The potential for chaos expands as the number of children grows. With only one child, a tantrum or a whining spell may certainly be difficult to endure, but it is still much easier than dealing with two tantrums at the same time, or two kids whining about something, which is easier than three, and on and on as we add more children to the mix. At the same time, the kids may be behaving fairly well, with no one child doing anything particularly horrendous (let's say playing with finger paints). But the sheer combination of multiple children doing multiple things or making multiple messes can really stress us out. The sum is greater than the parts.
I read a recent example about kitchen helpers. One child wanting to help mix up a batch of cookie dough would be endearing. "Mommy, can I help you measure and mix?" Melts your heart. We have all the patience in the world for those kind of sweet bonding moments. But when three small children are clamoring on chairs all at the same time, and asking--all at the same time--to help add ingredients and mix, our blood pressure rises beyond what is natural. We went from a charming memory to a stressed-out situation where Mom is fighting to keep her cool, simply by adding more kids to the mix. But it's not their fault; they're each individually trying to do what would be endearing to us if they were the only one doing it. It's just that the whole is greater than the parts. But it's up to us to find the grace to deal with these situations--to stay calm in our own spirits while still seeing them as individuals in a collective group.
So when I've found myself approaching my maximum tolerance level, I pray for more grace for the moment, and I remind myself that I should not react to my children as a collective group, but as individuals. See and respond to what each one individually is doing; don't lose it with all of them when maybe only one out of three (soon-to-be four) needs focused attention or discipline. Does that make sense?
As I was thinking through all of this, I came across this excellent post, which offers more encouragement on not allowing ourselves to hit the tipping point. Here's an excerpt:
"Throughout your day you may have several opportunities to lose the grip. You don’t need to. You may pass up that opportunity. Having the feeling is not the indisputable sign that this must happen. Losing the bubble is a conscious decision that you can avoid making. It takes “getting the grace” to pass it by. I think we all know what it is like to have a great big emotional door in front of us. You may charge on through, or turn and pass it by. When you feel the emotional surge coming at you (a bit like sitting at the top of a slide), get the grace. Hold your tongue, and blow it out. Pray that God will give you self control. Walk away from it. It is much harder to get off a slide while screaming around the second corner half way down with your hair blowing in the wind. Also harder for your husband to get you off the slide. Just don’t go down it. Much better for everyone!"--Grace on the FlyI would love for us to have a coffee talk as moms about situations when we're most tempted to blow the gasket and how we can stop ourselves. I'd love to hear how you've grown in grace in this regard and any wisdom you've come upon that can help us all. Blessings!