Excuse Me, May I Have A Roar With You?

Everyday Mommy is hosting a Summer Writing Contest and this is my entry! The subject was "What My Children Taught Me About God." Wow, did that prompt a whole summer of thought and realization...Here's just a small piece of what I know about Him because of Them.

Sometime late last summer and fall, Calvin began roaring at other kids at the playground. Close, in their face. Children he didn’t even know ran tearfully away with his spittle on their little freckled noses. They were terrified. Of my little boy. At first, I thought maybe he was overtired - he had stopped taking his afternoon nap a few weeks before and maybe it was catching up to him.

I tried pulling him away to sit on my lap to calm down, explaining that roaring was not OK. He would calm down long enough for me to feel he could leave my lap on the park bench and then go right back to it. I tried to have him apologize to the fleeing children but this was met by him with resistance and refusal and sometimes even mothers of the children would roll their eyes at my efforts, especially when he finished one "Sorry!" only to pounce on a new victim.

I then removed him from the park altogether, which really created a scene because Henry was still playing, minding his own business, but if one kid had to go, obviously the other did, too. So I'd stomp off looking like an octopus out of water - Henry's arms and legs flailing as I held him under one arm and Calvin's arms and legs flailing as I held him under the other, then prying their fingers off the car door and the antenna to get them to the carseats as all the mothers would stare at us, shaking their heads and wondering how I created monsters and why I brought them to scare their children.

When Cal's fierce roaring continued and intensified after threats and explanaitons and even tears on my part, I began to wonder if he had a personality problem and if it was something I needed to talk to a professional about. And that was before he started biting the children that he was roaring at and chasing. The day he chased a little boy until the little boy wrapped himself around his mother’s legs, only to be bitten by Calvin right below his mother's protective hand just as I arrived to stop him and fumbled an apology when I saw her angry face – well, that was the day I vowed never to take Calvin among other children ever again, because he was so terrible and nothing was ever going to get through to him.

Then that night I hit my knees and asked for help on how to handle this. I was at my wits end - where did I go wrong? How could I fix it? I needed a solution – it was beyond my parenting abilities or understanding, and it had developed into a pattern of behavior that disturbed and concerned me for the future of my little boy. He would never have friends! How could I teach him? Why was he doing this?

Feeling in my heart that avoiding the situation wasn't entirely the answer (and not being able to really stay inside at home for too many days in a row), I dared to take him to the park not too long after my pleading prayer for help. Calvin once again sat on my lap for time out for roaring at someone right as we arrived. And then something came into my mind that incredibly had never entered it before. I just needed to ask: “Why do you roar at other kids, Cal?” At which point his writhing stopped and he answered matter-of-factly: “I just want them to play lions or dinosaurs with me.”

And so it hit me: He doesn’t know how to meet people, or how to make friends. I hadn’t taught him! He wasn’t being mean or antisocial – it was just the opposite! He wanted someone to play with him, so he was trying to engage someone in a favorite outside rowdy game! He and I took a moment on that park bench, and a few times after that, practicing together, “Hi, I’m Calvin. What’s your name? Do you want to play?” And then he took those words with him back onto the playground. Some kids ignored him, some kids walked away after they said their names, but a few actually played with him. And he almost immediately stopped roaring and biting.

This is how my child taught me three very important things about God (and my work as a mother). These are the things I learned:

First, God is in this with me. I’ve learned it time and time again, but this little experience brought to my heart the understanding that no concern over any child of His and mine is below His consideration or intervention. He will give guidance, He will give inspiration, He will provide a solution for helping one of His little ones – even with something like a three-year-old’s social skills. He cares. He wants my boys to learn what they need to to be kind and decent and faithful individuals. I just need to ask for direction, and I can depend on it no matter what.

Second, that my son has an inherently good nature, and as a parent I need to believe in that and nurture it and not jump ship or despair when his actions don’t reflect his real goodness or live up to the level of love I have for him. My Heavenly Father would never give up on me, the person He knows I am inside and the person He knows I have the potential to become. He would never resign himself to the fact that I am a lost cause, or refuse to take me somewhere because He couldn’t trust my behavior, or keep punishing me when I just didn't understand what I could be doing better.

He stays on. He teaches. He waits. He shows. He gave His Son so I can start each new day fresh, even if I roared and bit everyone in sight the day before. He trusts the good little soul inside of me and offers hope and reassurance, and He asks me to do the same for my boys, because the love and encourangement they feel from me will help them better understand His infinite love and mercy better. That means taking them back to the playground and letting them try again and again and again, and modeling my parenting after God's.

Finally, that there is power in words. Over and over a phrase from a Sunday School teacher has come to my mind – “The world was created with words.” Realizing that all Cal lacked was the proper words to articulate what he was trying to do, and seeing the difference it made in our life at the playground, was astounding.

The most profound thing was understanding that he didn’t just need me to say tritely, “Cal, use your words,” as I hear so many moms regurgitate over and over again. (I’ve often thought that the children in such situations are thinking, “WAAAAA! and CREEEEEEECCCHHHH! are my words! Who did you think said them?”) He needed me to give an example, to model them for him, to practice them with him. Just knowing the right words and when and where to say them created a whole new world of making friends and finding playmates – a hugely important life skill.

Connected with this realization of what changed for Calvin when he learned the right words to say was an understanding that the words I use and the tone I use with them actually paint the world that my children grow up in. I’ve become more aware that sarcastic words are confusing to little children and hurtful to older children. That name-calling or belittling words not only get repeated at inopportune times but create an ugly spirit and a contentious atmosphere. That the receivers of my words should always feel at ease and invited to be their best selves through everything I say.

As God showed me how to teach my little boy just the right words to say, I learned how much power and strength there really is in a concerned word, in a friendly word, in a polite word, in a patient word, in a teaching word, in a godly word, in a word that is understood by a mother's heart.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)


Tammy said...

Oh, wow...wow. What an incredible post and so full of meaningful truth.

I'm still even digesting all of it...it was that good.

I so agree...words are powerful. And God us with us in parenting.
And most of all... God never gives up on us.

rena said...

Wow. Great story. What a good lesson. We only have to clarify! Ask questions. Jesus asked questions all the time, and got to the heart of the matter. Once He knew the heart He spoke to the heart. You're so right about words and their power.

Hope you have a good week. I won't be around; going camping. Bye for now.

The Amazing Trips said...

Great post, CYM! How awesome that it came to you - to ASK - why he was doing what he was doing. Your heart is in the right place.

I suppose it really helps when your child is at an age where they can communicate back with you. As for me ... I'm still on my knees - every single night... praying and praying and praying!

Calvin would like my William. He LOVES to roar! :)

T.S. Eliot said...

What an excellent story. It's good to be reminded that our children are people, too. They deserve our respect. They don't just need our discipline, they need our unconditional love.

Good luck in the contest!

someone else said...

Wow! Just simply wow! I wish I had your insights in my early mothering days.

Angela said...

Absolutely beautiful.

Susie said...

I'm here from Morning Glory's. I must agree with her, that I didn't always have your mothering skills as a young Mom. They would have come in very handy!
I can, however, apply them to my grandchildren when they're in my care...

Blackeyedsue said...

Wow, that was very thought provoking.

You wrote it so beautifully.

Unknown said...

Pretty profound insights. It's so easy to just expect our kids to know how to react in certain situations but you showed great intuition in the matter!

Gina Conroy said...

Beautiful and funny! I really felt the emotion! Bravo!

Millie said...

I love that you took the problem to God in prayer. That was so perfect. And I love the "use your words" thing - how many, many ways that advice works. :) Great post - glad you took the challenge!

Nettie said...

Great post! I think that proactive parenting is so much harder to remember to do than reactive parenting. But, what a difference doing that, and having Him backing us up makes! Good job!

Anonymous said...

You always make me cry. Lovely, lovely.

Unknown said...

What an incredibly beautiful and truthful message. You are an amazing mom.

Susannah said...

What a wonderful post, and so pleased to meet you! I've read that boys tend to be more spatial, but less verbal than girls. It's characteristic for them to want to engage others in games of "combat" rather than in friendly "cooperation." The Lord gave you a lesson in "boy psychology" without all the reading! I'm really impressed. What a wonderful God we serve. GB.

Anonymous said...

A very very good post. There IS power in words. I think teaching our children to use kind words towards others is one of the greatest contributions we can make to civilization.

Unknown said...

Wonderful thoughts. Thanks for sharing some of that less than perfect kid behavior so that we can all learn and stop beating ourselves up over it. It was particularly relevant today, because just this morning we were at the park with friends. Kyle and Daniel enjoyed throwing rocks into the stream. Daniel sat down on the bench. Kyle came up and said, "getta rock," and Daniel answered, "in the water." Kyle repeated his phrase louder, and each time Daniel repeated his. When they reached a yelling frenzy, Daniel seemed frustrated, but Kyle was having a great time. The yelling was fun for him! So maybe Kyle and Calvin should get together and ROAR sometime. I think they would both enjoy it.

Super Happy Girl said...

What a great post!, did you win?, well even if you didn't, you are a winner.

What a wonderful lesson, you are a good mommy CYM.
Calvin Dinosaur is a blessed little guy.