As As it is the 4th of July holiday weekend, I think it’s a good time to talk about what I’ve learned this year that has changed my definition of the word: independence. See, I used to think enjoying freedom meant living without rules or boldly defying boundaries. So my biggest revelation came when I read that it is not until we develop discipline that we can truly be free. Rules? To be free?
I pondered this idea for a long time, and then, like all the ideas I end up incorporating into my canon of beliefs, I watched as the truth of it unfolded in the everyday happenings in my own life.
When I’ve had the discipline to save money, I’m free of the worry that I won’t have enough to buy what I want. When I have the discipline to reign in my wants, I am free of the burden of wanting.
The biggest balance buster as a parent is struggling for my independence from the unrelentless needs of caring for my child. This other human being needs you even when you don’t want to be needed, don’t feel up to being needed, and especially when you want to turn around and run as fast as you can the other way from being needed.
Even escaping to go to work, or to have a night out; which you’d think would re-energize you to be with the kids again, can sometimes backfire into an intensified longing to once again be on your own. You wax romantic about being able to sit down and watch an entire movie uninterrupted, to eat an entire meal at the table without food landing on the floor as it escapes from tiny fingers, or when you could just go to the bathroom without a tiny head popping through the door and asking, “What cha doin’?”
And it is at these times when discipline is your best friend and when it can lead you away from the dead-end path of annoyance and aggravation and back to a place of Zen. The important thing to keep in mind is that while it may seem like it is the child who is in need of the discipline, it could likely be the parent who is.
For example, I found myself getting very annoyed because Adam wanted to climb all over me when I didn’t feel good and just wanted to sit quietly and watch “Unstoppable”, an adrenaline-packed movie, while I waited for the queasiness in my stomach to pass. I tried telling him to stop because I didn’t feel good, I tried to explain to him that I was trying to watch the movie, but nothing was working, he kept coming at me like a battering ram. (And quite like the runaway train in the movie: seemingly unstoppable.)I finally snapped, “Geez, can’t you just leave me alone for 5 minutes? Sheesh!”
I was far from Zen.
Then I remembered my old nemesis discipline. I turned on the discipline switch inside of me and used it as my mortar in the brick wall I was building to shield myself and my child from all the negativity, the jealousy, the irritation that I was feeling.
With my anger safely tucked away, I was able to remember two parenting skills that I’d forgotten while it was hanging around. 1. Give kids a suggestion of something else to do. 2. Praise positive behavior instead of condemning unwanted behavior.
“Adam, can you do me a favor and stand on the other side of the end table? Momma needs to have more air,” I told him. Like a mechanical wind-up soldier he stopped climbing on me and walked around the table. “Thank you so much, honey. I really appreciate it,” I said and leaned over to give him a big hug. I felt it was then safe for me to go back behind the wall and reexamine my anger, but when I looked, I found it had evaporated, as if by magic.
I was free! and it was discipline that got me there.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no rule-addict or discipline junkie. Am I still going to eat chocolate with my coffee at breakfast and wear clothes that stretch the company dress codes to their breaking point? Certainly. But this year I’ve learned that sprinkling in a little discipline can be a good thing that really can help restore my independence and give me the freedom to be a better parent.