My 'tender' bear given to me by my wife at a time in our marriage when I needed to be tenderer.
I’m a person with good capacity for thought, but if I’m honest, I have a fine thermostat that’s sensitive to the temperature of my emotions. These emotions are almost always well checked in professional life, but where I can’t seem to help myself at times is in the home. This comes to bear when I have the perception of time pressure. Perception is the key word. Enough about one of my emotional frailties.
Recently there was a situation where I became frustrated in the presence of my wife and son — not at them, but with them around. I didn’t hear it at first, but I heard my son about the third time saying calmly, “Take one step back.” Sensing my reason returning, and probably somewhat because of his intervention, I quickly recognised he was implementing his own emotional regulating system (that his mother has taught him, and we both reinforce); this time with me. And I had the poise to do as he said. I stepped back. Then he said, in his calmest supportive voice, “Now have a think about it.”
I did. I thought about it. I glanced at my wife, and that one look created a connection. We both thought, “Wow.”
This was not simply an opportunity to regulate my emotion. It was not only an opportunity to reinforce his procedure, to show him how it works for others, too. But it was also an opportunity to build him up by allowing him to care for someone. Imagine if I reacted angrily and said, “Quiet, child! I’m the parent; don’t tell me what to do!” not only would the opportunities vanish, he would be unjustly scolded when he had detected my mood correctly, was operating out of the only system he knows, and he was doing it in a caring way.
Now it may run against every parenting fibre in you to entertain letting a child ‘parent’ you, but think about it: responsible, logical, reasonable, rational, and reliable behaviour is paramount; to model, no matter who it is, that adult behaviours trump childish behaviours. Remember childish behaviours are not the solemn domain of children. Adults have the capacity to behave childishly, too.
Our children need to learn justice from us, through us, their parents.
For me, I’m thankful that I had the composure to respond as I did. Instead of crushing my child’s spirit by chiding him through unchecked pride, I simply showed him how his method of regulating emotion works for me; as it would work for everyone.
A minute after the exchange took place, I took him in my arms and thanked him for helping me; what I saw in his reaction filled my heart with the things of God. Appreciating justice, as we all do, he loved being thanked and simply said, “You’re welcome.”