Those eyes, they glare at me. And my heart wilts just a little more.
I’m so done. How can you be a mother, give so much, and get that? Like, don’t they know I gave up my own life for theirs, that I don’t always feel glorious about home schooling one more day, that I make those green smoothies because I love them?
Don’t they know I’m a good mom—as in, a really, really good mom?
The twelve year old son, the one who looks at me contemplatively and asks me how my heart’s doing, well, he turned into a brat for awhile. And I’m done being weak and disrespected and known as the softie who can’t take anything, so I clamp down.
These kids—don’t they know I’m fully human and I have feelings, and they can’t –I mean, they really can’t—talk to me with that edgy tone?
My husband calls me into the room for a talk, and shares with me how I could be hearing their hearts more than clamping down on the edgy parts of their hearts. “Perhaps”, he says, “that would help them not be so disrespectful. They want to feel heard, and sometimes not everything comes out all pretty and sweet.”
We empaths feel deeply. The slightest tone of voice, especially when we’ve been raised by a father who never, ever raised his voice, can drive us over the edge. We avoid conflict like the plague and all we want is to be honestly, truly loved and communicated with in the same love.
But kids aren’t perfect, and even most adults will have an edge to their tone every once in awhile. I’ve clutched my heart many times in a desperate quest for escape when a family member or friend has looked at me with less than warm vibes bouncing from their eyes.
How not to go over the edge when you hear the edge?
Just the other day, I literally ran out of the house when conflict happened with one of the kids and I had to send him to his room. And my husband says, “Maybe try to listen more before you discipline?”
So yeah, I’m the softie trying to prove herself strong. If they can bark, so can I—and I can send you to your room, too!
I look at the hats sitting on the shelf of the shop I clean, and I see the slogan, “Don’t tread on me.” I feel it within, this cry of the heart—please don’t tread on me, kids.”
Somewhere, there’s a wound deep within that rises hard core to a fizzing top when I hear the edge. And I’m taking it out on the kids, this inability to handle it and get to the bottom of the heart behind it—because I’m stuffing my own hurt way down deep.
I sit them down for Bible time after daddy goes off to work his night shift, and I say it, loud, to hearts seated round the living room. “I’m sorry for not listening well to your hearts. I’m sorry for not giving you what I want for myself.”
Kids are forgiving beyond belief, and a few of them cuddle up close . The next day when fights simmer, I pause, and I ask this heart, then that one, what’s going on. I do it again, and again, and again. Sometimes, I listen and talk it through, then discipline because the need is obvious—but often, we simply talk.
When relationship is there, the love is there, and when love is there, the heart wants to do good. There is no need to discipline a heart in the right place, no need to prove yourself to a heart already in a proven place—even though they’ve made a mistake.
The air clears, and I listen more. I take time to talk it through, to get to the bottom of the frustration rather than send the frustrated child upstairs with no answers. I focus on training the littlest bratty child rather than attack the older child for scolding bratty behavior. I try to be fair, just, and approachable—for everyone, not just the littlest one.
The twelve year old is hugging me again, and my heart is at peace. Not all is perfect, and it never will be. But love covers us in a blanket of acceptance.
Children know when they are accepted for their performance or loved in spite of less than perfect behavior. I’d rather have a child vibrantly loved than have a silent, performing child working for my love. And this is where I was headed until I repented of my very own inability to work through conflict.
Teens may need the mercy seat right along with this mama, and I feel the need of it keenly. Mercy—we are all in desperate need of it, daily. Repentance mingles with grace, and the soul is at rest. Perhaps the heart, rather than wilt, can be made alive with the glory of grace in an edgy world where all is not always as it should be.
Perhaps, we all need to be heard a little more, and condemned a little less? That spouse, friend, or child who makes you want to shy away—perhaps they need to have the deepest places of the heart heard and cared for? Perhaps, just perhaps, the ugly coming out is a sign that they are affected in an ugly world?
Perhaps we could be like Jesus, and send the teen off with mercy, to sin no more, rather than condemn him for sinning against us?