Self-emptying

Funny how you won’t hear words for a long time…and then twice in one day. Funny how the concept of “self-emptying” seems to be synonymous with parenting. The IMG_5152preacher used it in an example yesterday morning and then my friend who has 4 boys of similar ages of mine used it as we rested on blankets at Raccoon Creek State Park while the boys splashed in ice-cold fall water (good for you, knuckle heads!).

You know how you watch your red needle slide past the “E” on your car and you calculate based on prior experience that you have 20-30 more miles to go? Running on fumes and yet you’re still running?

That’s what I was doing last week – running on fumes….after I thought I was already at Empty. I went way past Empty on Tuesday when the third or fourth email arrived about how “difficult” my boys were being in their nice private Christian school. When the kindergarten teacher called to see if we could have a conference with the principal because Mr. Ornery was in fact being….well, Ornery. When the poor 5-year-old boy had landed on Red on the Traffic Light system (and the floodgates seemed to have opened up). Well, I lay into him as soon as he popped “innocently” into the van in the carpool line:

  • “What do you mean you were on red?!?”
  • “What do you mean you’re not listening to your teacher?!?”
  • “What do you mean you’re refusing to do your work?!?”
  • “How could you stand in front of the class being a goof pretending you’re writing Dunceon the board in marker instead of chalk?! And then you’re going to make the chalk screech?!?”
  • “And you pulled down your pants?!?”
  • “By golly, BOY – you gonna be on RED at school, you’re gonna be HURTING at home!”

By the time we got home….and the typically bouncing boy sobbed as he slunk into time out (while I was still on the phone with his teacher, mind you)….he probably thought his world had ended right then and there.

Well, mine had. We picked up the second-grader from chess club an hour later and I laid into him too. “What are you so mad at me for?” he asks.

Could it possibly be because:

  • “STG had a very difficult day today”
  • “STG was defiant and disruptive in class.”
  • “STG put his head down and flatly refused to work.”
  • “STG should NOT have any gaming time. It’s very important to be firm and consistent.”
  • “Anger seems to be STG’s most authentic mood.”
  • “STG almost constantly makes noises like a whale song in the back of the room, which do not seem to be intentional.”
  • “I really do need you to have a conversation with STG about his behavior. He needs to understand rules and consequences.”

By this point, I was banging kitchen cabinets to check to make sure that they will in fact break if you give it just the right slam! I had sent both boys to time-out and gratefully let my sister “talk” to them about why Mommy might be so angry. I had very few tears left to burn down my face. I headed out of the door to take one of those “I completely give up and I am not your mother” walks when my mom arrived with my youngest….and I sucked in a big breath and welcomed him home. Self-emptying.

I wasn’t mad at the boys. I was mad at myself…..for possibly picking a school for them…that might not actually be right for them. I was mad at myself for possibly making a mistake. I was mad at myself for not knowing the “right answer.” I was mad at myself for being mad at them and at myself.

I was Empty.

I was exhausted.

I had done the week of guilt. I no longer could process the constant emails interrupting my office work to inform me that my boys were “not listening to the instructions the first time.”

I couldn’t figure out how to advise the sweet young kindergarten teacher how to draw the line for Mr. Ornery and change her “reward” system so she didn’t keep rewarding his obnoxious class clown behavior.

I couldn’t figure out how to handle Super Tall Guy’s teacher’s sharp tone of annoyance in her emails.

I wanted to know that these teachers and school were going to come alongside me and partner in this journey of growing healthy boys (not just compliant boys). I wanted to know if they actually had a sense of developmentally appropriate expectations. I wanted to know if they actually loved the boys. I don’t have peace about any of that yet.

So, I need someone to open a “boys’ school” in this area. And I need it Pretty Darn Quick! Let me know when you have it ready!