“Mommy, why do we have to eat healthy food?” my wide-eyed eight year old asks.
“Mom, why do we have to have lights out at 8 o’clock?” my curious ten year old sighs.
“Mooooooommmmm,” bellows my six year old son, “why do I have to stop playing Star Wars and practice my reading?”
Grouch, grouch, grouch, grouch, grouch bemoans my one year old son upon being laid down for a nap.
And to top it off, my three year old daughter finishes it all off with a snooty, tongue-sticking-out-of-her-head, cross-eyed snarl as I plop her in the tub for a bath.
“Hmmmm, why?” I think, as I search my mind for an explanation I have not used.
Later, around 7:30 PM, after checking off chores, reviewing goals, brushing teeth, rotating through toilet turns, and having the kids jump into PJs, I sat myself down outside their bedrooms. It was time for our nightly, improvised bedtime story. This time the yarn was about Sheriff Acidophilus and his bifidus posse vs. John Yeasty Hardin and the Candida Brothers. I detailed a showdown between them that took place in my eight year old’s digestive track. The outcome made a big difference between a healthy immune system and an unhealthy one. Yep, it put the kids to sleep fast.
The next day, the kids were more willing to eat the foods I had weaved the yarn about, but then new concerns took their place. It sounded something like this:
“Mom, I am going to die if I have to do my division homework!” caterwauled my ten year old.
“The laundry pile is too big!” huffed my eight year old who was hiding beneath the pile and pretending to drown.
“I like my bed to be made upside down,” commented my six year old.
Grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble my one year old huffed because the seat belt buckle on the highchair needed to be fastened.
“I don’t waaaaaaannnnt to take turns,” pouted my grimacing three year old.
At this point, I was beginning to feel a bit oppressed by all the contrariness and exhausted from all the concern resolving. I realized now it was me who needed a story.
So, I began by imagining a princess who lived in an elaborate castle beside the top of a fir tree covered cliff by the sea. The princess’ father, the king, had built her a special tower that looked out perfectly over the bay and the distant mountains to the west. Every evening the sunset resonated in glory between the bay, the mountains, and the surrounding sky. The princess loved to watch this glorious show till twilight. Then she would retire to her luxurious canopy bed and drift off to sleep knowing the next day would be filled with positive reinforcement for the good she would do and lots of tender nurturing for the good she had yet to learn.
But as she slept, she woke up within her dream shrieking. Her princess surroundings had melted away and in their place she stood transformed into a exhausted, flabby-looking mother in desperate need of a shower. Suddenly 5 disgruntled, button-pushing children each covered in different patterns of the same bright red spaghetti sauce surrounded her. They began bombarding her with attempts to undermine what family democracy there was. Some were howling that things weren’t fair and others were withholding their cooperation. The princess, as the mother-figure, stared wide-eyed at her small dream mob. Then, in an attempt to change things, she did every healthy, compassionate, thoughtful, and diplomatic thing she knew. It worked for a moment, but their issues with life, each other, and her kept morphing into new and more complex situations. She wondered why her attempts to change the children was met this way. For everywhere in her own world back home, every good thing she did or any tough challenge she faced was met with appreciation or understanding, reward, and praise. She desperately missed her previous life of being the stars, the moon, and the sun to all who knew her. She felt herself clicking her heels together with determination and pleading there was no place like home, but no magic worked to whisk her back as it had in another girl’s dream she knew.
However, another kind of magic was at work in her dream. At about this time directly overhead a great light appeared. As it caught her attention and flew closer, a brilliant dragon-dove with glorious light wings and wisdom came into focus. He descended from the clouds above and lit near her. The princess gazed in amazement. The dragon-dove smiled kindly then spoke directly to her heart.
“My dear, Princess,” he mused, “I see things have become exceedingly challenging for you.”
“Yes, I am under constant attack if you hadn’t noticed!” she sobbed.
“You are under attack?” the dragon-dove blinked.
“Well, no. I am actually just under a lot of stress and I don’t know what to do about it,” she corrected herself.
“I see. What exactly is it that you want?” sought the dragon-dove.
“Appreciation, thanks, willingness, trust, cooperation, anything!” she exploded into deeper tears.
“All very good things,” the dragon-dove commended. Then he took one of his magnificent, silver claws and wrote thoughtfully in the ground for a moment. Then he said, “Princess, do you know what this opposition is for?”
She blinked. A lot of mildly sarcastic answers came to mind, but no deeply intelligent ones. So she remained quiet.
Sensing her surrender, the dragon-dove continued, “You have been able to grow to do what is right through positive reinforcement, but now things have changed haven’t they?”
The princess pinched up her nose and brow. “So, what are you saying? Do I have to suffer for the rest of my life getting negative reinforcement from my kids for doing the right thing?”
“Yes, partly…” nodded the dragon-dove, “At least, you will suffer until your children become master peacemakers, that is, or until you do.”
Suddenly horror struck the princess and she gasped, “I really am dependent on others for that, aren’t I? Oh my! And please, please, please tell me I didn’t treat others this same way when I was little!”
“Yes, you did the exact same thing.” smiled the dragon-dove. “but the resistance you gave others helped them to become something greater. You are now in that same process of mastering unconditional love.” He winked at her. “It is tremendously rewarding once you get the hang of it.”
“Oh, I hope so. I’m not so good at staying strong right now.”
“Princess, I promise you will come to be able to set very healthy limits, know the extent of your personal energy reserves, and be at peace about the sacrifices and requirements of successful motherhood.” His believing eyes reached her and filled her with hope. Then the dragon-dove said his goodbyes and took off once again to flight.
“Thank you!” the princess called after him.
She watched him vanish into the clouds and then looked around just in time to see her 5 dream children come running to jump up and dog pile her.
The jolt of being jumped on in her dream woke the princess up. The dim morning light reflected into her castle chambers and relief and regret filled her bosom. Although she was home, she suddenly felt incomplete too. Nothing in her day, nothing in her present lifestyle would really prepare her to do what is right in the face of adversity the way her very own family would. She knew her life had a mission now though. She would become a wife and mother someday. Meaning and opportunity to become the most excellent kind of person there is would literally overflow into her life. She wouldn’t just be a princess, she would become a queen capable of governing with perfect love through anything.
As I finished this story to myself, my senses too came back to their present surroundings.
I am meant to be such a queen too, I thought. With my cup filled, I was ready to start coaching those self-reliance building skills again. In fact, putting my shoulder back to the “peacemaking plow” sounded something like this:
“Mom! Where are you?! So and so won’t stop pushing me!” scowled my eight year old.
“Mommy, every time I do the dishes the wart on my thumb gets bigger. I think it’s going to take over my whole arm soon. I don’t want to do the dishes ever again.” whined my ten year old.
“I think a monster lives in the bottom of the kitchen trash can! You change it for me!” my six year old chattered his teeth in mock terror.
“Make the baby stop eating my hair things!” shrieked my three year old.
Snort, Snort, Snort, Snort, Snort snorted my one year old. So I started by snorting back, long and loud, and we all giggled.
QUESTION: How do you help your Princess transform into a Queen?
CHALLENGE: What is a new way to help her make the transformation?
Image from Flickr.com/tummymonster.