“You have turned my mourning into dancing.” - Psalm 30:11a (NRSV)
Several people in my household are, shall we say, volatile.
It’s not particular to them: children have tantrums. They get mad when they don’t get their way, when they’re called out for being terrible to their siblings, when they perceive injustice (it’s an illusion: my parenting is always, obviously, perfectly fair).
Feeling all your feelings is good, if hard. Insisting that they have to be happy all the time is paving the way for a lifetime of self-harm and trauma. I know this, but I still lose my cool.
When they yell, I yell over them. When I threaten them with lost screen time, they don’t care. They are too caught up in their emotions, in the spiral of feelings.
I am slowly learning that you can’t conquer a tantrum. When my kids’ emotions get too big for them, I can only enter into the whirlwind and offer them a hand: an anchor and a way out. “Let’s breathe. Grab a book or a journal.”
My husband is great at distraction and redirection; a door shuts on an argument and reopens on a giggle-filled dance party. It is magic. It is transformation. It is holy.
My daughter Callie doesn’t like school this year. None of her friends are in her class; she doesn’t have much of a rapport with her teacher. Many mornings, we argue. The other morning, she found black pants, a black Hogwarts shirt, black boots, black hair ties. “I’m goth,” she said. She looked rockin’.
“Look at you,” I gushed, “you’ve turned your mad feelings into fashion!”
O God, you are with us in all things, steadfast, turning our mourning into dancing, our anger into art. Open us to your transforming love.
Bromleigh McLeneghan contributed this devotional to Hard and Holy: Devotions for Parenting, a collection of devotionals for the spiritual practice of raising, teaching, learning from, delighting in, and cleaning up after children. Order Hard and Holy today.