Friday, July 19, 2013

My inner toddler

My day yesterday got the better of me.

An early-morning phone call started the day off long before I was ready for it.

An uncharacteristically emotional preschool drop-off in which BOTH kids fell apart when we said goodbye, left me with a nagging sense of concern over Anna's well-being at school. My already-tired self didn't get through the (long) list of housework that waited for me when Levi and I got home. The lawn guys didn't arrive on schedule, which threw off my schedule for the day. We picked Anna up after lunch and I learned from her teacher that there is bullying going on in her class (of four-year-olds!). I spent the entire two hours of my nap-time solitude on the phone taking care of various things in our lives that are not running smoothly. When the lawn guys finally arrived, I didn't have cash and had to squeeze in an ATM run in addition to the post office run that was barely going to fit before closing time, to send off my passport renewal (attempt number two to renew; I love Canada with all my heart, but why make photo requirements so stringent that it's nigh on impossible to meet them outside of Canada?). Traffic, fast food for dinner, a dirty diaper and dirty restroom with no changing table, an eternity spent driving around the same busy intersection looking for a store that apparently went out of business in the last week, a loud and unhappy toddler in the back of the car who throws his paci away when he gets upset (read: vicious circle!) ...

I finally lost it. Loud, out-of-control, temper-tantrum lost it.

I'll spare you the grisly details; suffice it to say that it's a good thing we were all buckled into separate seats in the car! After seeing the shocked look in Anna's eyes, I immediately pulled over and apologised. To her eternal credit, she smiled at me, told me it was ok, and continued with whatever she'd been saying before my tirade of verbal warfare at the world in general.

We finally got through our evening of running around and made it to the ice cream store for the promised post-errands treat. (Drive-through only, mind you - we were taking Dada an ice cream at work and squeezing in an extra unload/ reload of kids didn't sound appealing at that point in the day!)

As we walked down the hallway to Mark's clinic, the unthinkable happened. Anna's ice cream cone - her specially selected chocolate waffle cone with chocolate ice cream - toppled out of the to-go box and landed upside down on the floor. Not 15 feet away from Mark's door.

My brain exploded. And Levi broke into inconsolable screams that echoed through the not-quite-deserted hallway, causing every person there to look in our direction.

And Anna? Well, after my rushed assurances that she could share my ice cream with me, she calmly agreed and proceeded to model flawless self-control as she sat on the nearby bench while her little brother screamed bloody murder and her mama ran frantically into the restroom for paper towels (and, let's be honest, one second of alone time in a quiet room!).


Earlier in the morning, I read this blog post on the concept of control versus self control. The author writes,

"These two things – control and self-control – stand at opposite ends of the maturity spectrum.
The toddler was a live-action reel of a fierce effort to control his mother.  And he was a spectacle of immaturity.

The mom was a breathtaking portrait of impeccable self-control. And she was the epitome of maturity.

Toddlers brim with the impulse to control (even as they bungle the execution). A 3-year-old will resort to wild-eyed tantrums, incessant whining, ear-piercing screams, coy manipulation, and flat-out demand to try to get their way: to control their parent, or sibling, or playmate, or the situation at hand.

But as the toddler’s attempts to control things escalate, his ability to control himself deteriorates. His need to be in control makes him more and more out-of-control. The results are not pretty."

Wow.  "As his attempts to control things escalate, his ability to control himself deteriorates." Yes, that would be me yesterday. And so many other yesterdays, and probably a good number of tomorrows too. 

There is hope, though! Hope, and the author's gentle admonition that in every desire to control the people or situations around me lies God's offer to me of self control, through the power of His Spirit in me. I don't think it's a coincidence that of the nine fruits of the Spirit, four specifically address this hard-to-master issue. Peace. Patience. Gentleness. Self-control.  Almost as though God knew this would be something we needed multiple 'helps' with if we were ever to conquer the inner raging toddler.  As I take a breath, send up a panicked prayer for help, and reluctantly choose to let His Spirit control me rather than trying to control what I cannot, the promise is that He will finish the work He began in me and will not give me more than I can bear.  And that there is grace and forgiveness (from my perfect Parent and my preschooler who has a better handle on this than I do some of the time..!), and mercies that are new every morning.