You know what I’m talking about. That button that gets pushed over and over and over again. The one that turns up your internal temperature. The one that takes you from simmer to boil? I’m not sure when it first appeared. I think it made it’s first appearance when I was about 4. The year my brother was born. I was no longer the only child. I no longer had my mom and dad all to myself. I had to share. I wasn’t happy about it. He knew it. And I’m pretty sure he found it amusing. I have a novel’s worth of stories that prove this. The instigator. I love this guy to pieces. But if there were anyone on earth that could turn me from a comfortable room temperature to boil in a matter of minutes. He was it. He knew exactly where the button was. And exactly the way to press it.
The Ugly Red Button made some other appearances throughout the difficult and emotional teen years. But for the most part, I forgot that Ugly Red Button existed. I certainly don’t recall even so much as raising my voice for several years. I had no need to. Life was pretty good. No need for boiling. I had possession of “self-control”. And then it happened. Got married. Had a baby. Baby turns toddler. Toddler realizes he’s separate from me, and can do things all by himself, like, play in the toilet. And JACKPOT! We’ve found the UGLY. RED. BUTTON. I have a voice I’ve never heard before. And WOW…it’s ugly! Like…the kind of ugly that makes you cringe and frown all at once. I hate it. I hate everything about it. But most of all, I hate it because it’s an example of reacting when I should be responding. Here are some instances the Ugly Red Button has gotten pushed and how I could have responded instead of reacted with the “ugly scream”.
|UGLY RED BUTTON||REACTION||RESPONSE|
|child playing in toilet||ugly scream||remove child from bathroom calmly, and clean child and bathroom up and find something else to do|
|child poking baby brother in the eyes||ugly scream||explain that babies are fragile and have no defence mechanism (not even a blink) to fend of said fingers.|
|child singing loudly on purpose while brothers are sleeping after being asked to sing quietly||ugly scream (which wakens brothers)||obviously child is bored and needs attention (which you just gave to him, along with an amusing show that he will share with his brothers as teenagers while laughing). Find something to do WITH him.|
|Child not putting on shoes at door in a timely manner||ugly scream||turn getting out the door with all appropriate attire on into a race. Have fun, and laugh.|
|Child dragging little brother across the yard by shirt. (In his defence, it was because little brother was beyond the boundary)||ugly scream||ugly scream. No? I’ll have to come back to this one when I’m armed with an appropriate response in my back pocket.|
When AsaJude was just a few weeks old, I attempted to gather the troops and get them all ready for church on my own. The plan was to meet Jayden at church because he had to go a little earlier than the rest of us. Well, I was 90% successful! I had everyone dressed, breakfast in bellies, hair brushed, teeth brushed. It was all going according to plan. And then it happened. AsaJude decided he was hungry and it was the end of the world if I didn’t feed him RIGHT. AT. THAT. MOMENT. and no one was putting their shoes on. In fact, I think shoes were coming off. The ugly scream came out of my mouth accompanied by the tears of each one of us. I looked at the clock, and it was 11am. Church was starting. I was not going to come anywhere near close to being there before church ended. Jayden called me to see how I was doing, and suggested I just make the most of it (wise man he is), and I tried to turn the morning around.
I found an online lesson on “attentiveness”. I thought “Perfect! This is EXACTLY what these boys need right now! If I could just get these little people to listen to me, my world would go a little more the way I expect.” Little did I realize that it was just as much a lesson for me as it was for them. We watched some youtube video documentaries about deer., and how alert they are. They are always listening. We made cute little deer headbands and wrote James 1:19 across the brim. We had a great morning together. And little baby AsaJude got his fill. Whenever our little boys forget to turn on their listening ears, we can now remind them of the deer. But even more importantly, the memory of that day reminds me to be slow to speak, and slow to become angry. We are seeing less and less of the “Ugly Red Button”. As I enter the Refiner’s Fire; as I learn to stop, listen, think and respond; it’s in those moments I start to mirror my maker, becoming a little less ugly, and a little more beautiful.
What are some ways you respond instead of react? What tips and tricks do you have to offer up to parents out there just trying to do their best?