FIGHTING FEAR IN THE TONE OF OUR HOMES
Posted by Sarah Anderson
The best thing someone told me as a new mom, was this: “Your baby can pick up on the emotional temperature of the house.” In other words, babies are way more astute than you think.
This little nugget of truth explained a lot. Like, why my babies were more fussy around my anxious self and behaved like angelic dreams for my easy-going husband.
I still remember this—even though my boys are now six and four. Because I think the same principle applies. There is an emotional tone in our home, one we, as parents, are largely responsible for setting, and our kids are watching for. More than watching, they are taking cues.
I don’t know about you, but lately, it’s been hard to keep tabs on the tone of our home. Sure, there is the general insanity of summer—where everything is supposed to feel more low-key and hassle-free but instead feels more chaotic. But I think it’s more than that. I think the emotional tone of our homes feels a little iffy these days because let’s be honest, the world feels a little iffy these days.
It’s the jarring and volatile state of international affairs. It’s the uncertainty of our country’s own political affairs. It’s the seemingly endless stream of news headlines involving terror and guns, discrimination and fear. It’s the sense that things feel out of control. It’s enough to want to run away and hide in an effort to soothe ourselves . . . and we’re the grown-ups here.
What do we do when our own fears keep us up at night?
What do we do when our own anxieties drive us inward?
What do we do when the big questions we find looming seem too large for us to tackle for our own peace of mind—let alone our children?
Three years ago I was home on a Sunday morning and watched our church’s message online. In the message, Andy Stanley made the point that as followers of Jesus we are called to live our lives fearlessly. Not because there aren’t things to be afraid of. But because we are invited to a faith in Jesus so strong and so secure in our Father’s love, that fear does not get the final word. Not because scary things won’t happen. They will happen, but who God is and His love trumps my greatest fear becoming reality.
When the message was over I sat there, watching my computer screen for a few minutes, lost in thought. As a person who often has fear as my default mode, it gave me a lot to think about. And then I noticed, at the bottom of the screen were scrolling tweets from people responding to the message.
Three years ago, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, had made a series of provocative and confrontational remarks regarding their neighbors, South Korea, and the Unites States. At the time it created concern over a potential nuclear situation, dominating the national, and international, news. And as I sat there, I watched a tweet come across the screen.
“We are in South Korea” it said, “and we are not afraid.”
If anyone had reason to allow fear to dominate their lives and their minds, it would have been them. But they didn’t let fear write their story.
The world is scary.
Things are volatile.
We are learning over and over again how little control we really have.
But fear, in the face of things worth being afraid of, does not have to be our response—in us, or in our kids.
Imagine if our kids looked at us, and didn’t see us cowering in the face of the fear. Imagine if our kids looked at us and didn’t see us burying our heads in the sand either.
Imagine if our kids looked at us and saw us living unafraid—in light of the chaos, we sometimes feel in the world around us in the uncertainty that dominates our headlines? Imagine if our kids looked at us and saw parents fully cognizant of all that’s going on in the world, but whose trust in God did not waver?
That’s the tone I want in my home. But that’s the tone I have to have in my heart first. And I have to believe my kids have a better chance of warring fear and winning when they watch their mom and dad do it first.
So today, what if we faced our fears? What if we allowed our unwavering trust in who God is to set the tone in our hearts? And ultimately our homes? I think it’s a big ask. But I think it’s possible. And I think if we did it, we would handle these days, and the next couple of months, with a lot more grace. And that’s the kind of win I want.
Check out Andy’s message here – http://www.followseries.org/fearless
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson is a writer and communicator who has been involved in ministry since 2003. She is a lead writer and content creator for Orange's XP3 High School curriculum. Sarah lives in Roswell, Georgia, and is a big fan of her husband, Rodney, her two boys, Asher and Pace, and, in her weaker moments, McDonald's French fries. Read more from Sarah on her blog,www.sarahbanderson.com.
The Happiest Place On Earth
by Sarah Anderson
Not long ago my family took a trip to the happiest place on earth—Disney World. The vacation was a success with minimal meltdowns, uncontrollable giddiness and excitement, bit still a reasonable (enough) amount of sleep. Plus, there was magic.
But it wasn’t just the magic of Mickey and castles, of roller coasters and fairy dust. It was magical for all of those reasons too. But for me, it was magical for totally different reasons.
We are a family who loves and thrives on structure—or at least we are family with a mom who does. I like to know what’s coming and when. I like regular mealtimes and bedtimes. I like naptimes and rest times, and I believe in eating all your vegetables if dessert is going to be an option. This is how our house runs most effectively.
And I am not naive. My preferences are not Disney friendly. Disney throws structure out the door. Bedtimes are very flexible—and sometimes begin in the stroller on the way back to the hotel. Disney has ice cream, cobbler, cookies and pastries at every corner. Broccoli is a little harder to come by. So going into the trip I was a little . . .anxious. Hesitant. This would disrupt my world, and nothing felt very magical about that.
But something happened on the first day. During what would have been naptime back at home, watching my two little boys lose their minds in amusement, silliness and delight while having the time of their lives, after no vegetable consumption, I offered my boys ice cream. They loved it of course. But I loved it too.
Because I was starting to see that at Disney, it was possible to be a different me. And not only was it possible, it was probably a good idea.
I remember not long after we had our first baby, people farther along in parenthood told us about the importance of getting away together as a couple. That we needed time away from our kids, and that, just as important, our kids needed time away from us.
The first evening at Disney, in the middle of a dinner taking place an hour into what would have been my boys’ normal bedtime, surrounded by ice caves, meteor showers, and interactive dinosaurs hovering over my salad and drink, I remembered that conversation with those seasoned parents. I finally understood why this vacation was turning out so much better than I thought it would, and would continue to, if I let it.
I realized that my kids need a vacation from the normal me, and they need a vacation with a different kind of me.
In other words, there are times when our kids need to see us in an alternative light. They need to see us have fun, without worry of our well-structured worlds imploding. They need to see us offer them dessert in the middle of the day for no reason, ignore bedtime with reckless abandon, and spend every waking moment with them for four straight days, because we want to.
For me, it took a trip to Disney to realize sometimes our love of structure kills our capacity for fun. Our love of control kills our appetite for laughter. And fun and laughter will go the distance in the lives of our kids more than structure or control ever will.
For a few days I wasn’t just my boys’ mom. I was someone to have fun with. And fun is every kid’s love language. Fun causes us to forget our responsibilities, to lose our identities and places, and to bond around a shared experience. It allows laughter to be a connecting force, and amusement a language that transcends words to become a tie that binds us.
Fun is every kid’s love language.
We are home now. When my oldest threw up in the car on the way home, it was safe to conclude the magic had ended. But the fun doesn’t have to.
I still love my structure, but it turns out structure seasoned with laughter, the occasional late bedtime and “just because” ice cream is healthier than I ever thought. And that can make home the happiest place on earth.
About the Author:
Sarah Anderson is a writer and communicator who has been involved in ministry since 2003. She is a lead writer and content creator for Orange's XP3 High School curriculum. Sarah lives in Roswell, Georgia, and is a big fan of her husband, Rodney, her two boys, Asher and Pace, and, in her weaker moments, McDonald's French fries.