Getting an “F” in parenting

Every.single.year. October kicks my butt.

I love October. Two of my three babies were born in this month.  The weather turns cool (well, it’s supposed to, this year has been quite the exception with 80 degree days!).  The leaves start to turn amazing hues of orange, yellow and red.  School is mostly in swing (though I still can’t understand the elementary school multiple days off each week!  It’s hard on our kiddos who have high structure needs.)

This year we added Homecoming to the docket and a third child in sports alongside another sport – flag football.  Every.single.thing was good.  But as you add up each item, it makes for a super full calendar.

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It also makes for some spectacular fails.  Last night Matt and I got a big fat F in parenting. Our third child thrives in a high nurture, high structure environment.  We make plans and we have to stick with them.  Each day we discuss the happenings – sports, driving, expectations, homework, etc.  We all do life as individuals, each of us having specifics ways we thrive.  For our daughter, regular routine is a GREEN zone – she thrives and lives to her fullest potential.

For those not familiar with the Fire Engine wheel of emotions, it’s been a valuable tool for me.  Take a half moon shape, divide it into three zones – one red, one yellow and one green.  Red zone means I’m DONE – angry, out of control, belligerent, out of balance.  This is the hot button zone that we want to avoid.  Yellow zone means I’m starting to lose it. My patience is slim, I’m frustrated and I need to self correct or else I’m headed to RED.  Green zone means that while things might not be happy and wonderful, I’m okay.  I’m stable and I can handle this.

For many of our kids who come from hard places, this little tool is a wonderful way to begin learning how to communicate feelings.  A three year old can point to the zone they are in and you, as the adult, can help them out.  Perhaps they need some food or water, maybe a few jumping jacks or a hug.  As our kids get older, they can begin assigning words to how they feel.

It takes a lot of work to live in the green zone.  Matt and I have to be super intentional communicating with each other and with Desta.  I will admit, there are times, even for this highly organized mama, that I wish we could just “go with the flow.”

After a super busy weekend celebrating Caroline’s birthday, attending 5 sport’s games and being chauffeur, Matt and I were ready to be “off the clock” for a few hours last night. A simple dinner out to chart out our week plan.

For those of you with high nurture, high structure kids, you know that any deviation from “the plan” can create chaos.  Last night we made a few simple changes, thinking “no big deal” and ended up having to cut our date short and came home to chaos.

The good thing, the thing I’ve learned since therapy is how to take chaos and turn it into a loving and supporting environment.  For us, it’s essential oils rubbed on Desta’s feet and hands while listening to Hillsong.  It takes time.  It takes patience to go from RED to GREEN.  It’s hard work and it’s easy to feel as if it will never get better.

Yet when I look back at past Octobers, I can see how each year we get better at this month.  We are learning balance as a family.  We are working hard to make sure every.single.person in our family feels loved and safe.  Every person has a voice – they can speak how they feel and there is not judgement.  It’s not intuitive and it’s not always easy to do.  It takes intentionality, it takes work, it takes patience and it takes communication.

I’m okay with getting an “F”last night.  Because they are far more Green zone “A”s than red zone “F”s.  Each failure teaches Matt and I how to be better parents – how to love our child in the way she can feel and know.  Along the way, I have become a better person as well.

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