A few years into my career, I had the opportunity to attend a professional development presentation offered by Jim Faye, guru of the Love and Logic approach to classroom management and author of many books imparting wisdom about how to apply the technique.  Being a new mom at the time, I immediately purchased his book about parenting toddlers, and truthfully, I have applied more from it than any of his other publications.  What was effective in it pretty much works for other ages, because if the need arises for me to be that deliberate in my choices about what to say, the listener in question is usually acting like someone in the toddler phase of life.

Yesterday morning was one of those days.

The two big takeaways I still remember from that decades-ago day of learning were: Offer lots of choices but only offer ones with outcomes I can live with and make enforceable statements.

Examples from our morning:

“You will be turning over your technology until you are ready for church.  Would you like to put the cell phone in my hand or on the desk in the living room?” (Neither happened.  Bummer.  That meant mom picked it up from where it was, and it was grounded.  Tears ensued.)

“I will be in the car.  I will be happy to drive you if you are wearing pants instead of shorts.”  (It was in the 30s and he has bronchitis. There were two significant asthma incidents the day before. Pants were non-negotiable. It is also worth noting that when the child is sick, he is not his normal, fairly intelligent, nice self.  Let’s just say Mr. Hyde in training.  I waited for a very long 15 minutes.)

I write poetry sometimes, but I almost never share it.  The poems are simply my musings. Since so many others have posted poetry as part of the Slice-of-Life challenge, I will share what I wrote in response to the rough morning.

The tug-of-war between
dependence and independence,
reality and what you think you know,
waiting and immediate gratification
pulls emotions back and forth until they
fray and

Tears spill like flood water over a dam–
clear rivulets of rage
staining your cheeks.

When you bump against life’s boundaries
it leaves bruises
outwardly invisible but 
emotionally tender to the touch.

I hold you tight in my heart but
let you sit physically distant until
the storm inside you
blows over.

While I wait, I remind myself you are
the child who yesterday drew gifts of pictures and
texted that you loved me.
You whispered it too,
hugging me tight before bed.

I remember.

For you, I am willing to be life’s boundary.
For you, I am willing to sit in the front row of the audience
during your tug-of-war, jumping in to pull as a teammate
whenever you signal I should.
For you, I am willing to do it again and
again and


I drove an angry young man to church.  He sat slumped away from me, forehead touching the passenger door, silent.   When we arrived, he sat in the corner of the building, on the back pew.  A little while later, I noticed him silently slipping onto the end of the one on which I was seated.  More time passed, and he was a few feet away.   I moved my purse to the other side of me, removing the physical barrier between us in case he wanted to come closer.  He did.  By halfway through the sermon, he was at my side, leaning in to whisper an apology.

I love this boy.  He knows it.

We weather storms and play tug-of-war together.