Monday, February 6, 2012

7 Ways to Survive the Perfect Storm

This morning was a stormy one. 

Last week, the seven-year-old was out of school sick for two days, essentially creating a four-day weekend. (That rarely makes for a cheerful Monday.) And while he was feeling much better today, he was still not at 100 percent. Plus, we had a family Super Bowl party that kept us up past our bedtime. 

Those, my friends, are conditions for that fateful perfect storm. 

(And, much like George Clooney's character who was thrust to the bottom of the sea, the seven-year-old has the will of an iron mule.)

In the past, mornings like this have contained yelling (by all parties), whining (by all parties), threatening (by all parties), and crying (by all parties). But this morning was different. 

Here's why:

1. I didn't yell, whine, threaten, or cry. Even when my child did. (I'm the adult. I'm the adult. I'm the . . .) I sympathetically guided the seven-year-old zombie to walk through the motions. At his pace.

2. I didn't rush. I learned this from wise Hubby a long time ago: rushing when you're late only makes you late and stressed.

3. I listened. Yes, even to the four-millionth excuse about why he should stay home "just one more day." I didn't interrupt. I told him I understood. (Because I did.)

4. I apologized. Yep. I did. I told him that my allowing him to stay up past his bedtime was a bad choice. I explained that we should have left earlier in order for him to be in bed on time. I told him that I realized that my choice only made his morning more difficult. And I told him that I was sorry.

5. I gave an incentive. We get rewards for doing hard things. Why shouldn't we offer them to our children? And if it defuses a potentially combustible morning, it is certainly better than the alternative.

6. I trusted my instincts. I knew we would get a finger-wagging late slip. I knew that I might get odd looks when we even took the time to peruse the Black History Month display in the school lobby. But I know my child. I know that for him, acclimation makes all the difference. And when I switched my concern from what others thought of me to his well-being, it created a better morning for us all. 

7. I prayed. Continually. No, I didn't fall to my knees and lead the family in a poignant monologue. But throughout the morning, I whispered pleas for wisdom, guidance, and just enough patience to make it to school. And if you really want to make an impression, do it out loud, for your child to hear.

After rebuilding numerous ships, here is what I've (finally) learned: piling stress on top of stress causes everyone to crash. (Consider this article about what stress does to our children.) 

Navigating the perfect storms of parenting can seem impossible, but you are the captain. You steer the ship, you're responsible for its crew, and you know its capabilities. You can shake your fist at the storm like a dramatic hero, or you can swallow your pride and calmly, wisely stay the course, guiding your crew through to the other side.

After all, good parenting isn't avoiding the storms; it's teaching your children how to make it through.

Faced any storms lately? What have you learned?