Love: Batteries not included

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s February 2018 issue.

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Batteries not included.  Some assembly required.  Those are dreaded words for parents, especially at birthday parties or Christmas when you’ve forgotten to purchase batteries.  Ahh, shoot.  Disappointing words for kids when they see the package of some crazy, noisy, light-flashing toy that they can't wait to try out and they have to wait in anticipation while they watch their parents fight the packaging and decipher directions in seven languages.  While dreaded and disappointing when referring to packaged gifts, they may just be the best parenting advice we could receive!

Please tell me that you, too, you have begged for parenting manuals.  I remember the day of discharge at the hospital with my first baby.  A train of people coming in and out of our rooms, passing off information at such a rapid speed that my post-pregnant, super-exhausted brain could hardly process.  I’m pretty sure my eyes were glazed over as I looked at all of the paperwork they were giving us including a poop chart and nursing schedules.  Oh my heavens, I’ve got to chart this baby’s poop?  Will he die if I don’t?  They asked us to get the car seat so they could see that it was set up correctly and I remember thinking “We shouldn't be allowed to leave this place with him.  I have NO idea what I'm doing, and he seems MUCH harder than plants.  My plants turn brown every single time.  It's NOT a good idea to leave here."

Good news for all of you worried about my son.  He’s good.  He’s alive!  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Since that day in the hospital, we’ve successfully created three more, and we felt slightly more confident in the "keep them alive” factors, but still quite ill-equipped in many other ways.  Like, do you just drag him along the grocery store floor when he sits there in a pout?  Do you walk away or sit and pout with him?  Do you have a staring contest?  Do you put a "caution" sign behind him, so people don't trip over the tantrum puddle?  So many options!  Anyhoo, parenting needs manuals and parents need wisdom.  We’re just not born with it.

Batteries not included.  Some assembly required.  My littlest is a darling little blonde with big personality and imagination.  He wakes each day ready to take on the world as a new character.  Some days, he's a baby squirrel.  Other days, he's a purple zombie with a "blaster" on his arm.  As he tromps through the house, true to character, he destroys what's in his path with blissful squeals.  But not long after he sets out on an adventure, we'll find him back at our feet with his blanket or crawling into our lap.  He'll stay curled up in our arms for a few sweet minutes and then he's back on the floor, conquering the blue robot invasion.  It's almost as if he comes to my husband and me to recharge his batteries.  It's made me think of how all of my boys require ‘batteries,' how all of them require a "recharge" and WE are their charging station.  All four of them have different ways they ‘charge' and "keep charged."

You’ve probably heard of the 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.  My summary of his teaching is that our littles have a battery pack that needs to be charged up and we get the privilege of charging them, loving them, and filling them.  Then, when they feel "full," they have a foundation ready to learn, explore, and grow.  They have enough "assembled" to take on the world confidently knowing they are loved.  The opposite also proves to be true.  Most of the time, strong, out of character misbehavior in my boys can be trailed back to weak batteries.  Their foundation is crumbling, and they can't quite navigate properly.

Batteries not included.  Some assembly required.  If that is truly our parenting guide, then our job is to identify how our littles receive "charge" best, then make sure we "assemble" a foundation where they are running on charged batteries to enter into their world.  Chapman says that we favor a few ways of receiving love over others.  He calls them languages because it's almost how we are wired to understand the love message from someone else.  See, my littlest blond adventurer needs a good snuggle, but my 7-year-old needs to be told he’s brave, smart, and special.  My encouraging words "charge" his battery.  My 12-year-old loves giving gifts and receiving them.  Words mean nothing much to him.  You can praise him up a storm, and he nonchalantly passes it off.  If I surprise him with a small gift (even a pack of gum) and hide it under his pillow, he feels loved.

So really, while there is SO much to learn as a parent and every day presents a new learning opportunity, the foundation and main “assembly” begins with love.  Identifying how our unique, little (or big) individual minis operate will help us not just love them, but love them effectively, setting them up for success in the world.  Psychologists say that the kids who have a loving foundation at home have fewer behavior problems, find more joy in learning, have better social skills, and can handle peer pressure and other external pressures as their internal full love tanks are stronger.  Music to a parent's ears!

February CHANGE Challenge:

Instead of trying to love MORE, how about we love more specifically?  You can search "5 Love Languages" to read more specific information on each language and how it may show up in your child.  Here's a simple chart you can use and a few tips for each ‘language' you could implement today!

about the author...Jamie, wife of her high school sweetheart and mom of 4 boys, has been in the fitness industry for 18 years. "Fuel the body, mobilize the soul" is her mission. Connect with Jamie on Facebook www.facebook.com/jamiebeeson1 or online at bit.ly/JamieBeeson