It started the night before—the storm of emotions and misbehavior. I should have seen it coming…
After his shower, I asked the 2 year old to pick up his bath toys. “Mama do it!” was the response I got. We argued for 5 minutes about whose responsibility it was to clean up, and then he stepped out, grabbed a towel, and lay down on the floor pretending to be asleep. Little booger! I took away his beloved lego man helmet and many tears later he agreed to pick up his toys.
Not even 10 minutes passed before I stood at the bathroom sink with the middle boy. He stared at himself in the mirror, avoiding eye contact with me as I told him to brush his teeth. It seemed that if his eyes didn’t catch mine then he could pretend he didn’t hear me. I didn’t buy it, so I told him again in a sterner voice. He picked up his tube of toothpaste and threw it on the floor, breaking the plastic lid. What the heck is wrong with these kids? After this blatant act of defiance his eyes did meet mine and he knew he was in trouble. I swatted his butt. Sorry for anyone who doesn’t believe in spanking, but that is literally the only thing this kid fears. Well, besides clowns, but those are impractical to involve in the disciplinary process… After a few minutes we stood back at the sink, me brushing his teeth, me pouring some water into his mouth to rinse, and me squeezing his cheeks to get the rinse-water to dribble out into the sink. I could tell he was just “done” for the day and by the time he finally acquiesced to lying down quietly, he fell asleep immediately.
That night, I slept fitfully—randomly waking at 2am and trying to will myself back to sleep. I wish I had slept better because maybe I would have been more prepared for this:
The middle boy came and snuggled with me first thing in the morning. He was very sweet and snuggly until I suggested he get dressed for school. It was as though I had given him some terrible and surprising news, “awwww…I don’t wannnna go to school…” he whined. With my usual casual attitude I said, “That’s fine, you don’t have to want to go. But you are going, so go get a red or blue shirt on.” He left my room, head hanging low as though his hamster had just died.
I had just sat down for a nice morning pee when the oldest barged in. “Why didn’t you wake us up yet? Why didn’t you put out my clothes? Where are my school clothes?” Holy accusatory cow! “Your shirts are hanging up in your closet…?” I offer, totally baffled since he usually gets up and dressed by himself with no prompting. What’s with the whiny attitude?, I think but don’t say out loud.
Just as I finish brushing my teeth I hear yelling and a commotion. I get into the boys’ bedroom just in time to see the middle boy hurl a tub of lotion at the older one. It misses and hits the closet door. Hmmmm…we’ve got to work on his aim… “What is going on in here?!” I exclaim. Then I notice the oldest holding his face and the middle one holding his bare abdomen (because of course, he has definitely not gotten dressed). I ask pointed and stern questions until I get the story of who hit, kicked, and pinched who, and in what order. This is not a good start to the week!
After I force clothes onto the middle kid and get the toddler up, we all go downstairs. The squabbles continue. They fight over who is going to get the milk out, who gets to shut the fridge, who puts the lunches into the lunch packs, which ice packs go into each lunch pack, and any number of ridiculous and petty things. At one point, the middle kid, in a bewildering moment of helpfulness given the mood, gets a spoon for his little brother. As he hands it to the toddler, the toddler reaches out and tries to hit him. What, he’s handing you a spoon?!?! But the atmosphere is so thick with animosity that the toddler just assumed he was supposed to retaliate. Deep sigh…
I sit them all down at the table with breakfast. Before I go back upstairs to get my clothes on I warn, “There WILL BE NO fighting, do you UNDERSTAND me?” I get a few weak “yes ma’ams” so I take my leave. When I come down a few minutes later the oldest proudly announces to me, “We didn’t fight at all, mama!” as though 3 minutes of peace somehow negated the 30 previous minutes of fighting.
The drive to school was mostly drama-free, but I was still feeling like a ragged victim of some tornado that ripped through my morning. I’m used to a certain level of craziness, but nothing like that! The boys certainly aren’t perfect, but that was an unprecedented level of terribleness.
The weather factor didn’t occur to me until I was texting with the oldest’s teacher. She mentioned the barometric pressure changing and her kids being kind of terrible too. It was overcast and windy and pre-rainy. While the barometric pressure certainly can’t be 100% to blame for poor behavior, it’s way more fun to blame the weather than my normally angelic children…
I feel like I’ve been under a lot of pressure lately. Yes, I’ve finally gotten around to my point. Or at least I’m feeling it more than usual. No major life events have occurred to suddenly pile more pressure on me; I’m just not carrying it as well or something. 3 young kids, full-time job, husband traveling, a never-clean house, people needing my help, personal disappointments…yes I think that the disappointments have been the biggest new factor.
It’s discouraging to work at something and feel like my efforts are not good enough. Like maybe if I was a better mother I wouldn’t have to have so many 1 on 1 conversations with school teachers and principals about ways we can help the kids do better. Or maybe if I had been a stay at home mom I would have instilled better discipline in them. Or maybe if I was a better employee I wouldn’t feel like I’m “winging it” most every day. Or maybe if I was a better manager I would somehow solve all company problems and never stress about anything. Or maybe if I spent 5 minutes each day putting away clothes there wouldn’t be stacks of clean laundry all over my house. I suppose it’s better than stacks of dirty laundry… Or maybe if I dragged myself out of bed before the last minute I could find time to exercise in the mornings.
Yep, my efforts are definitely not good enough. They aren’t good enough for the ridiculous expectations I’ve put on myself. They aren’t good enough for my personal definition of what success should look like.
Pressure does weird things to us. Pressure can build up to the point of pain (like a sinus pressure headache), or it can build up to the point where we explode (hopefully just metaphorically like an emotional outburst). But regardless of the outcome, pressure isn’t comfortable or pleasant.
However, pressure isn’t all bad. In fact, pressure, when harnessed properly, is a powerfully productive tool. The pressure created by steam can be used to run engines. Water pressure in pipes allows for me to get water from the faucet at a whim. Blood pressure is necessary for blood to carry nutrients to the extremities of my body.
So like I said, I feel like I’ve been under a lot of pressure lately. However, until I started typing this article, I had forgotten how pressure can actually be productive and positive. All day I’ve just been thinking of pressure being a negative and counterproductive thing. And it can certainly be negative and counterproductive if I don’t handle it properly. A certain level of pressure in the wrong vessel or a weakened vessel leads to outbursts or eruptions. However, the right vessel can handle it and use it for something great and powerful.
I believe I’m the right vessel for what I’ve been called to do, therefore I can handle the pressure I’ve been designed for. And if I’m feeling weak or inadequate, I just need to ask my Creator to strengthen and reinforce me. I need to make sure I’m seeking Him first with my inadequacies, not just complaining about them or looking for a band-aid solution. I need to recognize that His idea of success is different than mine, and His idea of success involves Him being strong in my weaknesses. Implying I have weaknesses!
Dear Lord, thank you for this day. Thank you for the crazy weather you bring to us sometimes, both metaphorically and literally. Just as the rain is needed to water the plants, sometimes a life-storm is needed to inspire growth in our own lives.
Lord, thank you for my children. They are so high-energy and I am so low-key and low-energy. But you have given them to me to raise into men. Lord thank you for their stubbornness—that they use it to stubbornly resist temptations as they grow older. Lord, thank you for their loud voices—that they use them to give you the glory for all to hear. Lord, thank you for their energy—that they will never tire while following you. Lord, thank you for their competitive desires—that they never stop yearning to overtake and defeat evil in your Name.
Lord, thank you for pressure. Thank you for the reminder that it is not a bad thing, but a tool. And the pressure in my life can be harnessed and used by you to tell the stories of what you have done for me. Lord, thank you for redeeming my discouragement, even if I don’t see it yet. Thank you for giving me hope that you have my best interest at heart.
Lord, thank you for anyone who may read this. Thank you for the pressure you have called them to bear and thank you for equipping them to be the right vessel for it. Thank you for everything you do for us, both seen and unseen. We love you, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.