August 3, 2007

Choosing Your Battles.

I've decided that I've got this whole motherhood thing pegged.

Whaa? You don't believe me? Here's my theory:

Motherhood is largely comprised of one thing. CHOOSING YOUR BATTLES.

On one end of the spectrum, you find those moms who choose to fight every single battle that their children present. These are the moms who are tired and worn to the bone... probably missing out on a lot of life's joys and feeling a bit like a hamster on it's spinning wheel. Constantly running, feeling unworthy of rest, knowing the second she stops, she'll break. (These are also the moms who have a constant twitch in their left eye.) Their children are well-behaved and well-groomed at all times, but are learning to live life without much spirit, bravery, or passion. Because when life is conveniently mapped out and the wildness of children's hearts is stunted by an overabundance of rules, "auto-pilot" kicks in. And "auto-pilot" will never take them anywhere dangerous or lead them on any wonderful adventures.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you'll find the moms who have all but given up on the fight- the ones who look at the small-fry (big willed) opponents lining up on the battlefield day after day and choose to sit on the sidelines and sunbathe rather than launch a life-giving counter attack. These are the moms who have no control over their children, who often carry the defeated (hollow) look in their eyes. They feel overwhelmed, outnumbered, and alone. They long for a clean slate, a fresh start, a second chance. Their children are fierce and wild, not knowing what to do with the passion that pounds through their young veins. Their energy goes unchecked and unchanneled, leaving them unsure of where to pour themselves out. They become frustrated and angry. A child pushes and fights and lashes out- all in search of a boundary, a wall to strike. If there isn't one set up for them to find, it could turn into a life-long wandering.

This, like most things in life, is a delicate balance. The 'healthy' is usually somewhere in the middle. This is something that is CONSTANTLY in the front of my mind as I go about my days with Ezra. When things pop up, and Ezra and I are suddenly butting heads about something, I quickly assess if the battle is worth fighting.

What will this particular battle ultimately (big picture) accomplish? Will it help teach a life-lesson? Like selflessness or compassion for others? Or is it just me wanting things to go or look a certain way, and Ezra is coming along and wanting to do things a little differently than I think it "should be done"?

Example: If Ezra were to blatantly hit another child, THE BATTLE IS SOOOO ON. In addressing the situation and having Ezra apologize and have consequences for his actions, I am helping him take a baby step towards being a compassionate man who knows that his actions directly affect the people around him.

Now, if Ezra starts to get upset because he wants to ride the elevator at the mall, but I had already decided to take the quicker route and just use the stairs, THE BATTLE IS SOOOO NOT ON. Elevator it is! Because, hey! Life is short! Let's take the long way and pretend we're in a spaceship floating far above the earth for a minute or two! And that meeting that I may be a few minutes late for? NOT AS IMPORTANT as a trip to the moon where my boy can suddenly feel like a captain! (aka pushing the FOOD COURT button.) Weee!

Oh, how often I find that the battles I'm fighting are nothing more than Ezra trying to do things his own way- trying to figure things out at his own speed and using his own methods! We may go through his entire shirt drawer before I find the ONE SHIRT he approves of wearing for the day, but Lord! The extra time spent finding that shirt is long forgotten and far from "wasted" when I see him beaming proudly and showing all the other kids he meets the dinosaur on his chest.

My son is VERY particular. Things need to be a certain way for him to function and flourish. It is tempting, and would oftentimes be much easier, for me to just bulldoze my way through our days with a to-do list in my hand and a watch on my wrist. But what would I be squashing along the way?

And like I said, this is all a balancing act. I understand that children need to develop a concept of 'being on time' (this is ultimately a sign of RESPECT towards the people you are meeting), and I know that children thrive on structure when they are little, but 'structure' and 'appointments' should never take precedence over giving your child the room to breathe and the freedom to explore their world.

Every single moment can be a learning experience, and it brings to mind what an amazing woman said at our church last Sunday... she said that she and her husband became insanely BUSY with doing things for their church and their community a few years ago, and then one day they woke up and realized that all of their busy-ness and rushing about was sending their children one clear message:

That the people outside of their home were more important than the people in it.

I don't ever want to send Ezra that message. I want him to know that he will ALWAYS come before my personal agenda.

I want to be quick to stargaze and slow to suppress... all the days of my life.

"hmmm... I wonder what song this car will play?"


Kerry said...

Great post. I just love your writing.

This was really good for me to read and think about. I sometimes get down on myself for not being busy enough or being structured enough for my son. But then I look at those that are and just don't want to be that way. Balance is good. I'm learning how to be this.

Cristina Mathers said...

really all i can say to that is AMEN! we have taken the relaxed-go-with-the-flow approach and it has worked so well with elise. she is well behaved, fun, curious and smart. can't say that it will work as well with maddie (if that is what we name her) but so far so good! i love parents like jessi and you!

Cheatwoods said...

you said it sista, and finding myself in the middle was a reliefe, there are days were I am either one or the other, but for the most part, I think I might be doing ok! Your ock Em!

MoMar said...

This is so smart. As a stay at home Mom you have the option to be flexible for Ezra. He is your job. The rewards will be tremendous and I can't wait to see the fruit of your labor ... he is such a cool kid.

Tara Jones said...

thanks so much for the comment! so nice:)

Karen MEG said...

I read your post with a lot of interest this morning and you are 100% bang-on! I've been recently going through some battles with my 7 yo who is actually a wonderchild, has been since birth, can't believe how well-behaved and sweet he's been. But lately he just needs to butt heads with me... just because. Like arguing with me when I want him to shower, cut his hair, change his underwear. Basic hygeine stuff that I consider non-negotiable. So I'm really nervous about my 2 yo as she's a total DIVA already. Picking the battles will likely be my only way to survive the next 20 years or so...
Love your writing by the way.

Erin said...

Well said, as always. It's one of the hardest things, knowing which battles to wage. And trusting yourself when you make decisions.

Jeninacide said...

That was such a nice post to read, especially as I am now on the cusp of having my own little boy it is nice to hear from other moms what their perspective and techniques are. I never want to be a mom to stifle my child's individuality and freedom of expression- but darn it can be tricky!