Tag Archives: fear

A Boy and his Math

The boy is infuriatingly quiet.

“What’s wrong?” queries the mom.

Nothing.  I get nothing but silence….silence and that dreaded, deadpan stare of his through watery eyes.

Sigh

The mom is feeling a little helpless and a certain amount of her own frustration.  “How on God’s green earth can I help you at all if you won’t speak?  SPEAK…..PLEASE!!

More silence and staring and wet eyes…..then, finally, the boy exhales “I’m frustrated”.

“Frustrated?  Well, I’ve got experience with frustrated…..we can deal with that”.  And out it comes; in short, breathy bursts….”it’s the math I did yesterday.  That multiplying double-digits stuff.  I didn’t do well.”  multiplication

That’s taken a lot out of the boy and he leans into the mom’s waiting arms, silently shedding his tears.

Downstairs, the mom parks herself beside the boy and explains,

and coaxes….

and encourages.

The boy continues to give into….to almost feed on…..his emotions.  The pile of crumpled Kleenex grows; eventually he’s using his arm to wipe his snotty nose.

Working at keeping her own feelings of frustration at bay, the mom asks how all that’s working for him.

“Ya feeling good?  I understand you’re frustrated and struggling a bit, but are all the tears helping any?  What are you thinking about?  Are you continuing to tell yourself how much you hate the multiplying double-digits stuff and how hard it is and how you can’t do it….if you keep that up, well, you’ve little hope of believing anything else!  How about you change what you’re thinking?  How about you tell yourself that it’s just multiplying….you know how to multiply!  How about you tell yourself that you CAN do it and see how that goes for you.”

Without any idea of what is going on behind those blue eyes, the mom continues to oversee as the boy does the multiplying double-digits stuff.  She offers encouragement here and there…..she can tell he’s getting it and eventually there’s proof in a page done without any mistakes.  Much is made of it.

Hallelujah.

Later in the day, long after the school work is done, the mom is busily doing mom-stuff when she has a thought.

The frustrating, uncommunicative, deadpan stare and wet eyes thing that the boy does?  She does it, too.  Oh, it might look a little different on her, but like the boy, rather than speak, she most often hides.  She is fearful of rejection; in search of acceptance, she seeks to please.  She stuffs and then she stuffs some more…. and on some days, her eyes seem continually wet and she feels all tight and she can’t find the words.

And all the while, the Father is there, ready, willing and well able to help; loving, coaxing and encouraging.  Patiently waiting for her to speak, in whatever way she chooses.

Most often, He uses the boy, or one of the Others, to speak to the mom.  To show her….with so much to learn, she thinks it’s why she had so many.

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Don’t be afraid to get a little wet

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I took Rhys and Tess to swimming lessons on Monday. Tess is 1 of 2 little girls in her class.  Sophie apparently has mermaid blood. Not only is she part fish, but she’s a cute little thing that has all of the answers to all of the questions her teachers ask.  Never a complaint or any sign of fear.

She’s the kind of girl many of us grew up not liking……but that’s a whole other blog post.

So Monday.  The instructors took the girls out to the dock so they could jump off. Sophie is not only jumping off and swimming back (why is she in this class??), but while Tess stood silently, hesitantly on the dock, seemingly frozen in fear, Sophie is asking if she can jump in more. Talk about humiliation…or maybe that’s just what Tess’ mom was feeling.   I found that I was, well, disappointed.

I tried to encourage from the sidelines. I clapped and said all the right things; I had my phone at the ready so I could catch Tess’ figure as it arced gracefully into the water, a look of glee on her angelic face.  After several minutes…..several very long minutes…..I put my phone down and walked a few meters away to the main dock wondering what her issue is.  My normally fearless girl never needs this much cajoling to do anything, except maybe apologize.  I wondered if I was pressuring too much.  Maybe she’d do better if I weren’t out there, phone in hand…..maybe she’s just a kid who hasn’t spent much time in the water and has some stage fright.

At this point, Tess is half way through her 4 weeks of lessons. At home, Tess is the child who knows it all, a finely honed craft she’s used on everybody in the house.  Her response to most anything anybody tells her is “I know”.  Of course you do…..  She is the child who is never wrong…..at least never admits to being wrong.  She is, in many ways, me.  I doubt my mother would agree, and I’m sure being the oldest of 3 girls is a heck of a lot different than being the youngest of 8, but I do not like to admit to being wrong.  Oh, I can apologize for all sorts of things…..but that’s entirely different.

After I left my perfect picture spot, the teachers finally coaxed my daughter into the water.  I don’t think she got all of her head wet, but some of her face went in. When she got out, she came to me…..”did I do good mommy?”  “You’re getting better, Tess” was my response. Best I could come up with in the midst of my disappointment.  Oh come on!  Don’t tell me you’ve never felt disappointment with something your child did, or didn’t do!!

I’ve spent zero time in the water with my youngest.  Well, there was that one time at the hotel…..ya, zero time.  I found myself thinking that perhaps she would do better, feel more comfortable if I had actually gotten in the water WITH her.  Better late than never, so, that afternoon this mama donned a bathing suit and headed to the beach and actually got IN the water.  I cajoled and encouraged; I pulled Tess around; I tried to get her to relax as she lay on her back like a star fish.  I found myself slightly frustrated when I didn’t see what I hoped would happen….my sparkly-eyed, angelic faced, know-it-all child swim, but it was a start.

The following day I asked hubby to take the kids to their lessons.  I don’t understand what happened, but half way through the lesson Tess decided she could stick not just her face in the water, but her head.  She could float on her back and and she could doggy paddle with mermaid-Sophie.  Everyone came home full of great reports of Tess’ improvement and that afternoon, when I took the blonde and her brother swimming, we had great fun!  She showed me all of her tricks and looked at me with that precocious smile of hers.  When I hugged her, we laughed….and I was thrilled.

I don’t know if Tess learned anything from all of this; well, aside from swimming, but Tess’ mom did.  I was reminded that I can’t be an encouragement to Tess….or anyone for that matter…..if I’m not willing to “get a little wet”.  How can I teach my daughter by example if I am not willing to be one?

This morning it was my turn to take them to swimming lessons, so I put my bathing suit on.

Fear

I’m almost embarrassed to say it, but my youngest three began swimming lessons last week….they’re 9, 7 and 5.  And yes, it’s their first time taking swimming lessons….  Every summer for the past several I’d think “really need to get those kids some swimming lessons” and every summer it wouldn’t happen.

When I told them that I’d signed ’em up, Declan, the 9 year old, was not happy.  Probably an understatement   He was unhappy; SO completely unimpressed….and anybody that knows the boy will understand.  I didn’t get the same reaction from Rhys and Tess, but Dec?  It was constantly on his mind; he would not say that he didn’t want to learn, he was just afraid.

I explained to him that it was normal to feel nervous before starting something new and I used a couple of his siblings as examples to encourage him.  I asked him if he thought Meagan was nervous that first time she got into a glider, or the first time she flew a Cessna on her own.  Do you think Cam was a little jittery when at 12 he donned a set of pads for the first time and stepped out onto the football field, Dec?   Certainly didn’t know what he was doing…. or that first College game he actually got to play in?  Yikes, talk about pressure.

Declan admitted to me a couple days after starting that he felt nauseous before each lesson…but despite the queezy tummy, despite the fact that he had to get his face wet and be in a group with strangers and take instruction from someone he doesn’t know, he didn’t ask if he could quit and I wouldn’t have let him anyway.  He continued to go and to listen and to do what what asked of him and now he’s jumping off the dock and “swimming” out to the raft.  He faced his fear and won and his mama is proud of him.  Rhys is also doing very well and Tess?  Well, she is another story.  A strong-willed little girl with the appearance of an angel who doesn’t like to take instruction and certainly isn’t going to get her face wet.

Fear.

Such a head game!  Despite the fact that fears are, for the most part, irrational, our fears have such a capacity to hold us captive, keep us from learning, growing, changing.  Though having a gang of children gives me a great vantage point for such observations, I don’t have to look beyond myself to see the signs of fear….though I’d like to say that I’ve put those puppies to bed, I have not.  There have been times when the fear of what tomorrow may hold has met up with anxiety about today (particularly when the bank account drains precariously close to the edge) and I’ve found myself in the grip of complete and absolute irrational fear.  What helps me the most in those times are

  • family.  They are God’s gift to me and an example of his faithfulness, despite my own brokeness
  • good friends.  Not acquaintances…..the ones who despite knowing me….all of it…..love me anyway.  Those who have my back.
  • a past.  We all have them, but sometimes they have us.  Looking backward is a fairly pointless exercise UNLESS it`s to look and see all that God has done; to recall his mercy and faithfulness.  All the times he’s shown up in the nth hour and I realize…again…that all my fear and anxiety were for naught.  Other than make me just a little bit crazier.

One of my “go to” scriptures in those times?  Matthew 6:  25-34 (ESV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.