GENTLENESS is defined as: softness of action; lightness; the quality of being kind, tender, or mild-mannered, according to the Oxford dictionary.
Many of us have experienced shifts in our lifestyle due to COVID-19. Some of us have been able to work from home, and some of us have lost our jobs. Some of us have enjoyed the much wanted family time, and some of us have felt overwhelmed with the extra work that we otherwise would not have had if it were not for the change.
For the most part, the changes in my family have been small. My husband and I have been able to work from home even before the outbreak. My younger son had already been enrolled in an online school, and the older son, being introverted to begin with, has enjoyed freedom from daily ”high school drama”. His focus and happiness level has dramatically improved. However, the biggest change has been an increase in amount of food we buy, prepare, cook, and eat, now that we are all at home all day.
Our days are spent pretty much the same everyday. We lose track of days, no longer distinguishing weekdays from the weekend. We eat every meal together, we study and work, we take daily three mile walks with our dogs after dinner, and finally we gather at night in our family room to watch “something meaningful” such as an inspirational movie based on a true story, a comedy show, a thought provoking documentary, or a learning series from the GAIA channel.
Usually around 5-5:30 pm, I would call everyone to come to the kitchen and join for dinner. But not last night. Around 3:30 pm, exhausted from cooking, cleaning, and shopping for groceries, I fell asleep on the couch and did not wake up until past 6:30 pm. Surprised at the time, I noticed that the whole house was still very quiet. Instead of appreciating the peaceful moment, my “hunger pains” sent the feelings of urgency and frustration surge through me. I thought that my boys and my husband would have had never left their computers if I had not been calling them to come down each time. That thought led to me feeling unappreciated and resentful.
I thought how for the past month or so, I’d cooked almost every single meal. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, from scratch. I usually don’t mind, because I love cooking. But in that moment, I just wished that any of the three men in the house would have had taken care of dinner and invited me to the table. And even more importantly not spend all day behind the computer when not ”supervised”.
In my angry tone of voice, I called the boys to help participate in making the dinner. After we all sat down, I told them that if they want to have meaningful relationships, successful careers, and healthy lives, they need to learn to self-regulate. I emphasized that the habits that are formed in youth are hard to break. So they should now, while still young think about which habits they want to develop. Being behind a computer for that many hours is not good for their wellbeing even if they do the most meaningful work. They also should express a desire to learn to cook for themselves and others, exercise, and read without being told.
At this point my tone of voice gave away my frustration at which they defensively reacted to by saying that they do indeed exercise. They walk every day three miles, and even spend time lifting weights and running on a treadmill. They help with daily chores, and occasionally make breakfast and lunch for each other. As my younger son started to get emotional, I realized that I was not coming from a good place. To make it worse, my older son, pointed all this out to me with a gentle and patient voice, which instantly lowered my aggression and opened my heart to listen to their point of view. I realized that I was reacting to my frustration, which was preventing me to see all the good that they have been doing and more importantly - being.
After we all participated in cleaning up, we went to our family room and started to read after a nice hour long walk. My younger son was squirming in his seat like a worm. He could hardly stay in the same spot for more than a few minutes before he got up to get a snack, or drink water, or interrupt with questions.
Remembering how Sasha’s gentle words impacted me only moments earlier, I had to remind myself to breathe deeply, and not react to Miki’s disrupting behavior. I was reminding myself that any new habit has to take time to form, and that if I react negatively in its birthing, Miki would associate this “family reading” time as something he would later learn to despise.
In a calm and gentle voice, I told him to choose anything from our library, a book, a magazine, anything at all. He glanced over his brother’s shoulder and asked if he could read what he was reading. Sasha handed him his Bible without any resistance and grabbed another book. Emery and I were both surprised as Miki has never chosen to read the Bible before. He opted to read Psalms. (I told him that my favorite one was the 23rd. He read it out loud.)
I was assured right then that gentleness works way better than anger and impatience. I, out of all people, should know that fear and punishment as a form of discipline stops working after one leaves her “nest”. And it is the gentle answer that accomplishes much more and for much longer than the answer given in wrath.
This morning as I was meditating, my older son asked me what meditation word I drew out of my rock pile. I told him it was
gentleness. We both smiled. The universe just knows how to send us what we need at the time we need it if only we are open to receive it.
Gentleness in parenting is not a sign of weakness. It is rather a quiet strength. It speaks louder than anger. It is the frequency at which truth is received.
Let’s us all be swift to love, make haste to be kind, and let the compassion and gentleness guide our hearts as we navigate our parenting waters.
Tonight, as I am finishing this blog, they are both making dinner for the family! I can’t wait to see what it is! Let’s hope they don’t lose any fingers with my sharp chef knives In the process!