On any given weekday, after work, I get into my car, turn off the radio, then text my husband to let him know I am on my way home. The drive takes fifteen minutes and silence is welcome after the noise of the day.
Once home, I take a deep breath and walk towards the house. I prepare myself for whatever is happening on the other side. The other side houses my guys. A big one and two little ones. Within minutes, we are engaging with one another, carrying the details of our day within our bodies.
I make my way to the bedroom to change into something more loungy because I subscribe to the controversial theory that home is where the bra isn’t and everyone should have comfort in their own space. I take off my socks and then grab a hair tie to pull my hair off of my face by making a bun on top of my head before re-entering the kitchen to help with dinner.
While my husband and I unload the details of our day we make our way around our tiny kitchen, attempting to make dinner and manage the chaos that is occurring between our two adventurous boys.
Stories from the day are often interrupted by a number of things, including my own brain. The capacity that remains after being bombarded all day by sensory input is often decreased and I find myself in a space where my ability to handle more stimuli is low. We move into dinner at which point we embrace the emotions and stories of the day alongside the opinions of little people regarding the food at the table.
We follow our schedule for the remainder of the evening and eventually the kids are in bed and the adults are seated on the couch awaiting the moment of certainty that they are indeed asleep. I choose for myself what my body needs to do for the evening to relax and unwind before bed and before I know it the day has come to an end.
When the night is still my mind reminds me of the input of the day. Between work and home there was crying and questioning, laughter and play, yelling and arguing, instructing and correcting. As a parent and a therapist guiding the children in my life, I am aware of what a challenging task we have to live out each day. There are days where I am proud of the way that I engaged with those around me and there are also the days that I wish I could rewind and start over again.
I recently was recounting a story to a co-worker about apologizing to my son for a response that I had. My nine year old patient stopped the task he was working on and looked up at me with a question. “Hold on”, he said. “You mean to tell me that an adult apologized to a kid? In all my life, I have never heard of such a thing!”
Being an adult who engages with children is difficult. It often feels like we are trying to balance caring for others with caring for self. We want to raise respectful, well-mannered, grateful human beings and behavior becomes the measure that we use to determine how well we are implementing our knowledge.
At times, I fear our focus becomes so myopic that we forget that we are teaching children. Children who don’t want to wear jeans because the fabric hurts their skin but they don’t know how to tell us that, so instead they kick and scream when getting dressed. Children who feel overwhelmed by the request to clean up a messy room because they can’t identify where to start so they say that they “can’t” and set up camp on the floor. Children who are unable to regulate their emotions so they cry and scream for “no apparent reason”. Children who yell at adults to stop talking because they don’t know how to say that they are overwhelmed by their thoughts and your words.
Often times, we invite them to engage in ways that we as adults aren’t even willing to do ourselves. I make choices that allow me to regulate my body and my actions: turning off my radio, breathing before entering chaos, taking off my socks and bra, changing clothes, and pulling my hair back. Each of these actions may not seem like a big deal to you but to me, they are the difference between agitation and peace. They are the choices that I get to make that provide rest for my body. What if we looked for ways to help our children to make choices that bring calm to their chaos?
When we are emotionally responsive, it calms and strengthens the brain and builds attachment which feels like an essential building block for relationship.
Can we be adults that teach our kids to say no thank you and then respect their boundary? Can we be curious about the feelings behind the behavior? Can we work to de-escalate our responses knowing that it will help them in turn? Can we communicate comfort rather than threat? Can we be adults who apologize when we hurt our children? Can we be curious?
What if in creating a consistently secure attachment with our children we are actually also caring for ourselves and our world? What if…?
Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys. A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here. &
Dear B…once again you write with such kindness to yourself and your boys. You are an inspiration to me in learning how to better care for my grandkids! How I wish you were writing when I raise my own boys😀 I love you sweet lady. You are a great mom! Love you
Thank you Deanna for continuing to encourage me along the way. I love hearing the ways that you are lovingly caring for the little people in your life now. I imagine your boys are also blessed by how you are loving their children. Love you too!
Your friendship and beauty as a mother has often invited me to engage my own boys differently. You have always courageously entered in to your world, giving what you know and believe to be best for them. Your mindfulness of what is going on for their hearts and minds offers a kind of care for them that goes beyond nurturing to something completely different. Your words today remind me to consider my own responses to my “spirited” child in ways that can provide more calm to his chaos. Oh B – you are such a deeply loving mother and you are doing such a wonderful, wonderful job. God must be so delighted every single day that He picked you to be their mama.
Also, “home is where the bra isn’t” totally needs to be a decorative plaque. Love you.
Thank you for your words Jenn. One of my greatest joys is to share so intimately with those I love and to hear how it is impacting your story with your boys brings rest. Thank you for continually loving me and cheering me on. I believe He is delighted despite my actions and thank goodness for that! It’s exhausting and I still blow it 🙂 Glad you liked my phrase. Not sure how I’d explain that one to the little reader in my family! Love you.
I love this on so many levels. Living with two sensory seekers and two sensory avoiders, and one very thoroughly engaged child means these scenes are familiar. I think about this stuff all the time. It matters, this kind of parenting. I honor you for doing it, day in and day out. And for reparenting yourself in the process.
Thank you Joanna for your kind response. Oh the stories we could tell together I am certain. I love moments of connection with others who get the “lingo”. I love your line, “it matters, this kind of parenting.” More than I every knew, and more than I ever knew I needed as well. Your insight on reparenting definitely fits. Peace and love to you as well.
Who knows what God might do. We might have this talk over tea someday yet. 🙂
Beautifully written. Love you , my friend💗MJ
Thank you my friend, Always appreciate your words. Love you.
I aways learn so much from your writing, Bethany. Always. You do the very thing for me that you do for your children. As adults who are involved in trauma care (body care) we have taken Meyers-Briggs tests more than once and about ten other ways of identifying what type of body we are. But that is still not enough to de-code the world that we are thrust into as parents, children and friends. Living on this planet is challenging and with your writing you, once again, have given me a clearer way to reach for peace for myself and others. As an adult child whose parents are not living, I still am like your son who sits defiantly on his bedroom floor not knowing where to begin. This world….is not what it was meant to be….Merry Christmas.
Thank you Becky for your love, support, and encouragement again in your response. I am humbled to know that you are learning much from me. I never imagined that trauma would fit into these scenes of my story and yet I am finding myself referring those exact words. I pray that as you reach for peace for yourself and others, that clarity continues to abound when it comes to engaging such abstract and fluid concepts. I find myself often identifying with my children and the children at work who scream and throw fits, wondering what it would look like if I allowed myself to do the same 🙂 This world, not what it was meant to be, Amen to that and thank goodness we have hope! Wishing you a belated Merry Christmas and happy new year!
Your loungy clothes are a trademark in our friendship and I love them and what they represent. You’ve offered us a pathway to kindness here B that is needed and you’ve made it easy to understand. Thank you for continuing to walk into your own life with such grace, vulnerability and hope and for bringing us along as you go.
Dear friend, thank you. I love the trademark of loungy clothes and all that it holds as well. Your words are a blessing to my weary soul as I continue to need the support to just keep going. Love you and thank you again for Jesus, Please…the echo of my heart so very often.
B–this post is so full of truth and grace and so well-written. I am learning more and more how profoundly my experience of the external world impacts my internal well-being. All of those little things–grooming, the way our clothes feel, bathing, smells, sounds, etc–directly impact my mood, how I feel about myself, and who I am in the world. I am also realizing that I can teach those skills–which have taken me 30 years to acquire–to my children! You have such great perspective on all of this as a mother and a child therapist. Thanks for sharing this with us. It is such a sweet, tangible, vivid and real taste of what daily life is like, and how the little things are often the big things. Your empathy and sensitivity are inspiriting. I loved this part and connected to it:
“Often times, we invite them to engage in ways that we as adults aren’t even willing to do ourselves. I make choices that allow me to regulate my body and my actions: turning off my radio, breathing before entering chaos, taking off my socks and bra, changing clothes, and pulling my hair back. Each of these actions may not seem like a big deal to you but to me, they are the difference between agitation and peace. They are the choices that I get to make that provide rest for my body. What if we looked for ways to help our children to make choices that bring calm to their chaos?”
YES YES YES! Thanks B, love and miss you. xoxo
Sweet Libby, thank you for your words and support of my writing. Isn’t it amazing how impacted we are by all of our senses and how often we blow past them, not realizing the impact on our bodies. I have found myself returning to the comments for this post during this week as the wheels continually seem to be falling off in the midst of holiday excitement and your encouragement has been a sweet blessing. Thank you for loving me here. Love and miss you too.
I thought this was brilliant–hearing your child beyond their capacity to communicate is such an incredible gift. Love watching you do it with your boys, even when it’s difficult.
Brilliant?! Why thank you dear friend. Thank you for your response, love, and support…always. Glad you are there to watch…even when it’s difficult and love that you are there to laugh and cry with me too. Love you.