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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Remember What It’s Like to Be a Kid?

If you are visiting from Legacy of Home’s The Christian Home, welcome!

Lately, my oldest (age 11) has turned into a bit of an insomniac.  He lies there in bed, not falling asleep, first counting sheep, then getting up for a drink of water, then thinks about a Lego model to build, then a trip to the potty, then a plea to Mama or Daddy to hit him over the head with a rubber mallet…

It seems he has inherited his Mama’s over-active brain and it keeps him up nights.

Then there’s my 7-year-old princess who’s terrified of natural disasters.  The news about earthquakes, floods, tornados, and our own sojourn to the basement during a tornado warning a little while back has simply got her on edge.  The fact that our little town tests its tornado siren every single week and that we have an unobstructed view of said siren (it is quite loud) doesn’t help much…note to self:  if ever you buy another house, make sure that you are more than a block away from the firehouse siren and the tornado siren, although being across the street from the community pool and less than a block from the park has it’s advantages…but I digress.  Ahem!

I’m not even going to talk about the monsters in the closet.

As adults, there are some things we’ve probably made our peace with.  We might be afraid of a tornado, for example, but we know with dead certainty that there’s no amount of worrying that will keep one at bay.  We appreciate having a siren to warn us of the danger and generally go about our lives knowing that when the danger comes, we’ll have some time to prepare ourselves.

And when we can’t sleep at night, we get up and balance the checkbook or read a book or decide what color to paint the living room or puzzle over next year’s history curriculum.  We know that this is one night out of many and that sleep will come eventually.

And monsters, there’s no such thing as monsters, right?

Do you find yourself getting a little frustrated?  Are those kids ever going to sleep so Mama and Daddy can have some alone time?  And when are they going to just get over it?

Have we forgotten what it’s like to be a kid? 

I remember lying awake nights as a child, unable to sleep because my mind was too busy, yet pretending to be asleep when my parents checked on me because I just didn’t want to deal with being upbraided for not being asleep!

I remember being convinced that there was a monster that lived under my bed that would grab my toes and pull me under if I happened to hang a leg over the edge.  It was very important to keep all parts of my body firmly on the top of the mattress, and there was no way you would convince me that it wasn’t so.

I also remember swearing to myself that when I had kids of my own that I would remember these things.  And that I would never trivialize their experiences. 

But I did forget.  For a while, anyway.

I turned into an adult, put away childish things, and got lost in the world of adultish worries, like how will we pay for a new furnace?  And, how can little kids possibly eat that much food?  And, how can they all outgrow their shoes at the same time?

Come to think of it, my adultish worries that keep me up nights are not terribly different from their childish fears that keep them awake.  It’s all a matter of perspective, really.  I rather think that fear of tornados is actually a bigger deal than worrying over money, don’t you?  Or that being eaten by a monster is more horrifying than the kiddos going shoeless?

Perhaps some of the frustration stems from not being able to fix it.  The fear of the unknown is big.  No matter how many rational arguments I present, I’ll never assuage my daughter’s fear of tornados.  And no matter how many suggestions I make, ultimately I can’t make my son go to sleep.  I can gently remind them to pray to our Holy Father for peace, to pray for their guardian angels’ intercession, to pray even for sleep, but the fact is, as much as I want to take away their anxiety, it’s not up to me.  It’s simply beyond my control.  Kinda makes me want to throw a tantrum.

It’s easy to forget that, as a parent, my job is not to be a fixer.  I can’t always make things different from what they are.  And life is full challenges, whether they be tiny or huge.   When I can’t fix it, the temptation is to ignore it or minimize it.  I want to close the door on their fears and pretend they don’t exist.  This is a mistake.

None of us can see into the future.  That doesn’t mean that I have to throw my hands up in resignation.  Part of living is learning to know when you can’t fix things.  And part of raising a kids is knowing when what they need is your love and understanding. 

Maybe I can’t see that monster in the closet or feel the fear it embodies.  Maybe it doesn’t seem important to me, but it is important to my child.  It can be hard to see anything from someone else’s perspective, even someone we know as well as our own child, but we can try.  There’s a connection to be made.  Being able to empathize with our fellow man is about human kindness.  Being able to empathize with our own children is about parenting from the heart.

What do you do to try to see things from your child’s perspective?

You might also like:

Raising Kids:  Enjoy the Ride

On Parenting

Raising Kids:  It’s Habit-Forming

5 comments:

  1. Wow. This is probably one of the best articles I've read in a long time! How often do I chuckle or talk down to the boys when they bring up a silly uncontrolable unfixable fear? How did I pray myself to sleep last night with the unknowns pestering me? Oh. Thank you so much for your words!

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  2. Susan, grab the alone time with your sweetheart when you can.....I've been married going on 37 years and our empty nest didn't last. A daughter and Granddaughter came to live with us after daughters husband abandoned them. We do things as a family but don't forget to make a date with your sweetie even if it's to take a walk around the block or watch a television movie!

    Enjoyed your post.
    If I get a chance to move again, I pray that it's far far away from the train track intersection. The whistles are soooo loud. They don't last long, but when they are blowing....it gets your attention at 3 in the morning....grins.

    God bless and may you enjoy your young family!!!
    d

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  3. I had one of those major "light-bulb" moments earlier this year with my daughter. She's now allowed to stay up and read until she falls asleep. It's working much better for us.

    If she knows that she has a fear that is pestering her, we spend some time in prayer together really seeking the Lord's comfort and peace. It gives her peace knowing that we're willing to sit down and really pray with her over her fears - no matter how big or small they may be.

    Wonderful post!

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  4. Nice post. I too, always thought I would remember what it was like to be a kid. My husband and I try to put ourselves in our daughter's shoes; especially when it comes to fears. She will soon be seven and a few months ago we finally thought we had gotten over the hurdle because she was putting herself to sleep. Well lo and behold, a bug decided to land on her pillow as she was dozing off. So we were back to square one. We decided that being a kid is tough enough and we let her sleep with us a couple of nights and then we came up with a game plan. I would read her a chapter out of a book and then my husband would stay with her until she fell asleep. It must be working because she is getting to sleep more quickly and the fear of a bug dropping in on her is becoming a thing of the past. It was remembering what it was like to be a child that gave us some peace to let go of trying to force the situation into what we wanted. Your post is spot on.

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  5. Thank you for sharing that, Peggy---this is one of those posts I need to reread now and again to "remind" me. ;)

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