This whole thing began a few months before our trip, but while we were away, expanding became my recurring theme. I’ve talked about it just enough that now all of the boys talk about it too. Or maybe they make fun of me talking about it, but regardless, it’s kind of a thing now.
This is how it all got started…
It was an afternoon like many others…My boys were rough-housing and loud, and in that wild-boy-state that could make a momma crazy in short order. I was trying to get something done, and they…? They were annoying me. I was getting more and more irritated, and then very suddenly I decided that I was officially at my limit. So I stormed into the living room and with my right hand held up at forehead level (imagine a salute) I belt out the famous words of Motherhood, “I’ve had it UP TO HERE with you guys!” “I can’t take any more!”
All four boys quieted, and stared at me with a bit of fear in their eyes…except Levi, the youngest one, who just squinted his eyes and tilted his head the way a puppy does. While I stood frozen, hand still at the top of my head, I realized that in his four-year old mind, he was trying to figure out what “up to here” really meant. What if her hand went…all the way up there? Would Mom explode? Would there be brains everywhere?
Then a little giggle slipped out.
Well, I don’t know if it was the heat of the day or God’s grace that covered me, because I suddenly found the whole scene a little funny too. And I cracked a smile.
My oldest son then, relieved with my smile, spoke the very words that were actually going on in my own head: “First Mom, you’re right, we should calm down. (classic first-born.) He continued, “But I’ve always wondered–When people say they’ve ‘had it up to here,‘ Isn’t that kind of just made up? I mean, it’s not like that is a real level or anything…Right?”
And right then I remembered hearing a Pastor speak on this subject back when my kids were really young. He talked about how we get impatient and determine our own (made-up) limits, when in reality if we chose to we could extend ourselves so much more. I remember he used percentages to explain; Like maybe you could give 10% more or something.
And that stuck: My mommy-tolerance had gotten very low at that point, and my fuse very short. Do I actually have 10% more to give?
Because really: If the President of the United States was sitting in my living room to evaluate my parenting skills (which would obviously be very strange,) I bet I could expand my capacity a few more minutes.
If someone offered me a hundred bucks to “take it” (whatever “it” might be,) for thirty extra minutes, I have a feeling I could do it.
Just when I think I can’t read that children’s story again…or hear that preschooler tell his story (the one that four minutes in you’re pretty sure there is no end in sight…) there is always one more. Just when I think I’ve finished the last load of laundry, someone kindly “cleans their room,” only to provide me with a fresh new mountain to face.
Can I read yet one more story? Can I listen four more minutes? Can I do one more load?
YES. The answer is yes. If I want to, I actually can.
If I see it as a gift, as a privilege…then yes, with joy.
This goes way beyond parenting, obviously: Spouses. Traffic. Customer service…If we went into each encounter with an enlarged capacity…maybe we could all “take” a little more?
A co-worker who talks too loud? A spouse’s annoying habits? A neighbor you just don’t like…? An elderly parent who asks the same question over and over. Do we have to get annoyed?
What if we, metaphorically speaking, extended that fuse another foot or so?
Could I walk one more mile? Could I tread water five more minutes? I mean, anyone who watched “Unbroken” would have to agree with me…we can actually take a heck of a lot more than we think is humanly possible. Who are we to get all ants-in-our pantsy if we don’t get our way immediately?
Call it patience, or long-suffering…the point is–It’s really up to us to decide.
So I am just asking: What if we expanded our capacity?
In this age of instant gratification and urgent everything, I think this is good stuff to teach our kids. I don’t know about your house, but in my house kids are great at demanding things of one another, “My turn to shower–get out now!” “I get the iPad now,” “Be quiet, you’re driving me crazy” and on and on…Even as I type this my little Levi said, “I’m hungry,” and not ten seconds later he was crying due to perceived starvation. Oh my.
So as for me and my household? We are practicing the “expand” principle. I’m saying things like, “I think if you wanted to…you could actually wait five extra minutes. In fact maybe you’d survive even ten before you die.” Or, the short-form version of simply: “Hey you: Expand!” And they get it.
And when my fuse is feeling really short, I remind myself, “Expand. One more load of laundry won’t kill you. One more dish is nothing–If I had to, I bet I could do twenty. And I could do it all while singing or whistling or smiling or dancing. If I chose to.
And I find myself much more pleasant to be around.
We can use this at bedtime: It’s up to me to determine my emotional limit. I mean, if I tell myself I’ll lose my cool at 9:00 PM if everyone isn’t in bed, then guess what: I’m pretty sure I will. (history has proven this one.)
But maybe when I am trying to get everyone into bed by 9:00, I quietly decide that I can actually wait until 10:00 before I really “am at my limit.” That way, if it’s 9:15 and we’re still doing the tuck-in-I-need-more-water-Can-I- have-another-hug-I-have-to-go-to-the-bathrooooooom routine, I can handle it. I won’t become a monster because hey–it officially isn’t my time yet.
Sure, we are human. We get tired, and sometimes our limits feel as real as a ticking time bomb. Sometimes (especially if we’re exhausted,) we need to plan for it and be wise.
But don’t you think we could all improve in this area? Maybe this can be the year of “expanding.”
Because maybe that whole “I’ve had it up to here” thing is actually, as my teenage son so eloquently said, “kind of just made up.”
I hope you get the chance to “expand” this week! Let me know how it goes–
(And as always, if this encouraged you please share with your friends though social media buttons below!)