After a weekend particularly full of festivities and little shut-eye my children were all out of sorts. They were over tired, over stimulated, and uncomfortable with all the change that had taken place in a matter of hours.
They had gone from a house full of folks to a house devoid of the hustle and bustle that precedes a wedding. All weekend they attended parties, hugged relatives, and were doted on by the wedding party and party-goers alike. Then suddenly the house was quiet. They only activity amongst them was what, they, themselves, created. That’s a tough shift when you’re 8 and 7.
So I was none too surprised Monday night when my youngest had a meltdown of epic proportions. When he discovered the big box store in which he chose to spend his birthday money did not stock what he wanted to spend it on, he was crushed. Except when you’re 7 crushed often looks a lot like attacking the nearest bystander. Unfortunately for him, the nearest bystander was my husband, and he doesn’t take too kindly to a seven year old’s verbal assault. So my husband did what we’ve learned to do, he walked him out of the store, to the car, and we began our drive home.
This quick and unexpected change of scenery only exacerbated our youngest son’s frustration. How dare we haul him out of the store? How dare we not allow him to spend his money? How dare we drive off without considering letting him buy something else? The list went on and on. And he was convinced that the ONLY thing that would make him feel better was turning around and purchasing ANYTHING in the store.
I call this an outside solution to an inside job. You see, prior to his birthday, a week ago, my son didn’t even know the toy he was now dying to have existed. It was nowhere in his universe. But now? Now it was THE ONLY THING that would make his life worth living.
I know this feeling. I know it well. And as I tried to explain to him that I knew what he was feeling and how the toy wasn’t going to fix the uncomfortableness he found himself in, he yelled: “Your techniques aren’t working. I’m going to do my own.”
I laughed. Out Loud. He didn’t find that funny. I did.
I did because I have said these exact words many times to many well-meaning people. I just knew that the next scoop of ice cream, or the next purchase from Amazon, or the next sip of wine was going to fix whatever was ailing me. An outside solution to inside job. I wanted it to work. I needed it to work. And I believed for many years that these outside solutions would in fact work; they would make me feel better, they would stop the pain, they would make me into who I wanted to be.
They didn’t work. Not in the long term anyway. After the newness of each “solution” passed I was back looking for another one.
It’s taken a lot of internal work to stop seeking external solutions. And sometimes I still do. Every now and again a new book from Amazon does make me really happy! But I know now that this happiness is fleeting and is not the solution I seek. I’ve learned that for me, the solution I seek is found in the quiet moments. In the moments I take time to check in with myself: to journal, to read, to work on my small group’s Bible study. Constantly seeking left me hollow and lost. Checking in revives my mind and soul and allows me to find the solutions that work for me for the long term.
Back to my son, it’s been 3 days since the epic toy meltdown. He hasn’t once asked about the toy that was going to save his life Monday night. While he didn’t like my suggestion for using a technique that wasn’t a quick fix, allowing him the time and space to fall out and feel sad and adjust to the quietness of the house, has served him well, even if he doesn’t know it, yet!
Still. Quiet. Inside job.