Neighbors at my Door in Robes

At about 9 pm last night, there was a knock at my door.

My dog immediately erupted into his deep and threatening ‘woofing’, so I opened the door to see who would stop by at such a late hour, unannounced. When I opened the door, my heart sank.

See, for the previous 20 minutes or so, I had been dealing with my oh-so-sweet-but-highly-emotional-seven-year-old daughter who does not like to be alone.  Back when she was born, I made a conscious decision to spoil this child.  I had heard, “You can’t spoil a baby.”

Well, I may have been the first.

(Actually, I was just so completely in love with cuddling my new bundle, and since I wasn’t running off to work everyday and could take the time to just love and hold her, I delivered an overdose.  I was motivated by selfish reasons, to be sure – it just brought me so much joy to love on her!)

I don’t regret the time I spent with her, because it’s still one of my favorite things to do: cuddling with my kids.  But I can see that she never learned to console herself – a skill that all human beings must learn.  She doesn’t know that she’s capable of it, because she never had an opportunity to practice being alone.  I wasn’t the only one – she also had 5 older siblings and a father who doted on her, too.

Fast forward seven years.

Even now she shares a room with her two sisters.  At the prospect that she may need to go into another room by herself, she begins to look for someone to go with her.   She simply can’t bear solitude… even when someone is in another room nearby.

This makes bedtime really tough, because even though there are seven children in three rooms upstairs, not everyone is ready to get there all at the same time.  Sometimes her baby sister has fallen asleep on a couch, or maybe her big sister is busy finishing up something for me when it’s time for her to go to bed.  That’s when the fussing starts, and if we don’t accommodate her immediately, she bursts into tears until she gets her way.

So, tonight was the night I was determined to show her that she DOES have coping skills.  So long as someone in our family continually rescues her, she’ll never find out that she really IS okay by herself, and that she can find peace and happiness with her own thoughts using the amazing mind that God gave her.  In fact, she has a genius mind that will eventually be capable of solving her every dilemma.

She needed to be left to herself long enough to learn this lesson.  She was in a safe and controlled environment – and I was only a short hallway away.  But in her mind, her very life was in peril.  Her tantrum began, and she wouldn’t stop.

I wondered if I was doing the right thing, but something said I needed to let her experience it completely.  Children will fuss until they’re too tired to fuss anymore, and then they calm down and find out they’re okay.  I was prepared to wait this tantrum out if it took all night.  I even told her sister, “I know it’s bedtime, but I want you to wait until she’s calm before you go up there.”

My plan was interrupted by the knock at the door.  I opened it, and there were my neighbors in their bathrobes.

Cheerfully I greeted them, and with a concerned look on their face they asked me if everything was okay (as my daughter continued to scream: “Someone!  Pleeeeeaase, heeeeeeeeelllllpp!”).

I smiled and said, “Yes, everything’s fine; let me tell you what’s going on.” So we stepped outside (where I thought we’d be able to hear each other better) and I told them what was happening.  My dear neighbor chuckled and said, “My dear, we’ve all been there.  Just wanted to make sure she wasn’t stuck in your garage or something.”

In the background my daughter was still screaming.

In fact, that’s when I realized that it was louder outside than I was hearing it inside – and it echoed down the street in both directions.

I went upstairs and said, “Bethany, let me show you something.” I took her onto the balcony so she could see the neighbors who were outside.  As we stood hidden in the shadows, I quietly pointed across the street and said,  “Do you see those people?  They might have been getting ready to call the police because it sounds like someone is dying…  Are you really in so much danger that you need the police to come?”  She shook her head no.  I said, “Did you know that I asked Kayli not to come up until you had calmed down?”  She shook her head no.

I took her back to her room and she asked if she could try again.  Within a few minutes she proved she could show self control – using her words rather than her screams – so I sent her siblings up to bed, and that was that.

Here’s something I’ve learned about life.  We were all born with capabilities beyond our imagination.  Not only do we have coping skills, but we also have untapped gifts and talents.  How are they uncovered?  Through hardship.  I believe God sees where we have perhaps not yet discovered and developed one of the gifts he’s given us, so he allows us to feel alone and permits challenges to overwhelm us.

The truth is, he has created a very safe, controlled environment for our growth.  We think we’re in peril; but we’re really not.  It’s an illusion, just like my daughter’s peril was imaginary.

We think all is lost; we think there’s no hope, and we think we need a rescue.  But the more we rant, and the louder we fuss, the longer it may take to experience the relief we seek.

Perhaps this is the week, the month, the day, the year, the decade that God is determined to show you that you DO have coping skills, somewhere deep down inside.  So long as you keep waiting for a rescue, you may never find out that you really ARE okay just as things are, and that you do have coping skills built into the amazing mind that God gave you.  You do have a genius mind that can create solutions for yourself – and it’s something I believe God wants you to discover.

Do you ever wonder if God’s doing the right thing by you? Does it feel like he’s taking a really long time to answer?  Well, God just may wait until you have “experienced it completely”.  I believe He knows you might fuss until you’re  too tired to fuss anymore, and then you’ll calm down and find out you’re really okay.  I’m sure he’s prepared to wait out such tantrums if it takes an eternity.  Maybe he’ll step in now and then to remind you to be at peace, but it’s up to you to obey the recommendation.  Perhaps he’s even telling the angels, “I know it’s taking a while, but I want you to wait until (s)he’s calm before you go help out.”

You think you need a rescue, but maybe what you really need is to calm down and discover the answers that God has already placed inside of you.  If you’re not yet asking the right questions, life will continue to deliver experiences that shake you up and leave you so perplexed that you have nothing else to do but to look inward to find them.  Look diligently enough and you’ll also find your hidden talents, skills, and gifts he’s given you.

I want to help you find them.  Join me in the FTMF Program – it’s all really simpler than you think.

Leslie Householder
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Leslie Householder

Leslie is the award-winning, best selling author of The Jackrabbit Factor: Why You Can, Hidden Treasures: Heaven's Astonishing Help With Your Money Matters, and Portal to Genius (all FREE downloads!). She aims to help you crush every challenge, achieve every goal, and vanquish every monster under your bed. Above all, Leslie is a dedicated wife and mother of seven children.
Leslie Householder
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19 thoughts on “Neighbors at my Door in Robes

  1. Great analogy! I love how you can make an everyday experience a very powerful lesson. I know in my life I’ve perhaps felt abandoned, and so stressed out that God hasn’t rescued me yet! When in all actuality, in all my ranting, perhaps I drowned out the help that he sent… that was all around me… and within me.

    I was going through a very difficult time last year, and I finally forced my self-talk to say “I can’t afford to let this bother me”, “This is not that big of a deal, it is okay”. It was amazing, when I said that to myself with much emotion, it became true.

    I’m so grateful that I was introduced to the Jackrabbit Factor and Portal to Genius, they feel like the missing link to my education.

    Thanks Leslie

  2. Very Entertaining! You have a great way of writing and sharing your experience and bringing it all back around full circle to teach a lesson- I love it! Thanks so much for sharing your time and talents with the world!

    PS- love seeing the 1st ammendment put to use… yes- it can be done!

  3. I too appreciate Natalie’s concern and courage to comment and this response is not with judgment of her or anyone.

    First I totally agree that ‘I also believe that no other person is entitled to more inspired guidance for a child than his or her own mother.’ and so I am not making a judgment on how Leslie handled this situation especially because I’m not in her shoes and even though she described the situation we still don’t know everything that is involved in it such as personalities, emotions, environment etc of each family member, but God does and He is the one to trust in.

    Having said that I just wanted to share with everyone that I too had a daughter like this. Luckily she was very close to her older sister by three years and they shared a bedroom and even a queen size bed for many years without any problems. So in a sense we coddled her by keeping them together and not letting her be alone. In fact when the older one had sleep overs with grandma or went to girls camp or something the younger one had to have her younger brother sleep in the same room. Now she is 14 and for the past two years has been very secure and independent and not afraid to be alone. There was nothing we did, she just grew into it – it took 12 years but she did it. In fact she plans to move out in two years and go to college – by herself.

    I know this situation doesn’t work for everyone and knowing Leslie I’m sure she handled her situation in the most loving & thoughtful way she could for everyone involved.

    I also know we can become too concerned with long term affects of handling things ‘wrong’ with our children but I have to say that is part of life. Were not perfect and our children will need to learn to not blame things on us and the way we did or didn’t do things and be responsible and accountable for themselves at some point.

    For example I have a friend who has digestive problems and can probably trace it back to her potty training experience and blame it on how mean her mom was, instead she takes responsibility for her life now and eats healthy to control it and takes supplements when needed.

    Any way I’m getting off topic but I just wanted to add that God trust us to be parents and we can trust in Him to guide us and sometimes were just going to make mistakes because wisdom is knowledge PLUS experience.

    I also believe a lot of the times that God IS there for us and providing the answers and solutions were just not listening or open to receiving – we think we know better. Therefore I really like your last paragraph Leslie – which I think is really the point of your article – not your parenting methods 🙂

  4. WoW….. So interesting how each one sees a totally different view point from the same story and intent…. I was not so lucky to have a Safe Luving environment to learn to rely on myself for comfort and peace, or to coddle myself… I did not have
    the coping skills as a Child either… I was afraid of the dark and couldn’t be left alone, I had 7 siblings, but I still felt alone….

    So I struggled as an Adult and Mother as I was raising my own children…. The anxiety and fear I carried then affected them… It has been much harder to learn these lessons as an Adult than as a CHILD… I have learned to rely on Heavenly Father and know that I have it within MySelf if I just Believe and Trust…

    I have Grown up with my Children and it has been a long journey but well worth it… It would have been Wonderful to have a Mothering Environment as a child to learn these lessons as Leslie is doing with her daughter….. However, we don’t all receive the same Blessings…

    I’m Thankful, I now have the Coping Skills needed to find the answers within and to rely on the LORD to coddle me in times of FEAR…. The Savior is my Constant Companion….. I appreciate Leslie and her talent in sharing….
    Thankyou

    1. I do love the diversity of my readership, and am so grateful for the care and respect everyone works so hard to demonstrate, even when there are differences of opinions.

      Someone made the comment on a different post (about a certain current event, which stirred up some controversy), that they had never seen a place where people were expressing themselves this freely and yet still showing respect for others of differing points of view.

      You, my friends, are the cream of the crop!

  5. I appreciate and echo your comments Natalie.
    The truth of your words rings clear.

    I paraphrase Abraham’s (via Esther Hicks) words on parenting:
    Feed them, Clothe them, Love them, and Stay out of their way
    They may be Crystal, Indigo, or just plain consciously advanced in some
    as yet unlabelled way.

    Leslie, I invite you to consider the possibilities that:
    – the most inspired guidance for the child comes from within the child
    herself – as inconvenient and embarassing as that may look/sound at times
    – that the opinions, judgements, and actions of others ought to have very little
    relevance in the guidance of one’s own life, or that of one’s kids
    – that there might be a little bit of defensiveness/justification in your response
    – if you were to ask your daughter, in the most open nonjudgemental space you can
    offer, how she felt at various points in the whole event, how you would feel it
    her perspective were to be very different from what you might expect,

    I write this as compassionately and nonjudgementally as I can muster,
    as a graduate student of the BBDSTC
    (Berenstain Bears Dad’s School of Teaching by Counterexample) 😉

    kurt

  6. In this parenting moment, i do believe you did the right thing. I follow a lot of methods loosely (attachment parenting, continuum concept, etc), but we also recognize that there are times when kids need to experience and work through things.

    My son is a toddler. He’s 2. We are learning to manage this new stage where the will and his desires begin to team up, but of course he doesn’t yet have the capacity for reasoning out the real risks or non-risks of a situation. he just wants his way. But, his way isn’t always right or healthy for him or everyone else. So how do we create balance as a family?

    A friend of mine gave this example. She taught in a kindergarden for many years, which starts at age 3 here. They learned that Sarah, age 3, was terrified of cats. So, one day, the mother comes with Sarah through the garden and to the door, and a cat–a really big, ugly cat–streaks past sarah’s legs into the house! Sarah immediately *freaks out* and refuses to come inside. My friend, the teacher, steps in at this point.

    Now, what would the “normal” person do. It seems logical to me that you get the cat out, you calm Sarah down, and you say “if the cat comes into the yard, then we will remove it, so that you are safe.”

    But really, what does this do? It actually reinforces Sarah’s fear. She’s not in danger from the cat, but in her worldview, she is. Her body is flooded with adrenaline and cortisol. By removing the cat, we are saying “you are right, when the cat is around, you are in danger. so we will remove the cat, and thereby remove the danger.”

    In the alternative, my friend asserts that you should allow the adrenaline to dissipate, and then move through the process so that the child *learns* that she will survive if there are cats around. So this is how my friend handled that situation.

    First, she brought Sarah onto her knee. Not cuddled too close, but feeling physically supported. Staying calm, she said nothing, while Sarah went through her tantrum, still feeling upset about the cat. The children and other teachers were petting the cat, and Sarah continued to tantrum. Eventually, she got through that dry sobbing stage. Then, she wen toff to play, avoiding the cat. The next day, my friend made sure the cat was already in the kindgergarden. Sarah began to panic, and my friend put her on her knee, and the children played with the cat. The tantrum was much shorter, and Sarah went off to play, still avoiding the cat. On the third day, the cat came close to my friend while Sarah was on her knee, and so my friend petted the cat. BY the end of the week, sarah was petting the cat.

    She’d learned that she would survive, because she had support, and it was demonstrated that the cat was not a threat to her.

    I think that your situation was similar. obviously, she was completely safe, and she very truly really felt that she wasn’t–because somewhere along the line, the idea of her being alone was unsafe cropped up and got reinforced. who knows how it happened? to me, that doesn’t matter so much. But now, it was time for her to experience that she would be ok.

    I think, too, how this extends to LOA is that a lot of our patterns play out this way. If we have a fear of something–which is often irrational, such as the fear of abundance or success–somewhere along the line, this idea got reinforced. We have to allow ourseves to feel the fear, tension, and what not that crops up when we are on the verge of something. IT’s part of getting through the disbelief. Once we experience that we CAN succeed, that we CAN thrive, then it’s much easier to do so!

  7. Leslie,

    I so enjoy your sharing the process of family living! What struck me the most was in your reply to Natalie. “I also believe that no other person is entitled to more inspired guidance for a child than his or her own mother.” That is a process I wish I’d had more confidence in earlier with parenting.Fortunately it is A PROCESS and not a “pass or fail” test!

    While I do believe it can be helpful to have a basic understanding of child development, the “experts” have been so off course, so many times when it comes to what a child truly needs for growth. It seems our confidence in receiving individual guidance for our children is the surest course. This requires us to “tune in” in a way perhaps we wouldn’t be motivated to otherwise. I’m grateful for the “checks and balances” in life which have helped me develop the confidence to turn within for the answers and then receive confirmation from God all around me.

  8. Bravo Leslie. I think you handled the situation wonderfully.

    My wife and I have two girls, 3-1/2 and almost 2. We have always followed the “Love and Logic” pattern of parenting because we feel it really works best and allows for choices and consequences to do the teaching. Our role as parents is that we are the guides. We love them, inform/teach them, and allow them to make choices of their own even at an early age. Then it is imperative that we allow the consequences of their choices to take place. This is much like the model with God and His children. He has given us love, taught us through scripture and prophets, and then allows us to make those choices and learn from the consequences of our choices.

    I thought that the dialogue you had with your daughter was very good in that you were helping teach her, using logical questions, the consequences of her choices, but also enforcing your love for her. We can see a lot more clearly when we are calm. I loved the lesson here and the message. Very profound as always. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I loved this. I too have a 7 year old that has a difficult time calming herself. Her feelings are hurt very easily. This same daughter I’ve cuddled and snuggled almost every night of her life. She often times comes in my bed at night. There have been nights she has woken up and gone back to sleep in her own bed. In the morning she feels a sense of accomplishment. Sadly she can’t console herself most of the time. I feel your struggle. I see strength in my little girl. She is amazing and has the ability to be strong. She can’t see it. She doesn’t feel it. I’m struggling with the answer to my daughter’s problem. I too believe that God inspires mothers and fathers in the answers we need in raising his children who are all unique. The answer for one may not be the answer for the other. I’m glad you received your answer. I’m glad your neighbors came the first night you tried this. I’m glad your daughter was able to see her screaming traveled to the neighbors and had an affect on them. Sometimes seeing how our actions touch or hurt other people is powerful. Knowing our actions really matter is an important lesson. Knowing our parents believe in us gives us wings. Thank you for sharing this very personal event.

  10. Thanks to Natalie for having the courage to share her point of view. I don’t actually agree with you Natalie: from my perspective Leslie is dealing with a situation she created in a realistic and honest way. God doesn’t give us all the answers!

    I am a Christian (and I don’t know enough about Leslie to know if the God she refers to is the God of the bible) but I do know that love is not just fluffy clouds and messages from heaven. Loving people sometimes means getting down in the dirt of ‘reality’ and helping them understand the consequences of their actions, and helping them understand they are so much more powerful than they realise. A good friend of mine many years ago said “I think God has given us much greater power to solve our own problems that we think”. I have three children, and I have made a few mistakes here and there.

    It is nice to think there is an ideal divine way to deal with each situation but life shows us that sometimes we have to deal with things in the best way we know how and we would never do anything if we consulted God on everything from what socks to wear to what song to play before bedtime.

    If you ever get to read the excellent and challenging book – Decision Making and the Will of God – you will discover that the idea that God guides every single step we make, just isn’t biblical. It came as a shock to me but we have something called the Believers freedom to make choices and he (Romans 8:28) will work things out for the good of those who love Him.

    Her daughter has learned a valuable lesson about self-control, and how her actions can affect others. Will it backfire? Who knows? But thanks Leslie for reminding me (and I was struggling this morning) that I have more power than I realise and God will not always sort it out for me – because I can.

    Thanks Natalie, thanks Leslie.

    1. Thanks, Doug. Yes, I speak of the God of the Bible… and you’re right – his love is demonstrated in many different, sometimes even difficult-to-receive ways.

  11. I understand the lesson you’ve taken from this and want to share with your readers and I value your lessons and teachings in general, but I don’t really understand how shaming and embarrassing a 7 year old (using the neighbour’s presence as a tool to control her behaviour and perhaps your embarrassment)and creating fear in her that her mother would be taken away by police, really ties in with an adult having faith in their own capabilities? Of course telling her that would make her become quiet out of sheer terror of being truly alone and motherless. I wonder what deep belief that will carry into adulthood?

    In line with LOA, it probably is more useful to look at why her distress about being alone is showing up in your life. What hidden beliefs or wounds might the reflection be for you? What is the process, the thoughts and feelings that it evokes in you? Are you afraid she’ll grow up afraid? Maybe other wounds you experienced at that age resurfacing? Are they inherited beliefs from your parents or community, or are you truly responding to your daughter from a clear, centred space? Based on your own belief that you have “made” her that way I can’t believe that it is a centred space.

    I wouldn’t normally respond to a post like this, but the learnings and the scenario you described sound so far off the heart-centred, connected (to divinity) perspective that I’m used to from you, that I can only assume, that like all of us, it’s hard to see the discrepancy when we’re the ones right in it – a kind of personal blind spot.

    I don’t expect that this is the most welcome comment to receive to a post, but I do hope that you will be able to experience the genuine compassion that motivated it, for both of you.

    Wishing you a peaceful and loving resolution.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Natalie. I appreciate your concern… perhaps you’re right! I’m sure I have MANY blind spots when it comes to my kids. I also believe that no other person is entitled to more inspired guidance for a child than his or her own mother. I’m sure you’ve done things for your children that other people may not understand, too.

      By the way, something you said made me realize that my word choice may have painted a distorted picture in your mind (possibly influenced or colored by experiences in your childhood, or that of someone you know) – so, I thought I’d better clarify: at night our balcony is in the shadows, and my conversation with her was quietly private. She was not on display; this was not about shaming or embarrassing her, and I am confident that she would agree. 🙂

      When I originally posted this article, I took a sort of Erma Bombeck approach, exaggerating the drama of it all – to be funny. After reading your reply, I realized that my effort at humor had gone over like a lead balloon. So thanks to your post, I was able to go back through and chose my words more carefully. I forget sometimes that my readers don’t all know me very well, and this is one situation that deserves to be described a little more delicately. 🙂

      Thanks again for taking the time to offer your feedback.

  12. Hey Leslie,
    I was really greatful for the lesson you illustrated here. I’ve been asked to speak to a group of young women on the topic of “I can do hard things with the strength of the Lord”. Your timing in publishing this article couldn’t be more perfect. It has given me a few more ideas and inspiration for what I’m going to present. Thanks!!

  13. Great message! I was trying to put this exact message into words for a friend. I will just send her this link and let her read for herself!

    We were foster parents of young children, and one of the hardest/best things we did for these kids was letting them cry at night. I had a sister ask me once if I felt bad letting them cry when they had already been through so much. But here was my perspective: When they left my home, I had no control over what circumstances they were going to. And I wanted them to be able to console themselves — because they probably weren’t going to get plucked out of bed in the middle of the night when they were upset and cuddled until they calmed down and went back to sleep. I had to know that they were able to calm themselves and get a good night’s sleep no matter where they were or who they were with.

    It’s hard to put the exact feelings/intentions I had into words, but I get what Leslie is saying…. we ALL need to learn to be calm so that God and the angels can help us! Most lessons in life seem to be learned easiest when we learn them at a young age in a loving/caring environment. But, even if we didn’t have those advantages, we can STILL learn them — and benefit from them!

    This is a very powerful story — thanks for opening yourself up and sharing it, Leslie!

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