Peace and quiet. My daughter would finally have fallen asleep after playing with her stuffed animals on her bed for an hour at rest time. I would sink into the couch and enjoy the stillness.
And then the piercing, hysterical crying. The type where there is no consolation, just flailing about and deep hiccups and no comfort in the world. And a worried mama becoming more and more at a loss as to what to do.
This, more often than not, was my afternoon for a few months in there.
99% of the time, it seems, a grumpy child is really just one who needs a snack. Or perhaps an earlier bedtime. And if I haven’t really invested any time in her one day, really getting down on my hands and knees and listening and talking, there is bound to be some defiance springing up later. Some noncompliance, begging for attention.
There is this mode Olivia goes in to. We call it the tornado mode. You know she’s tired or bored because all of a sudden she is moving just an inch faster, and suddenly she’s swiping books off the coffee table and pulling the towels off the racks and there is this trail of clutter in her wake. And if you ask her what she is doing? She looks at you a little glazed, and I honestly don’t think she knows what she is doing. Time to think about bed…
So this crying hysterically upon waking from naps. I was starting to think it might actually be better for everyone if she just didn’t nap at all. You know its bad when you are starting to wish your kid wouldn’t nap.
And then one day we stumbled upon the key. I had tried everything: offering water, offering food, just sitting and holding her, sitting next to her, leaving her alone. I’m not sure exactly how we landed on this, but I finally tried taking her to use the bathroom. And that was the ticket.
I realized that she had been crying because she would wake herself up having to use the bathroom, and was absolutely terrified of peeing her pants. After a few eye to eye, honest conversations, we’ve almost totally conquered the problem, and she will now wake up pleasantly from her naps (that is, unless she’s hungry).
It’s these little nuances about my daughter, things only a mother or father or close caretake could really start to pick up on. By knowing my daughter’s needs and doing my best to meet them, even the ones she doesn’t realize she has yet (have you ever met a grumpy kid who needs to eat but absolutely refuses?), I am inviting peace into my house and into my daughter’s heart.
I used to think of these things as somewhat arbitrary and certainly mundane. Feed, sleep, bathe, play. It’s easy to start to believe these things are not very important. They are just so simple and rote.
Yet it is more than just “see a need, meet a need.” People don’t come with instruction manuals. Relationships are not simple linear math equations. They take on depth and nuance. To be well versed in another human being, you have to get ready to crack open the calculus and get studying. Be ready to observe and absorb, and of course go with the flow.
I’ve realized recently, one of my primary jobs is to be the peacekeeper of my house. I start by keeping my own heart at peace. And it is amazing how hard it is to focus on the tough heart work when I’m being distracted by my unmet needs. Like the fog of sleep deprivation, and the way it adds an extra edge to any annoyance. Or my emotional need to be acknowledged and appreciated. It’s hard to be patient when my reserves are running dry.
And my kids are the same. There is greater peace in my home when I am attuned to my children’s needs, whether it is a handful of peanuts or a cuddle on the couch. When I dole out the snacks, or firmly enforce a rest time, I am doing the work of God. I am actively sowing peace where chaos can easily reign. It may be simple, yet it is anything but unimportant. It is the work of the Father in and through me, leaving a blessing in its wake of untold proportions.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” Matthew 5:9
Read more Thoughts for a Parent’s Heart here!