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Stress can be a hurtful weapon

March 19, 2011

It happens to every home, some more often than others: The circus comes to town. Oh, I don't mean the "Big Top" with the elephants, acrobats and cotton candy. I mean the "out of control" moments when everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. It is during those times we make the choice to confront the situation, control what we can, let go of what we cannot, and breath - a lot.

This morning was one of those mornings. The puppies (nine, did I say nine?) are now being weaned at less than a month old. I'm sure the momma is just tired of the hassle, but hey, feeding them is now my problem. Thankfully, I had bought puppy food to have on hand, just in case.

As I went to get my morning drink (ginger-ale, thank you very much) I saw that one puppy was out of the kennel and throwing a puppy yelping fit to get back in. I ran out with wet hair, flip flops, shorts and a T-shirt and picked him up and delivered him back inside to safety. The puppies were inconsolable and I assumed hungry again. So, I went back inside, mixed their food and took it out. They dove into it like pigs into a trough climbing all over each other trying to eat. I had fed them good last evening, but hey, they are growing ... huge, by the way.

The momma stray wanted out and then in and then out and then into the kennel. She seemed anxious. Then, she did the unthinkable. When her puppy tried to eat, she bit him. Oh, my lands, I could not believe it. The little baby cakes yelped and yelped. She had her own food and lots of it in a bowl. "How dare she?" I mused.

The girls at work said she must be going through postpartum depression.

Then, the psychotic beagle got loose and began running around. I go back inside, get dressed for work and run back out in high heels to check on the brood growing in the kennel. My high heels begin sticking in the ground, and I lose a shoe every few steps. I began to see the humor as the stray then wants attention like the precious creature she pretends to be, but I am still ticked, let me tell you. She bit her own puppy, for goodness sake.

However, I begin to ponder: how many times do we "bite our own" in a stressful situation? It doesn't take long while watching the news to hear of families turning on one another during stressful times to see this is often the case. The word "stressor," is common in regards to unthinkable actions of abuse, cruelty and even murder. How can we learn to act instead of react? How can we make sure our own and those around us find a safety zone within our presence, home, church and community?

The above story was just a small 15 minute segment to illustrate how crazy a morning can be. Sometimes within our homes, we have a circus. It usually happens while getting ready for school, church or another event. How we handle the lost phone, the homework remembered at 7 a.m., the crazy pet situations with hamsters, guinea pigs or puppies teach our children valuable lessons. Do we act or react? If we act, we are deliberate in our actions. If we react, we illustrate a loss of discipline and endanger the stability within the walls of our haven. Remembering that a sense of humor goes a very long way is also a wonderful way of diffusing any given situation and is crucial during crazy times.

Do you ever have a single moment that makes you stop and realize how silly it is to be frantically chasing your tail (no pun intended) and not really accomplishing anything?

Recently, I have been having many of those moments. I watch as my boys now coach Upward basketball instead of play. I see them ref and mentor young kids and stand amazed that they are no longer the young kids out on the court. How did we get here? The same way you did, I suppose, minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day. If we allow the craziness of some or most days to steal the moments, then we are allowing them to take the minutes, hours, and days with them.

Here are a few ways in which we can cope when the circus comes to our house:

Apologizing: Apologizing will quickly create a "short account" mindset to our home. We, as parents, have to set the example on this one. We simply must be the first to say, "Hey, I was short with you. I'm stressed, but that's no excuse, I'm so sorry." This keeps the sweet fellowship going. It paves the way for our kiddos to realize, "it's important to apologize." Don't be surprised when you hear your own kids apologize to you or each other when you set the standard on apologies.

Enjoy: This sounds so simple and even trite, but I read a very long time ago that if you truly "enjoy" your children, they will never ever want to disappoint you, and the discipline sessions will be few and far between. By enjoy, I am thinking: look your child in the eyes, smile and listen to them. Be their cheerleader and let them know they are a priority in your life not only with your words, but with your actions as well.

Act instead of react: By choosing to act instead of react, we are deliberately choosing the right response of calm instead of allowing emotions to dictate how we respond to the craziness that happens to all of us.

Handle Interruptions as gifts: Interruptions are hard to handle sometimes, but if we see them as gifts, protection from harm's way, and God's way of working, we will be more patient, kind and gentle when something or someone comes in unexpected.

Yes, sometimes the moments that fill up a person's day do not seem to be so sweet. But if we step back and not take it all quite so seriously, we realize that life is good. So very good. And that brings the sweetness into the memories of the craziness.

I love this quote:


"When you are exasperated by interruptions, try to remember that their very frequency may indicate the value of your life. Only people who are full of help and strength are burdened by other persons' needs. The interruptions which we chafe at are the credentials of our indispensability. The greatest condemnation that anybody could incur - and it is a danger to guard against - is to be so independent, so unhelpful, that nobody ever interrupts us, and we are left comfortably alone." -Anonymous, from The Anglican Digest.

So I guess those interruptions to what could otherwise be sweet moments can be our "moments" as well. And it all works together to make up the beautiful tapestry of life we are weaving day by day, crazy minute by crazy minute.

In my mind there is nothing quite so good as to be a mother. And I must cherish those moments of interruptions while they last. Because before I know it these children will grow up and leave off to create their own stories, and I'll be left with just the memories of all those life-enriching interruptions echoing through my house.

(Kimberly Short-Wolfe is a homeschool mom and a counselor at Cornerstone Christian Counseling in Elkins. Contact:, 304-940-9362.)



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