Because LOVE feels calm and warm
February ~ the month when it seems everyone is focused on love and chocolate hearts ~ can be a real struggle for some, especially moms who are scared for their son and the choices he’s making. When our minds fill with the memories of the sweetness of Valentine’s Day ~ when we let them eat their very own heart-shaped cake for breakfast as they read love notes from Mom (well, that was our tradition!) ~ it can make the wall between us and them seem insurmountable and the separation even bigger. I firmly believe it is precisely at these times when we need to be proactive in taking better care of ourselves and our own needs.
In the spirit of this month of love, rather than avoid it, let’s embrace it and use it for us rather than against ourselves. Because, let’s be real ~ love always feels better than anger or dread or fear. Love feels calm and warm, and the good thing about it is we can choose love no matter what’s going on.*
As we concentrate on love, as always, let’s focus on filling our own buckets first. As we all know, it’s impossible to share water with others if our bucket is dry. In the same vein, it’s also hard to really love others when we don’t even love ourselves. Now, we can definitely go through the motions of loving and taking care of everyone else, but instead of it feeling good, it will eventually breed exhaustion and resentment.
However, it’s so easy for good moms to believe it’s selfish to love yourself first (and I know you’re one of the good ones, otherwise you wouldn’t be looking for ways to improve your relationship with your son!). I used to believe that, too. But it’s simply not true. When I’m depleted physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually, I get cranky, I become a control-freak, and I continuously focus on everything I don’t have. Not necessarily a recipe for being the kind of mom I want to be! Since I’ve learned to love myself I’m much more likely to have patience in trying situations, be OK with the human-ness of myself and others, and remember that today isn’t the end. In other words, when I take care of myself (a.k.a., love myself) I show up as the kind of mom I want to be.
What does loving yourself look like? Because I want you to know I practice what I teach, in the last month this is what it looked like for me:
Took time in the middle of the day to read a book for fun.
Slept an hour later than normal.
Made a commitment to myself (and I’ve stuck to it so far!) to stay away from sweets for an entire month (because my inner voice told me I needed to do this for me, not because it’s the latest fad).
Chose to stay home one evening instead of go out as planned because that’s what I needed.
Re-arranged my schedule so I could spend time with someone who matters to me.
Sent out “Happy New Year” cards because I wanted to.
Set limits on my phone so I can play “my game” and feel rejuvenated when the time is up instead of feeling guilty when I suddenly realize how much time I’ve spent playing.
Started up my scripture study routine again.
Of course, you will fill your bucket in your own way. The important part is not how you do it; the important part is doing it! And the great thing is this: if you’re not sure how to take care of you, quiet yourself for a moment or two and listen, and then do that thing.
Take some time to love yourself. You’re totally worth it!
*(I help my clients navigate this all the time; if you want to learn more about choosing love no matter what’s going on, set up your own private mini-session here.)
QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
Another part of loving yourself is also finding ways to love your difficult son. Perhaps you feel like he doesn’t deserve to be loved ~ and maybe he doesn’t. But not loving him really only hurts you. It’s also important to keep in mind that loving him does not mean you approve or condone the things he’s doing. It simply means you get to feel love in your own heart.
It’s easy when we’re struggling with our teens to only see the things that are all wrong. When I am in this place, I remind myself that this obstinate son of mine also…
… has a generous heart. When he was about three years old my uncle came to town and we invited him over for dinner. My husband and sons had never met my uncle before but during dinner, when my now-difficult-son noticed my uncle’s glass was empty, my three-year-old immediately offered my uncle his own glass ~ floaties and all!
… is a great foot rubber. When he was a tween, when he knew I had had a long, hard day, he would tell me to sit down and he would rub my feet. It was awesome!
… used to always tell me, “You rock, Mom!” (Drawing above is proof ~ and I still keep it on the refrigerator ten years later!!)
…knows how to work hard. Ever since his first “real” job as a life guard, we’ve heard from employers that give him a W-2 to people who hire him to help in the yard for a weekend that he’s a conscientious worker and does his best even when he’s cleaning bathrooms (at least he knows how to do it when he’s not at home!).
What memories of your child warm your heart?
What good qualities does he have (even if they’re buried deep right now)?
What strength do you love about him even if he’s not using it for good right now?
Loving him is a gift to YOU. He may or may not benefit from it, but love in your heart will always bless you.
A PIECE OF MY HEART… AND A CHALLENGE
Do you ever find it hard to focus on loving your other family members ~ the ones who sometimes get lost when we’re in the midst of dealing with the difficult one.
Of course, when you’re dealing with something big and heavy ~ like a difficult child ~ it can so easily become all-consuming. We think about him all the time, it creeps into every conversation, it even invades our sleep at night (that is, when we can actually get to sleep). At first, everyone understands that your attention is so focused on the problem at hand, but when days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months, the other important people in your life can feel neglected and then you feel guilty, and, I don’t know about you but when I feel guilty I usually get defensive and crabby, and the destructive spiral can get out of control.
We’ve been through these cycles enough that my husband and I have learned to declare “difficult child time out” spaces. Essentially, these are periods of time where we decide for the next few hours or for the entire weekend we are not allowed to talk about the problems we’re having with said difficult child. It always feels a little strange at first, but as we keep each other accountable to stay away from talking about our problem-child, eventually we start talking about other things and doing something completely different with our time that helps us rejuvenate our emotions, connect with each other and our other boys, and remember there are other important things in our life, too.
It’s so easy to get sucked into the vortex of the all-consuming problem-child, so I give you permission to STOP right now and decide when your “difficult-child time out” will be and what you will do during that time to show the other important people in your life that they matter, too.
If you actually do this, you’ll be so grateful on the other side. Permission granted ~ do it!
LET’S PUT IT IN PERSPECTIVE
We’ve spent this month concentrating on the love we *do* have in our lives ~ even in the midst of the seemingly constant struggle with those boys of ours that we love beyond measure.
“The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise.” ~ Alden Nowlan
I am not sure what I was reading when I came across this quote, but it was several months ago and it softened my heart (and my shoulders and my back!). It seemed to put things in a better perspective and I realized that there is a distinct possibility that my son is in a phase that he will eventually move through.
This is not to say he’ll suddenly live exactly the way I want him to ~ but that is my own stuff to work through. As I learn to forgive him ~ and even myself for my own mistakes and weaknesses ~ love for him and for myself seems to invade the space in my heart that can sometimes seem overwhelmed with sadness and judgment and worry.
Where are you on this continuum? Be honest with yourself and use it as information… not a reason to beat yourself up.