My youngest son has an amazing laugh. Everyone who hears it smiles big and tells us the same thing, "he's incredible!" and I nod my head in agreement, because he is. The only problem is that his laugh drives me batty...well, sometimes.
Big Laughs in Small Spaces
As a raging introvert, the hardest part about raising two of "those boys" (the ones who are 250% boy?) is the constant "boy noise," especially when it's in small spaces. I'm convinced that if we lived on 2+ acres of farm land in the country, their noise wouldn't be a problem. I could simply scoot them out the door after school and let them be little boys. Unfortunately, we live on less than half an acre right on the outskirts of our city. We have one semi-climbable tree, and neighbors who we think like us in spite of the high decibels coming from our home—but we do not have room for our boys to run and be as loud as they'd like.
I long for this (LONG for it, I say) kind of life for my boys. I want them to run, fall, scrape their knees, build things from scratch, and learn to "rough it." And in spite of our close quarters, I do try to stoke their creative little boy fires as much as possible.
My little rough and tumble boys are also fiddlers. Every week we drive almost four hours round trip to take them to violin lessons with the best instructor we can afford, because they have a gift and find great pleasure in playing this instrument. For the first hour or so of the trip, things are usually fine, but just give it enough time and the "big laugh in small spaces phenomenon," as we've come to call it, creeps out and starts to drive mama crazy.
My little guy, who others see as simply amazing, starts to sound like a hyena on crack...or at least it sounds that way to me.
I've asked, begged, threatened discipline, explained why it's so important to me as the driver that he keep it down, pulled over, driven faster, and thought seriously about never getting in another car with this kid for the rest of my life...but nothing works (obviously...he's six...I have a few more years before I can actually refuse to get in the car with him).
If it were only a matter of time spent in the car, I would probably be OK. But over time, an immediate physical and emotional response started to occur in me at the sound of his laughter whether we were in the car or not, and I found myself completely unable to tolerate his laughter on any level.
I was so annoyed by my son's inability to control the power of his laugh, that I was punishing him for even having one.
Imagine that...punishing a child for laughing. Possibly one of my finest mothering moments. Most certainly one of the things my son will tell his wife one day to explain why he's so messed up.
Don't get me wrong, my son needs to learn how to control himself in confined areas so he doesn't drive everyone in his life crazy—we'll keep working on that—but his amazing laugh brought me an opportunity for growth too, and for that, I'm ever so thankful.
How to Take Back Your Emotions
In my eBook, How to Control Your Emotions, So They Don't Control You: A Mom's Guide to Overcoming, I share another story that illustrates this immediate physical and emotional response. Maybe you can relate?
One particular day, my boys were filled with disobedience and hard hearts. As I sat in my driveway watching them play basketball like crazy men—disrespecting each other, and disrespecting our neighbor's basketball goal—I felt my emotions begin to run away. I started off embarrassed by their behavior. Then I got mad because it was what seemed like the millionth time I had asked them to obey with no apparent response. Anger moved into frustration because sometimes it just feels like nothing ever changes around here. Frustration led to feeling completely overwhelmed by my own inability to change their hearts. And finally, feeling overwhelmed moved to straight hopelessness and a desire to just. give. up. In a matter of about two minutes I went from 0 to 10 on the emoto-meter (you know, the one that measures when mama's going to snap??), and ended the day feeling like a total failure as a mom.
Clearly, I have a pattern of letting my emotions run away from me.
Because we struggled so much to gain control of our son's amazing laugh, I couldn't even hear him be happy without wanting to explode. But just because I want to explode doesn't mean I have to.With God's help, I can control my emotions instead of letting them control me, and re-train myself to take delight in the laughter of my own child.
So can you.
For more encouragement, check out From Grouchy to Great: Finding Joy in the Journey of Motherhood. It's a daily devotional with discussion questions to encourage you as a mom. Grab a journal and study through it by yourself, or gather some girlfriends and study together!
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