Let Go or Be Dragged

https://www.maryengelbreit.com/products/let-go-or-be-dragged-fine-print

Art Print Credit: Mary Engelbreit 

It was a Thursday night, which was not our usual time for violin lessons, and my four children knew it. Our day was as overloaded as the spring ditch creek at the end of our driveway – group play date, library, and tumbling, all falling back-to-back. We landed at music lessons tired, overstimulated, and hungry for anything else besides the box of atomic yellow flavor blasted goldfish we’d been sticking out hands into all day.

While my eldest attempted to follow her teacher’s instructions, my youngest threw books on the floor while his sisters lolled over my shoulders and pulled at my purse, disconsolately asking whether or not I had any mints, or new snacks, and if it was time to go home yet. The scratch of violin scales doggedly began. Heat started to collect under my arms and along my temples.

My eyes desperately traversed the now-familiar classroom. The black and white clock stonily stated we had fourteen minutes remaining. The sun glinted off the warped and dirty snowbanks quietly melting outside the south window. And then I noticed it, a little sign taped to a file cabinet. It was a picture of a child haphazardly holding on to a bunch of helium balloons that were dragging him backwards across the grass.

The cheery lettering at the top read, “Let go or be dragged.”

I read it again, no longer noticing the child pulling at my jeans, or the frenetic whisper play of the twins going on behind me. The violin noise faded, and I inhaled slowly.

Let go or be dragged.

Somehow, this seemed like a startling new revelation regarding a number of circumstances I was doggedly working through in my personal life. Potty training. Tantrums. Financial puzzles. Interpersonal connection. Hurt. Faith questions. Exhaustion. The ever-constant need to clean and organize.

Let go or be dragged.

***

Take potty training, for instance.

Potty training a boy (after training three girls) is proving to be an animal with different stripes. I was warned this would most likely be the case, but by the end of the second week, our success was limited to me remembering to haul my son to the bathroom at the appropriate elimination time. He maintained a very laisse fair approach to the whole affair, going when he was prompted, but with increasing resentment and hesitation.

Meanwhile, we burned through an entire bag of miniature colored marshmallow treats (given out in magnanimous handfuls by his helpful sisters), a bottle of Clorox wipes, and a bag of overpriced Cars-themed pull-ups.

One night after I recounted yet another exhausting toileting mishap to my husband, he gently suggested that it might be time to take a break.

Inside, I rebelled at his words. We had made some hard-fought advances, after all. Our son was staying dry at night and during naps, and rarely had accidents during the day. He successfully held it in the car, and had only had one public accident.

I saw my days of careful vigilance and bleached training pants and bathroom floor reading time swirling down the drain, and it hurt my pride to admit defeat. But this was not about my pride.

It was about my son.

Let go, the little boy in the picture whispered. He’s not ready yet. Don’t push it. You’re being dragged. I didn’t want to agree, but I knew it was true.

The next morning, we went back to diapers.

***

The events of life, it seems, are hell-bent on getting their hooks in us. A meaningless jest. A bad meeting. A temperamental car battery. A child’s lost library book. These things are outside of our control, but often fall just close enough within our purview that we can’t stop thinking about them.

Letting go doesn’t usually occur to us.

We lump around like an arthritic dog, imperfectly guarding our territory. We mull over our thoughts, chewing over conversations, shortcomings, mistakes, and concerns like a well-worn bone.

It isn’t often we give ourselves permission to simply let go.

That seems too easy, our brains say.

That’s giving up. It’s letting someone else win, the world says.

Or is it?

In the act of letting go, of giving in to circumstances outside of our control, what it we are better able to practice the little celebrated art of surrender?

Definition-wise, surrender means: to cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority, to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand, or to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another.

Spiritually, surrender looks like what Jesus taught in Matthew 11.

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

What if we have to start by getting over ourselves, and then seek out wisdom from the source?

Humility may not be many people’s favorite virtues, but that doesn’t make it any less important as a part of our daily lives– particularly when we need to let go of something and try another way. Humble surrender (as opposed to angrily giving in and then stomping around like a temperamental two-year-old) allows us to assess our circumstances and accept our position.

And if we’re lucky, it affords us the opportunity to pick ourselves up from the dust and either try again or walk away, this time with more clarity and perhaps, a deeper wisdom.

***

A few days ago morning, after our full return to diapers, my son grabbed at his pants and quietly mumbled that he needed to go potty. The deed was done successfully and with no cajoling, and I stood in the kitchen afterward in dumbfounded amazement.

I’m too old to pedal the old idea that if you let something go, it’ll come back to you if it’s meant to be. Life is too uncertain for platitudes.

But it is also, undoubtedly, too short to be threatened by thoughts that want to drag me, kicking and screaming, to somewhere I don’t want to go. Had I not stepped back from constantly directing my son to go potty (and thoughts of my own failure as a mother), he never would have had the space to determine his own urge.

Humility and gentle surrender will do far more good for a soul than clinging to failure and hurt.

Hanging on to words, worries, and fears and allowing them to direct our thoughts and emotions is dead weight, better to be cut loose from than strangled by.

Let go, or be dragged.

What’s new in April (besides snow)

Hey everyone! Today is a little like a mystery flavor post. There’s just way too much great stuff going on to make cohesive sense, so I’m just going to mix it all together and call it good. It worked for Airheads, right? Anyway. It’s April 1, and it’s snowing. I want to say it’s some sort of April Fool’s joke, but who am I kidding. It’s just Minnesota.

First and foremost:
This month, we’re starting a month-long series on self-care around here. Why self-care? Have you ever heard the phrase, “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”?

Right.

For the next three weeks, I have three different voices lined up to give you their thoughts on how they take purposeful care of their personal lives in order to help them in their vocations. I hope you can glean something from their ideas and find a few new, practical ways to care for yourself. Check back in on Thursday for our first post!

Second:

IMG_20140319_100634_527 (2)

Well rested babies are happy babies

Sleep training for the twins is complete. No more crying it out. No more muscle jerking, ear-splitting, teeth clenching wails at 3:00 am. We are finally all sleeping through the night – as in 7:00 pm to 6:00 am most days. The twins stopped wanting their “dream feeding” two weeks ago, and since then, it’s been a solid, 11 hour stretch of beautiful sleep.

No swings. No rocking. No more pacing the floor required. Our bedtime routine now consists of changing diapers, putting on pajamas, and then bringing them to their dark room to lay down with their nuks and loveys. We turn on the fan for white noise, and off to dreamland they go.

It was a long, dark road. But we’ve now emerged in a pleasant place. God is good.

Third:
The twins aren’t the only ones who got trained. Some sort of switch went off for Ellis, and she is suddenly potty trained. I’m dumbfounded.

Two weeks ago we did another round of undies training (same as a year ago). This time she had a 50% success rate, and I ran out of carpet cleaner. Then she got sick, and we put it all on hold. I figured she wasn’t ready. But this Wednesday, she requested undies again, and kept them dry all day. Thursday was the same. Since last Friday, she’s only had one accident.

I have no idea why now was the time. Nor do I think I’m any sort of oracle for potty training wisdom. Best I can say is that she was ready, and in typical fashion, just made her mind up and went with it. She never ceases to amaze me, my spirited, sassy, stubborn little Swede.

Fourth:
We’re going to learn how to make yogurt! Okay, maybe I’m the only one super excited about this. But my friend Lacey offered to show me her tinkered, tested, and perfected method for homemade yogurt, and I feel like I inherited the moon.

We are going through yogurt like WATER at my house these days, and it’s eating my grocery budget alive. So if you A. hate paying $4.50 for a tub of organic yogurt, B. hate paying $9.00 for two tubs of organic yogurt, or C. HATE paying $18.00 for FOUR tubs of organic yogurt a week, you should probably check back in next week.

That’s all I’ve got. If you want a good giggle, here’s an adorable video of Ellis making the twins laugh. We are loving the 8 month stage.

 

 

 

 

Weeks 19 & 22: Potty Training Ruminations

toiletWeek 19 – Potty Training Ruminations, Part 1

Before you think I have some fairly advanced aspirations for the twins, let me clarify. Miss Ellis has decided that it’s time to start potty training. She is 19 months old. We kind of think she’s crazy.

Here’s the deal – as long as she’s interested and shows signs of willingness, we’re going for it. To have her out of diapers before the babies arrive would be an amazing blessing for our budget. So, training pants are in, and diapers are out. (Except special occasions, like bedtime. And friends weekend. And church.)

Here are the things that made us realize she might be ready:

  • She was very interested in both of us using the bathroom. We have one bathroom in the house, and decided to keep an open door policy during this learning time.
  • Jason bought a plastic Prince Lionhart seat at Target that suction cups to the toilet. We figured it’d be good to have on hand, just in case. Ellie immediately wanted to try it out.
  • During the first three intensive days, it wasn’t hard to encourage her to use the toilet. She threw a few fits now and then, but was generally amiable to the idea of sitting on the potty.

We’ve decided to go with the three day method, which is nicely detailed here at a blog called Not Without Aim. (The author, Becky Olmstead, used to go to my church. She has potty trained 14 children – no small credential when it comes to this subject.)

 I’ll let you know how the process is going after a few weeks.

***

Week 22 – Potty Training Ruminations, Part 2

It’s not fun to hear someone tell you “I told you so.” It’s even worse when you say to yourself.

After three weeks of pretty intensive potty training, we are giving it a rest. Both Jason and I predicted Ellis was too young, but like starry eyed fools, we pictured a world with no more dirty diapers and little underpants fluttering happily in the breeze on the clothes line. So. Until Ellis regains her interest in the using the potty and ASKS to use it (instead us badgering her every hour on the hour), we are on potty training sabbatical.

Here are the warning signs you may want to watch for when deciding to call the game:

  • When your toddler makes a habit of kicking and screaming on the toilet, refuses to eliminate, and then throws wads of crumpled toilet paper on the floor, you might want to start keeping track of how often it occurs.
  • When your ever-patient friend and childcare giver sends you home with plastic bags of stain treated pants every day for a week, it’s time to assess the situation.
  • And when your adorable toddler suddenly refuses to even sit on the toilet, throws a fit, and then goes into the kitchen, takes off her pants, yanks off her diaper, and pees on the floor, it’s time to call it off.

***

It’s a little strange – this parenting and pregnancy thing at the same time. My attention is split. On one hand, I’m reading Mrs. McNosh Hangs up her Wash for the hundredth time and cajoling my toddler into peeing. On the other, I’m adjusting my pants, straightening up because someone’s elbow feels like it’s stuck in my left ribs.

This is only going to keep happening, I know. (The rib thing AND the parenting thing.) But there’s something daunting about parenting when I realize I will have to focus in on two different age groups of kids. Then again, life is all about balances, and here’s the truth of the matter.  I can make rice and stir fry veggies at the same time. I can kick around poem ideas in my head and write governance resolutions at work. I can fold laundry in a yoga pose and come away feeling relaxed.

The point is this: Multi-tasking is often mandatory in our lives. It’s rubber and road. And it’s possible, with a little practice, to do it well. And on the days when we don’t do it well, there’s always tomorrow. Or in the case of potty training, in another six months.