#TBT — The Madness of March
For this week’s #TBT, I reached back into the archives and found an oldie but a goodie from our good friend Kelvin Teamer. It’s a reflection on Spring, the warmer weather we’ll enjoy, and the madness it so often inspires.
March is here. Did you notice the preceding sentence ended with a period — and not an exclamation point? Now, I make it a goal not to haphazardly use exclamation points, but in this case — announcing that March is upon us — I feel especially drawn to downplay its arrival into my calendar. I know that the third month has a great deal going for it: there’s the beginning of spring and its warmer weather, Spring Break and its tempting beach time, and, of course, there’s also a little basketball tournament (and its invitation to take sick days). These are wonderful things, but strangely they’re the very things that can make March one of the longest and most difficult months for parents like me.
March, in almost an instant, breaks us out of our winter doldrums and routines. Though many of us welcome the changing of the seasons, this particular month also has a strange way of introducing change into our homes. And it’s this change that proves to be problematic for parents. See, it is in the springtime that our kids begin to look forward to the freedom of summer vacation. This long-range view often ignores the structure in our homes that has been in place since the beginning of the school year.
So when this annual change descends upon our children and wreaks havoc with the very structure that we’ve worked seven months to establish, tweak, and perfect, what can we as parents do when it all seems to be crumbling apart before our very eyes? Well, we can go to battle with our kids and try to force them back into our structured environment.
Or we can simply resist, review, and relax.
In the coming weeks, our children are likely to lose their minds. It will be as if they were in cocoons all winter and are now emerging a totally different person. Our beautiful, obedient kids will do things that challenge us and the very structure of our home. Maybe it is the mild temperatures or the fact that it gets dark later, but something clearly happens to our offspring…in the spring. They begin to make strange decisions, reduce the importance of their homework, and, if teen-aged, focus more than ever on the opposite sex. The worst part: there is nothing that we as parents can do about it! This is where a real issue arises with parents. We believe that we should do something about it and we fight with every drop of energy that we have to keep structure in our homes.
The structure intoxicates us as parents because we believe it is the very thing that is keeping our kids “on track”. We defend and protect it with every fiber of our being. Thus, when the change in our kids brought on by the change in the seasons enters our home, we run to the front lines and engage in this battle with our children to get them back in line with our structure.
Instead of engaging in conflict aimed at getting our kids back in line, perhaps we should resist the urge to fight. Think about it, when we engage in a battle about structure, while our children are clamoring for freedom, it makes our structure look totally unappealing. Our children are dynamic, ever-changing human beings. The more we fight to keep them under control and within our structure, the more they will be driven to show us that they can’t be controlled. You know this from experience, but perhaps you’ve been lacking any other options.
Thankfully, as an old Jedi named Obi-Wan-Kenobi once said, “There are alternatives to fighting.”
Whenever children begin to defy whatever structure may have been designed for the home, it may prove helpful if parents would simply remember why the structure was set in the first place. As parents, we can become so married to the structure that we forget the reason we built it is to help our children govern their own decisions and to learn from their mistakes. When our child is bucking the system, we often try harder to force them back into the behavior that we deem appropriate. Instead of trying harder, we can do what John Ortberg says in his book, The Me I Want to Be, “We can try softer.”
Trying softer, in this case would be to let your structure do what you constructed it to do; be the highway lanes in your child’s journey through life. When a highway patrol officer pulls a driver over for reckless driving or an improper lane change, he doesn’t engage in battle with them in an effort to get them to pay attention to the road. He simply allows the consequences of violating the boundaries of the road to speak for themselves. Once parents review why they have the structure, they can feel free to allow the structure to do what it was built to do.
What this means is to let the consequences do the screaming. Don’t harp on your kids about doing their homework, just remind them, in as matter-of-fact a voice as possible, the consequences of getting a bad grade:
“Hey dude, I know spring is here, and it is so hard to focus on school. Just lettin’ you know that whether or not you do your homework is up to you. But you also know that bringing home a C or below means losing TV time 3 days a week until you bring up the grade.”
I’m sure that you have heard the old English proverb that says March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb (a reference to March’s wintery beginning and mild and warm conclusion). In reality, we have the best of both worlds in March — we are truly able to see death spring forth with vibrant, green life. It would be a shame if we couldn’t enjoy it because we were too focused on our child’s behavior during this time of year. As parents we must realize what we can control and what we can’t. What category do your kids fall under? What category do the changing seasons fall under?
So as you breathe in that pollen-filled, spring air, take a deep breath. Appreciate the beauty of the season. Love your children. Enjoy watching them dream and imagine. You’ve set your structure, now relax. And try not to focus too much on your busted NCAA bracket.
March is here!