Thursday, July 28, 2011

Coffee Talk: Dealing with Chaos to the nth Degree

No baby yet; just a busy week around here! For today's Coffee Talk, I thought I'd share a reflection that has really helped me grow in grace with motherhood.

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 Fly
I 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!


  1. Your post was just what I needed to read this morning! Thank you for being 'real'. I am there, where the whole is greater than the parts and I have blown it so many times this week alone. Seriously, last night I was weeping in bed and it woke my husband up because he thought something was terribly wrong because I was so distraught over how I've been losing it with my children lately. Anyway, I am going to try to remember that feeling like I'm going to lose it, doesn't mean it has to happen.

  2. (So the blogger sign-in is working strangely for me--anyone else having problems with it??)

    Hi Stephenie! Thanks...glad it encouraged you. It'd be fun to have a coffee talk together in real life. :) Hang in there. I think this is an area where I can most grow right now. I'm sure we're not alone. ;)

  3. AnonymousJuly 29, 2011

    Sounds like a great book! I need to remind myself to give my kids more grace. I think I've grown a bit, but have plenty of room to grow!

    Something that I try to keep in mind is that my husband and I are the first example of authority, and we don't want the girls to grow up in fear or feeling as if they have to earn love, approval and acceptance. While God is a judge, He is also a loving Father, so I try to keep that in mind and be an example of that.