My philosophy for transitions of any kind with my kids from hard places? Keep it Soft and Simple.
Getting out the door for school? Keep it Soft & Simple.
Leaving for church on Sunday morning? Keep it Soft & Simple.
Summer vacation? Keep it Soft & Simple.
Holidays? Keep it Soft & Simple.
This Thanksgiving was the first Thanksgiving in THIRTEEN YEARS without a major meltdown, an emotional rage, an out of control child with no idea what he or she was upset about or why falling apart seemed necessary.
Don’t get me wrong. We had narrow misses. Several moments when I held my breath and
prayed begged God for calm in our home.
This year I promised myself I would dig my self-control out from behind the washing machine and use it. God help me—because that’s the only way possible for this broken mama to use self-control.
Be calm. Move slowly. Use a quiet voice. Be sensitive to the tender hearts of my children—no matter what. I was mostly successful. Mostly. (Let’s not talk about the moment when I squeezed the piece of fudge in my hand until it was melty and squishy rather than have my own melt-down.)
As we were beginning to get dinner on the table, one of the boys shifted into “everything must be completely, absolutely, without a doubt perfect” mode.
I took a deep breath, reminded him that I made the turkey for the first time ever and it was sure to be dry, raw, or a mess. Turns out, I cooked it upside down so we couldn’t see the little red poppy-outy-thing. Great chance for us to be less than perfect together. He settled a little bit (not a lot) and we were able to sit down to dinner—and the turkey wasn’t awful.
Later, one of the girls had an “I don’t know what I need but I need something and it needs to be now” moment.
I had just settled down to read. I’d been cooking, cleaning up, getting out dessert, cleaning that up, on my feet all day. I just wanted to sit quietly for a few moments.
Nope. No rest in that moment.
I asked what she needed. She didn’t know. I asked if she was “feeling funky” (our words for feeling emotional and triggered without really knowing why). She was, so we discussed options. Walk the dogs? Together? Alone? Read a book? Mom read to her? Listen to music? Do a puzzle? Jumping jacks? Push-ups? Leap-frog? Rearrange the furniture? (I was desperate, people!)
She chose a book to read in her hammock and actually stayed there for nearly an hour. Crisis averted.
The holidays can be very difficult for those of us with kids from hard places. We struggle to keep things calm while still seeing extended family, going to extra worship services, shopping for appropriate gifts that keep the focus on relationship, and still keeping our sanity.
At our house, we do everything possible to keep things soft and at the same time, simple.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are often at home with just our family. We do visit Grandpa and Grandma, but they have agreed to keep things simple at their house too.
Extra church services? Only if it works for our family in the moment. No guilt. No pressure to be there or not. We don’t volunteer to help with the offering, play the piano, or do a reading. I love worshipping with God’s people. Love it and need it. We try not to miss. But the needs of my family come first. If staying home from the extra Advent service on Wednesday night keeps things soft and simple, we stay home.
I don’t take the kids shopping all at once. Just. Can’t. Do. It.
One at a time, we shop for the others in the family. It has become a bonding experience—each of my kids get that special trip with mom. The one rule: we don’t shop for ourselves. At all. Period. If we get overwhelmed, we go home. I refuse to get upset or stressed out about shopping for Pokémon cards or lip gloss. Seriously. What’s the point? And Amazon helps a lot.
It has taken us thirteen years to reach this point. Maybe I should say that it has taken me thirteen years to get to this point.
I don’t know how Christmas will go. I’ll keep praying. I’ll keep following the K.I.S.S. rule. By the grace of God, we will find a way through the next few weeks without too many rages, blow-ups, or crises.
And, when they do come—because they will, I’ll drag my self-control back out from behind the washing machine again. I’ll do my best to keep my voice soft and give my precious teens and tweens the nurture and structure they need. I’ll wait out the tantrum and reconnect the best way I know how in the moment.
I’ll pray for you. Please pray for me. Together we will make it through this season of triggers for our kids.
Keep it Soft and Simple.