Family Cheer Department
I want a refund!
For the past couple of months it has been a privilege to have 2 of my adult children live at home. Their circumstances vary for why they have come, but the reasons do not matter. There will always be room at our Inn. We have had a full house before, have tested and stressed our family bonds, but this time….is different. I think we have reached a whole new level of difficult emotional challenges and personality hurdles. So why do I stand in line at the Complaint Department demanding a refund?
Because, over the course of these few months, I bought a truckload of complaints, shared them with far too many ears that cared to listen, and worse of all, spread those complaints to each of my kids, hoping it would somehow remedy my maxed out anxiety. This….is quite shocking!
It used to be an intentional standard of mine, not to talk about the struggles each child was going through to their brothers and sisters, broad stroking it as ‘not my story to tell’. When they would eventually share with each other, I thought it gave them power to choose what to make known and what they wanted to keep private. I gave myself an extra pat on the back for being nothing like their father when it came to privacy….as in, having some.
While living with him, nothing was private. All conversations were monitored or had to be repeated word for word. All thoughts were poked, probed, and prodded like an alien invasion, and all doors….even for the bathroom….were to remain open.
An underlying perception that someone was watching, listening or could walk in at any moment, pervaded my awareness.
Privacy leaves a BIG hole in relationships if absent, so that was an easy parenting platform to build up when I first began working on my foundation for single parenting. I felt fairly certain that holding my children’s confidence would score a solid ‘A+’ in my imaginary Parenting 101 Class….High-5 me!
Maybe because our kids are all almost adults, or maybe because I am turning my own major corner in life, but I started blabbing! Blah, blah, blah, about this kid….to that kid….about another kid, and so on. When you have 5 kids nearing or in young adult phases, the topics of concern tend to be quite rich and juicy….ripe for gossip.
It never occurred to me that gossiping was possible within a close family circle. It took my 16 year old daughter looking at me like I had 3 heads….which happens daily….to realize my gossip was real. Then she said, “Well, you are not being nice”, and I slammed into full stop!
ME…Not nice??? Well, I think I have heard it all, now. I am nice….VERY NICE, just for the record….and also for the record….do not speak to your mother that way….but before all those words fell out of my mouth, she added a little eyebrow raise and bent her head down to look at me through the top of her eye sockets and I knew she was right. In a classic reversal of roles, my attitude was adjusted by a 16 year old who never meet my Mum, yet somehow knew the default behaviour I was modelled as a child. Mum did not voice complaints about any family members. She did not gossip about our woes. I needed to figure out what happened to me….pronto!
It has been challenging to support our 21 year old daughter through her pregnancy. Time is gaining speed for when we will finally meet God’s new addition to this family, and I am still not sure how to support her. For a sense of what that looks like, I have shared a link to her blog about how hard it has been for her to process this life-altering event:
Her story compels me to tears, as I know I have added to her confusion and heartbreak as she reluctantly redefines herself. Not perfect, that is me. That is all of us, and where Week 38 starts. It is my second week of focussing on Encouragement, since I combined topics in my last post on Strength. To really keep things lively, I am going to work backwards from THEM (last week), to US (this week), to YOU, and then end Encouragement with a focus of ME.
But let’s get back to the complaints department and see if I can successfully complete my refund.
ME: I want to return these complaints!
Department Manager: What is the reason for your return?
ME: Regret. Bags, and bags, and bags full of deep regrets.
All my complaints were emotional purchases, bought out of desperation. I was hurting and shopping for a quick solution….looking for that big ‘fix-all’, which led to impulsively buying a complete line of complaints. No forethought to their use, whether they would match up with the rest of my lifestyle, or if they were even legitimate.
At first, I bought only one complaint. It felt smooth slipping off my tongue and released a slight hiss of pressure from wherever I was stuffing my feelings. It was not enough. There was still a vat of pressure inside of me and a singular complaint seemed too weak….not capable of validation on its own, so therefore….I must have more. Soooo many more!
The more I bought, the more I needed. I thought I was a clever complainer, releasing my steam in an even, controlled manner. Not like Mad Dennis at all….I disguised my negativity in humorous comments or by forcibly laughing after expressing my unpleasantness, to pretend it was not how I seriously thought or felt. Not sure I convinced anyone, since I was obviously not fooling my daughter.
Was it possible the exact characteristic I saw in my bitter, disenfranchised colleague, was the challenge I was wrestling with now?
Could more layers to this onion be overcoming me in an eye-stinging effort to get my attention??
Did I succumb to projecting onto Dennis what I needed to work on inside myself???
Good thing I decided not to judge him and instead, see grace was available for him. Maybe this is what my Grace work so many weeks ago was all about….maybe….but I am grateful to see Grace waiting for me on the other side of this fumble toward having a more Encouraging character.
Department Manager: Sorry. NO refunds on complaints. YOU need the ‘Repairs Department’.
Turns out, repairs cost more than the original complaint purchase price. It means I owe a schwack of positive emotional deposits into the accounts of all my family members….a debt that should be sweet to pay….so I started with hubby.
Oh yes! Great as I think he is, he was not spared my saucy internal slurs, which outwardly looked like cold shoulders and diverted eye contact. I got right to work, put love first, and remembered why he won the title of ‘best friend’.
What happened? Another shock! Not really….
If hubby and I are good, generous, and accepting toward each other, there is less stress everywhere else in the family. Choosing love to get through it, helps us all to live through it! This does not sound particularly profound or new. It just sounds simple….and true….and exactly what I needed this week to stop complaining about inevitable flaws and keep Encouraging our endearingly interesting little family.
It does not seem coincidental to have the word courage inside of Encouragement. My Strength and Patience are working hard to fulfill the sweet, emotional deposits I owe. If you remember a ratio I suggested a few months ago, 10 Deposits for 1 Withdrawal….if every complaint I thought or said was a withdrawal, it might take me a few years to get out of the red!
Fun years, no doubt, that I look forward to cheering, living and loving up!
Three cheers for being a normal, imperfect family….
….and cheers for all of the US‘s out there!