Noticing Fear in Parenting
Here is an example when fear surprised me but didn’t win:
My youngest son came downstairs in an extremely wrinkled shirt — it looked like it had been balled up wet and stuffed on his shelf. I asked him to change before we went to the store. He came back down in a shirt equally wrinkled. “Did you stuff ALL your clothes into the shelf without folding them?” He grinned. Yes, he had. They were all wrinkled beyond anything I’ve ever seen.
Let me be clear, I am not an ironer. In fact, my iron was broken for a year, and we didn’t miss it. But, this seemed too far. And I felt irritated at my son. Quite irritated. His choice seemed lazy and immature.
But what I’m learning is that most of my negative feelings about my kids can be traced back to fear. So, I asked myself, what am I afraid of?
I’m afraid this means my son is irreversibly lazy, and I’ve failed as a mom.
I’m afraid he won’t like me as much if I make him iron.
I’m afraid if I do not make him iron, I’m being a bad mom.
I’m afraid if I do make him iron, I’m being a bad mom.
Wow. My irritation at my son was really fear about myself.
This was suddenly manageable! I chose to not let fear plant its roots. I calmly said, “Ok, let’s go upstairs and iron all your shirts. I’ll get out the iron and ironing board; you get your shirts.”
I said it so calm, and without shaming him, that he did it without any pushback. Fear did not get the better of me this time.
My goal is not to avoid fear. My goal is, when the fear comes, to discern what exactly I am scared of? Then to ask myself, Why do I NOT need to be afraid of that?
Why do I not need to fear? Because God is with me, always offering peace, wisdom, and joy, even if my son has a wrinkled shirt.