…a pinhole look into the life of one not-so-ordinary girl.
The beauty and wonder and whimsy of these little peoples’ hearts who surround me every day is astounding when I look at them with still eyes.
Some days my eyes are busy because I choose not to notice, having deemed my cares or my to-do lists more worthy of my attention.
Some days my eyes are busy because I am swept up by all that I am involved in and by piles and piles of laundry and dirty dishes. My eyes are focused on the adult worries, or the every day things just above the little people at my feet.
I’ve been searching and searching for ways to make deeper heart connections with my children.
– One way I’ve found to make a heart connection with Blaise (9.5yrs) is by setting a time limit for how much time after school he is allowed to talk about things outside the real world. I realized a few months ago our conversation was being monopolized by discussions of which Pokémon defeated another, or which trainer he wanted to be, and although teachable moments can come out of almost any conversation, a heart connection is not established solely based on teachable moments. For him, it’s simply a matter of allotting time for him to know we want more than just the surface stuff and he will quickly go deeper.
– With Posie (5.5yrs), it is a bit more complicated because she’s still young and she is more reserved than Blaise. She has to be prompted and encouraged to share how she feels (especially when she’s upset, but even at times when she is excited about something). For her, it’s about creating an environment where she sees all of us sharing how we feel and that there is no judgment or criticism (especially from us, her parents) when she does so. The last thing we want is for her to feel singled out, or that we are in some way shocked by what she has said.
There have been many situations in our nine and a half years of parenting during which we were given the opportunity to be surprised by what our child is saying or how they’re feeling. We recognized after the first few situations that it would not benefit our relationship with our children if we made it seem like we are hyper-sensitive or (by our reactions) that we would like our kids to tip-toe around subjects with us.
We want them to come boldly to us, in confidence, knowing there is nothing under the sun that we have never heard of, that they cannot shock or surprise us or disturb us and although we may not have every (right) answer, we can point them in the right direction to find the answer that brings peace to their hearts.
We’ve learned that using certain things as a means to discipline or bring correction only fosters bitterness and rejection in their hearts. Two of those things are:
1. Using their interests or things they feel passionately about to discipline them. Using an interest/passion that wasn’t involved in the situation.
Example: Blaise is caught reading secretly in his room well after he was told it was time to go to sleep.
Discipline Do: He has to go to bed earlier every night for a number of days or cannot stay up late one of the weekend nights.
Discipline Don’t: Telling him he can’t read before bed anymore or in any way making his awesome desire to read twist into a negative thing. Telling him he’s grounded from video games or something else he loves to do that had nothing to do with the situation.
2. Using family time or a bonding moment to discipline instead of making a heart connection. You’re a smart person! Find another way to teach them about consequences that doesn’t involve robbing the family or the individual of heart-to-heart experiences.
Example: Posie tells Blaise every treat she had at a sleepover because she knows he will be jealous.
Discipline Do: First, we talk with Posie about how she thinks that made Blaise feel; Second, we ask her if she likes feeling that way; Third, we ask her to think of something nice to do for Blaise to make up for her previous actions.
Discipline Don’t: We would not take her dessert away for the evening because that not only robs her of a pleasant time with her family, but it also robs us all of a chance to sit with her and make a heart connection over a joyful experience.
These are things that we have found work for our kids and us as parents. We are not raising robots. We are raising humans who can respectfully disagree with those around them or humbly realize truth and accept it when it is before them. We are raising humans who value relationship over power and control, and place love in the middle of every intention.
When they are not acting in a lovely way, we want to respond in a way that cuts through to the heart of the matter; that also shows them how to respond to others who aren’t acting in a lovely way to them. We do not retract our love from them and tell them to figure it out. We work and struggle alongside them to bring them into a place of trust and vulnerability with us so that they can, in their lives, know grace and offer it. We work and struggle alongside them to bring us into a place of trust and vulnerability with them so that they can know grace and offer it to us when we aren’t acting in a lovely way; and for themselves, to know grace and offer it to themselves when they have failed themselves.
We do not cut them off from relationship. It is life. If we do not teach them how to be in relationship, someone else will.
This is messy, complicated, hard work. This is lasting. We invest in them and struggle alongside them because all of our hearts are involved. We think of every person they’ll ever know and we do it for them – their hearts are worth it. We think of growing old as a family and we do it for us – our hearts are worth it. We think of our children, walking through this life and we do it for them – each of their precious hearts are worth it.
We are all worth this struggle and messy love.
I know what you’re thinking: “They don’t have it all figured out.” And you are right! We do not. We’ve only figured out what we’ve figured out so far and tiny bits and big bits here and there change as often as the seasons of the earth. We are not robots, either. Trust me.