I used to think I was a somewhat peaceful, gracious, and patient person.
Then I had kids. HA. And I realized, okay, I’m really not that patient after all.
Then we started foster care. HAHA. Well, that’s when I realized I’m actually a monster. Or at least I can be. Maybe not all the time, but there is definitely a monster somewhere there inside me that I have seen over and over again lash out.
Most people assume my family must be really nice, you know, for doing foster care and all. However, I kind of cringe anytime we get praised for it because I know what really goes down inside our home and it is often not very pretty.
In fact, we have many ugly moments. Then we have really ugly moments in between those.
Not to make excuses, but homeschooling three kids while also keeping up with my foster child and all that he is going through at school (and in life in general) has taken a toll on me.
On your average day, I am dashing from child to child, to math lesson to reading lesson, to calls from the social worker to calls from the principal (“Excuse me he did what again? Throw the desks and chairs across the room?), to therapist appointments to doctors appointments, to messy spills to meltdowns to fist fights. All the while, I cannot forget to throw some food on the table every few hours so we can all stay fed and hydrated and more importantly, not hangry.
That, in a nutshell, is a little bit of why monster Irene has been coming out as of late.
But then I look at my husband’s parents (my in-laws) who live with us, and they challenge me so much to be better.
A couple weeks ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to get away from all the craziness for a long overdue date-night while his parents watched our kids. I’m always so grateful for their bravery and willingness to watch them even though they know very well how difficult they can be at times.
So off we went on our movie date and we had an amazing time. Yet just as soon as we got out of the movie, I checked my phone and saw a text from my 7-year-old son through my in-laws’ phone:
“This is Micah. Rell is not listening to me. And I kicked him in the head. I am sorry.”
Oh boy, I thought. What happened. Please let there be no injuries.
So immediately, my husband and I went to our phone and opened the Nest monitor app to see what the camera at home caught:
Grandma tells Micah and Rell to read together on their own while she gets the other two kids ready for bed.
Rell keeps screaming for grandma to come read to him.
Micah keeps telling him that they have to read together.
Rell begins rolling around on the floor still screaming for grandma to come read to him.
Micah says, “Stop acting like a baby.”
Did he say baby? Oh no, I thought. I then braced myself for what might be coming next.
Rell puts his fists up and starts yelling at the top of his lungs, “I AM NOT A BABY!!!!!”… over and over again.
Rell gets in Micah’s face.
Micah jumps onto the bed.
Micah kicks Rell in the head Streetfighter style.
Rell falls down but immediately jumps up and slams Micah into the wall.
Boys are screaming and tackling each other full force.
Daughter stands frozen at the door and quietly says, “Um I think we should call mommy.”
Micah walks out of the room.
Rell is crying uncontrollably and shrieking so loud that I’m sure the police will come. Grandpa comes in.
Grandpa holds Rell and gently begins to rock him while saying in a soft, gentle voice,
“It’s ok. Good boy Rell. You’re a good boy. It’s ok. Good boy. You’re a good boy. Caaaalm down. It’s okay.”
Although still sobbing, immediately Rell begins to calm down.
Grandma comes in with Micah.
Grandma says in the kindest voice,
“Okay boys. Say sorry. Good boys. You are good boys. You are brothers. You love each other, right? Give each other a big hug.”
Micah and Rell slowly look at each other, snot still dripping down the face, and they say sorry.
Shocked at the grandparents’ ability to maintain composure, I thought, that’s it? I would’ve gone ballistic, psycho mom, on them if I were there. But that is always their choice of response–kindness.
Micah and Rell sit closely together on Micah’s bed and Micah reads Rell a story.
They even laugh together at the funny parts.
And that was it. I then turned off the camera recording, hugged my husband, buried my head into his chest, and let out a huge sigh of relief because we have come such a long way.
That fight might have appeared to be really intense to an outsider, but to us, that was great progress. And actually, incidents like that were already getting less and less frequent. Sure they fight sometimes, but through the struggle, they are also growing and learning to genuinely love and enjoy each other these days more than ever. We have many more moments of laughter, drawing, playing legos, having fun, etc., more than anything else.
The reason for this? I know it is largely due to what we are learning from my in-laws.
I’ve been growing too. In the day to day grind, I really make an effort now to respond with patience and kindness. For example, rather than to enter into a screaming match with a kid (and believe me I always win in volume and fierceness), I force myself to dig deep, deep, deep inside to reach in and find any trace of gentleness I can find. To hold back snappy responses and punitive consequences and to extend grace and patience instead, just as I have always seen my in-laws doing.
Their example alone challenges me to want to do better.
To choose patience, to choose grace, to choose kindness as often and as generously as I can. The world needs more ones like my in-laws, and my kids and I, for one, are tremendously blessed to be their children and witness how they live out their faith and love this way on a daily, moment by moment basis.
*And for the record, no one was seriously hurt from the little brawl mentioned above or any other brawl in our home. No form of abuse has been inflicted upon these children. Also, you have been given fair warning: never call a 5 year-old, “baby”… it is of the highest offense.
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”