Those of you raising toddlers…I sympathize with you. It is not easy. Although they can walk now, they seem to be more clingy. Although they are starting to talk, not enough for two-way conversation to happen. Raising toddlers is truly a “so close but yet so far” reality. I want to share with my readers something that my wife and I learned from a really cool family when we were in Boston. If the Beethams ever read this…thanks.
STORY #1 AND THE LESSON WE LEARNED
When #1 was a toddler we got excited when we saw her develop. We finally got her to sleep in her bed during naps. We finally got her to go to bed when we said go to bed. We finally got her to sit in her car seat without screaming and arching her back so that buckling her in was impossible. My wife and I felt rewarded for all the hard work. However all of sudden, one day out of the blue #1 started reverting back to her feisty ways.
She started crying and whining all day. She wouldn’t take her naps. She wouldn’t sit and eat. We were so confused and frustrated wondering if we were gonna survive without losing our minds. The stress caused fights in our marriage as we did our classic Adam and Eve impersonation of blaming each other.
While living in Boston we were very fortunate to live in affordable student housing. Our apartment (known as the B Building) was filled with couples and families. Though I was there for a theological education, the best and most long lasting lessons we learned were through the families that were there who spoke into our lives.
Back to the story…so we are freaking out. One day we talk to a woman down the hall who was raising two young ones (if I remember correctly). We shared our frustration and she spoke wisdom to us. She said the same thing happened to her. Exactly the same thing. She said her mom came to stay with them for a little while and during this time her mom told her that she was way too stressed. Our friend was wondering what that had to do with anything. The mother told her daughter that the kid is probably acting out because she was stressed and bugging out. Grandma knew from experience that kids subconsciously will act out when their parents are not being stable.
Our friend chilled out and found that things were back to normal. After sharing this with us we tried the same thing. The first step for us was identifying the stress. Now I am not talking about normal stress. I am talking about things that keep you up at night. We realized that my wife’s pregnancy with our second kid was causing us so much stress. My wife got pregnant with #2 three months after #1 was born. We knew it would be hard, but neither one of us really processed the stress and fears it was causing.
So we talked. We prayed. We chilled out and believed that everything would work itself out. Everything…I mean everything went back to normal. Eating, sleeping, car seats, etc. It is amazing to me how much I forget little things I have learned along the way in life that I forget to apply.
When I was a youth pastor long ago, one of my students was having a piano recital and invited me to come. I was with a friend who studied music in college. While my student was playing my friend told me that the kid was really nervous. I couldn’t tell. The friend told me to close my eyes and try to breath with the music that was playing. My heart started racing. I felt antsy. Incredible. What I learned that day was that a musician playing will often play to the beat of their heart. That beat then transfers to us as the listeners.
I think this is what our friend in Boston discovered. Our kids subconsciously breath to the beat of our hearts. If your kids are strangely acting out take time with your spouse to take an inventory of your life. I almost guarantee you will find unusually high levels of stress. Take a break. Pray. Meditate or do whatever you do to relieve stress. It will make a difference.
STORY #2 AND THE LESSON WE LEARNED
Just before graduating from seminary I took a position in Philly at a Korean church. The first month of my employment I commuted from Boston to Philly every weekend till I finished school. The commute is six hours if there is no traffic. During this time I was going to Philly to buy a condo for our family to live in. Found the perfect place but it wouldn’t close escrow for another two months. The church graciously put us up in furnished apartment till we closed on our first home. Sounds great right?
Well, we move into our temporary housing and the kids (3 at the time) all go crazy. Same thing. Eating, sleeping…but this time we had a new experience that brought us fun. Potty trained kids who decided to pee in their pants everyday. I mean everyday. We were losing our minds. Screaming and peeing everyday.
This time we were a little more wise so we took an inventory of our lives. First, our place was on the sixth floor of a building that had no elevator on our side. For real? No elevator. So every time we got home, we had to carry tired kids and groceries up six flights of stairs. The wife and I decided to leave non-perishable items in the car for days. Oh it gets better. After our first week my wife decides to go and do the laundry. The building is L shaped. We lived on the furthest end while the laundry was on the other end in the basement. So she carried two baskets at a time (total of six) all the way to the other side of the building and down to the basement. After three trips of this craziness….wait…now you are judging me asking yourself where I am in all of this…I was at work and didn’t know. Don’t be a hater.
After she gets down she pulls out all the quarters she got from the bank. Well, the machines don’t take coins. They take cards you have to purchase from the front desk. That’s simple right? Wrong. Front desk is closed because the office was closed. So she had to take three more trips back up and around the building without a single item cleaned.
We took a step back. Chilled out. Made some necessary adjustments to make our lives a little easier. The peeing happened in the toilet. The whining kids stopped. All was good again. Three months later she got pregnant with #4. WOW!
One last life lesson. Three years ago I went to the doctor for a physical. The nurse took my blood pressure and said it was really high. She asked if I drove to the office. I said yes. She said let’s wait a few minutes and take it again. Blood pressure is perfectly normal after a few minutes. I told the nurse that I wasn’t in traffic. I didn’t get mad or experience road rage. It was a nice drive. She said it didn’t matter. You mean to tell me that a simple drive raises my blood pressure without me even feeling stressed? Yes. Wow. I learned that day that stress is a lot more sneaky and prevalent than I thought.
To my readers…take an inventory of your life. Find your stress. Relieve your stress. And if you don’t find anything, still find ways to relieve the stress that you may not even feel or know about. Stress is so dangerous. It kills marriages, lives, and gives nothing back in return yet we as a society feel the need to keep on feeding this beast. Stephen Covey said in his book The Seven Habits of Effective Leaders…begin with the end in mind. This includes parenting and family life as well.