Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Child Whisperer

"… and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Matthew 28:20 (KJV)

While praying and preparing for our new puppy last winter, our family watched a weekly TV show to learn about dog training. It's the Dog Whisperer. There's this amazing guy- Cesar Millan, who teaches dog owners how to train their dog using the pack psychology of canines.

In every show, Cesar looks for the one person in the home whom the dog will see as the leader of the pack. Looking at my family as a pack, no one can argue that without Tom, I'm the pack leader.   Seems I get more than just canine training while watching Cesar Millan. He makes me think about how important my role is, as mom, to be the proper kind of "Child Whisperer".

Cesar talks about "energy".   He says dogs sense and respond to energy in the room as opposed to understanding what’s being said or done in the room. When my eight year old creates a commotion, Jeb starts to jump in circles and wag his tail.  And when two of my boys argue, Jeb will lower his tail and slink to the side of the room.  If someone in the room is crying or worried, you can see that Jeb's not interested in play or even eating.  He'll sit right by that boy as if to say, "go ahead and hug me.  That's what I'm here for." 

When the energy Jeb feels in the room consumes him, it's pointless for me to try to teach him anything new.  I first have to bring the energy to a peaceful level if I want Jeb to relax and obey.  Caesar calls that level "calm assertive energy".

Calm assertive energy.  Isn't calm assertive energy a secret ingredient for helping my children through grief over losing Dad.

With each challenge of grief brings, the Holy Spirit plainly directs me to respond with confidence. And since that direction unmistakably comes from Him, He also provides the confidence. He fills me with it as I take calm steps to obey and take my role as leader of the pack.  I feel the filling, and joy fills my heart as I look them straight in the eye and tell the boys the Lord’s got their future under control. We are safe in His hands, just as He declares in 
Matthew 28:20.

During that first  year after losing his father, Brian, then ten years old, felt a heavier

weight of grief than his brothers.  It's the age. At ten years old, a child's understanding of death hits with all its weight.    At first I wasn't sure how to help him. When he had a melt down about missing Dad, my natural instincts as a mother would make me want to give in to tears. I'm glad for motherly instincts. They allowed me to curl up and cry and grieve with him- something he needed to know was normal. But Brian has instincts too. He knew that there are safe places to cry, and not-so-safe places to cry. Sometimes in public he needed to manage those tears, saving them until he’s safe at home with me.  Together, Brian and I learned to function through his grief with school and in other areas where life simply must go on.

That’s where calm assertive energy that only comes from God came in. When one of the boys comes to me missing Dad, I respond with understanding hugs and tears that come easily.  But when it’s time to help a child move forward, I feel this surge of unexplainable peace. It’s only then that I’m able to calmly reassure him without my own eyes welling up with tears. 

And when the boy responds with calm assertiveness, I'm so rewarded. It brings me such joy to see resolve return enough for Brian to walk into the classroom he needs to join or the violin recital he needs to perform in.

No matter what helpful tips people offer on raising kids, only one is at the heart.  It’s a God-filled attitude around our home that carries kids.
Calm assertive energy. Isn’t that what the Holy Spirit offers?  Two years after his Dad died, I have the Holy Spirit to thank for the peace in Brian's heart today.

Lord, thank you for the one gift that You steadily offer me – peace and calm. The confidence I have in the future isn’t based on this world, but only on You and Your promise that You are with me, even to the end of the world. You give me the vision of seeing these four boys, not as children, but as young men prepared to spread Your glory to the ends of the world. Your Holy Spirit’s calm assertive energy will stick with them, knowing You are with them always.


Hillary @ The Other Mama said...

I think I need Caesar for my dogs... AND my kids! Do you think he takes human puppies?? :)
What a great perspective and analogy. I'm so glad the Holy Spirit continues to bring peace to your home.

amykat said...

Your peace comes through in your writing. I cannot imagine the experience of losing my husband, but in your writing, I see such a grace-filled, confident woman of God. Your boys are handsome, and I pray that they would be strong in Spirit and full of LIFE.

thegypsymama said...

Wow - honestly I feel like I have struck gold finding your blog. My mom died when I was 18 and now that I am a mom myself, I look back with such pain at how poorly my father parented me and my two brother through those difficult years of grief. It is so wonderful to hear how you are doing it, how you are building them back up in, around, and through their grief. It's so crucial. I see how not dealing with their grief in redemptive, relational ways left such difficult scars on my brothers. How blessed your boys are to have a mom focused on such deliberate parenting!