Yesterday morning, we were doing our typically Sunday morning getting ready sprint before leaving for the 8:00 a.m. divine service. I’d spent several minutes in Teo’s room with him, trying to figure out what he wanted to wear. Finally, I reached my breaking point, as he objected to every suggestion I made. Rather than scold or yell, I just walked to my bedroom and said, “Okay, Mom has to get ready too, Teo.” I heard him cry and protest: “But, I need you, Mom!”
His tears persisted for a few minutes. Then, I heard Dennis come back from taking our dog Claira for a quick walk. He was ready for church, so I hoped he’d be able to step in to help Teo rally. I heard the beginning of their conversation in low murmurs, but then it was quiet. When I emerged from my bedroom a few minutes later, Dennis was carrying Teo toward the bathroom and he was fully dressed. Good job, Dad!
As the coffee was brewing, I asked Dennis, “What did you do to get Teo to calm down and cooperate this morning?”
“I did what you always suggest. I hugged him,” he replied.
“Yeah, I just held him for awhile and then he was fine,” he said with smile.
I loved hearing this so much, and I felt like this was an important tender, teaching moment for all of us. I went over to Teo who was sitting in the living room and crouched down next to him.
“Hey, Lovie. What did daddy do this morning to help you calm down?”
“He hugged me,” he replied matter-of-factly.
Oh, my heart! I said, “That’s wonderful. Sometimes that’s just what we need, isn’t it? Love, you help Mom and Dad to remember, when you get upset, by asking us for a hug. You could say, ‘Can I just have a hug?'” He nodded and smiled at me.
Both of my children are highly emotional, and I know they come by that honestly! We’re all constantly learning how to manage and deal with our feelings in helpful and effective ways. I want Mateo to know that he can ask for what he needs specifically, but first we have to identify what those needs are. Clearly, he’s looking for connection with his parents, even though it comes out like he’s resisting our direction.
We recently attended a truly remarkable parenting seminar at the kids’ new school. The material was based on the teachings of Paul Tripp. In the section entitled “Getting to the Heart of Parenting” he calls the family “God’s primary learning community.” He explains that family is where kids learn what’s fundamental to being human and know what to do and how to be the way we’re designed to be.
In my notes, I summarized the main ideas as: “Family is where we teach children to love and live in the awe of God. This allows them to receive His wisdom, interpret life through Him, and worship Him (instead of themselves). They will see their parents’ example of love and also recognized that they cannot fulfill God’s law on their own. This realization of our shared sinfulness drives us to Christ for forgiveness and grace. We live and practice this process of sin and redemption in the family daily – that’s what it means to be a learning community.”
So often, moments of tenderness and connection come out of conflict. As a family, we must not shy away from conflict, but always be quick to forgive and reconnect in loving ways.