Friday, April 23, 2010
Changing focus, learning to relax
You know those pairs of young men, wearing suits and name tags while knocking on doors? Well, those are my brothers, my father, my husband, and (hopefully) someday my sons. My husband went on a mission for our church in Norway. Therefore, his memories of walking the streets sharing our beliefs have a unique quality of COLD. Frigid, below zero, near frostbite COLD. Funny thing, though, is that most cold no longer bothers him. For years after getting home he didn't even wear a heavy coat. One day, as I shivered uncontrollably in the middle of winter, burrowing into my coat as deeply as possible, he stood in his light winter jacket, not a shiver to be seen. Slightly amused as I bounced in a failing battle to stay warm, he told me the secret he learned from those two years in Norway: if you want to feel less cold, relax. Focusing on the cold makes it that much worse.
I tried to relax myself and found he was right.
Giving birth was the same way. I think the reason I was able to give birth without an epidural five times, never screaming or losing control, was an innate ability to relax and calm myself during contractions, allowing my body to do its work. Focusing on the pain makes it that much worse.
This is a lesson we must learn as parents, if we want to ever go in public or keep our sanity.
Imagine a scenario from the not so far past. Broken glasses with an outdated prescription led to an unexpected trip to the optometrist and optical store. The tight scheduling left me with four children, who lingered in a dinky waiting room for over and hour only to be forced to spend time looking through frames and waiting again for adjustments. The three year-old's whining was growing louder, his 5 year-old brother's energy level was growing exponentially, the 11 year-old obviously bored and unable to control the feeling without excess movement, and the 7 year-old swirling with anticipation for her new glasses. Not only were they loud and obnoxious, they were using me as a jungle gym, complaint line, and source of entertainment.
In my losing battle to keep them quiet and within reach, while hoping to leave the store without paying for lots of broken frames, I could feel the stress eating me up. Hissed threats (have you mastered the whispered yell?), ineffective time outs, dirty looks- they weren't helping and I was nearing a breaking point. Seconds before I exploded in a tantrum of my own, I suddenly remembered my lesson and relaxed. Focusing on the stress makes it that much worse.
Once I stopped focusing on the stress, I was able to look for solutions. I borrowed a pad of paper and pen from an employee for my 5 year-old to color, gave my 11 year-old the task of counting the number of displays, played I Spy with the 3 year-old, and handed my iPhone, with its wonderful apps, to the 7 year-old. The noise went from yelled exclamations and bickering to quiet whispers and giggles. Their activity focused enough to confine movement to around the chairs where we were sitting.
In 10 seconds we went from out of control to astonishingly well behaved. The kids hadn't changed, my perspective had. They were calm, I was calm, we enjoyed the last few minutes before we could leave.
Want to know how I survive life with six kids? I've learned to just relax, focus on solutions instead of stress.
Have you ever found relaxing and stop focusing on the negative makes things better? Do you have to learn a lesson in parenting over and over like I do? Does your husband enjoy the cold too much, causing you frozen toes at night?