peace of God, and perhaps a nice post-dinner nap. (Which, actually happens more often than one might imagine – we have a very cozy nap chair!).
The dark side of such events, however, has historically been what happens to ME when trying to create peace for others. Cleaning, shopping, finding hiding spaces for my never-ending paper piles and decorating on a budget has a nasty tendency to turn me into somewhat a monster. Laser-focused and terse when my spouse and child-soldiers aren’t marching up to my expectations (or perhaps not at all), I realized a few years ago that while our friends would come over to a peaceful scenario, the preceding week was communicating nothing to my family other than holidays are unpleasant, anxiety-provoking opportunities to bring out the very worst in mom.
So, I began to make some changes. Mostly internal but some practical (like starting a week early so I can do things in stages between work and school and daily life). The internal shifts were of greater value, however, and fell in nicely with other changes I was already making in my life. Learning to pick your battles is not cliche, but truly a matter of survival for all. Over the past couple of years, conversations have led to questions about how I made such shifts and so I thought I would share what helped me. If it’s not beneficial to you, feel free to disregard. Everyone’s journey is individual. I will, however say, that when I began to make these questions a part of my processing (and I allowed time to process!), I became a happier more peaceful human, subsequently helping my 7- to nearly 19-year-old humans, and my husband, to breath easier as well.
Joy is restored.
1. Is this issue worthy of our relationship?
Example: Does it really matter that my child’s choice of clothing would lend itself to anyone outside of our home’s opinion that they are, in fact, homeless, or at the very least mentally unstable? No, it does not. I know my child is clean, healthy, fed and cared for. At the very least, they are finding their own style and perhaps, like my oldest, one day find themselves voted best dressed. That purple tutu over red rain boots topped with neon green and turquoise striped sweater are NOT worth creating tension or teaching your child you judge their personal style. Not ever.
2. What am I teaching my child long-term?
Example: If the child is loading the dishwasher and doesn’t do it to your particular pattern or personal expectation, it is NOT an issue. We can gently show what is most helpful and why (as to water hitting here or there) but what we are really wanting to teach them is to take personal responsibility in being part of the team. (And by the way, your way is NOT always best. Just an FYI). What you might just be teaching them is that you are stubborn, controlling and that they aren’t capable of doing it well enough. To this day, I still vacuum before I dust, just because I can.
3. If I died tomorrow, would this issue still have been valuable of the tension I have just created, or is it truly vital?
Honesty? Yes. Manners? Yes. Vacuuming all the way to the edges or making the bed perfectly? No.
4. Whose job is it really?
Our job is to train up, to coach, but ultimately, our children have free will as do we. Critical thinking and finding ones own ability to self-regulate are vital skills for our kids. If they can’t make the decision as to whether or not their own body is cold enough to wear a coat on a 50 degree day, we have little faith in their capacity to think for oneself. If they are cold, they will come back inside for more clothes. We can take them to church and train them in the way God has called US to, but their faith must be THEIRS. Taking ownership of their mistakes, learning that there are consequences to every decision in life (forever), are lessons that are absolutely invaluable. Micro-managing their every decision and movement throughout the day teaches them they are incapable and therefore incapacitates them from engaging at all in their own thought processes and decisions. It disqualifies their capacity, and the capacity of the God who created them.
Tragically, sometimes we end up completely shutting them down. If they can’t do anything right or in their own strength, they may opt out of the process altogether…
I hope these thoughts help someone release just a little bit of tension in their home, or give a little food for thought. Lately, I have been personally working on questions with relationship to friends, extended family, and within my marriage. Even my relationship with my God. 90% of disappointment, frustration and disillusionment in my personal journey has come via unmet expectation, and unfortunately the majority of that has come from my poor assignment as to who owned what part of those situations in the first.
My prayer is that you might also find your answers today.