6/3/09

Maybe I should stop freaking out

Wednesday~June 3, 2009



I come from a long line of reactors. (No offense, Mom, it's just plain true.) We have a tendency to panic in response to pretty much anything. Or at least have a bit of an extreme reaction. Like if someone says, "Oh, I forgot the camera," we'll say, "OH MY GOOOSH!" (Gasp, shake head, humph)

(My poor husband.)



I've gotten a bit better about this over the years, if I do say so myself. But it's especially hard for me to remain cool and calm under pressure. And since a mother is pretty much always under pressure, this is something I struggle with.

I heard something recently that I immediately wrote in big letters and stuck to the fridge. It goes like this:

DON'T REACT, RESPOND.

Um, yeah Heather. That's kind of obvious isn't it?

Well, for me, NO. I'm someone who needs to mull over what words mean for them to really take a seat in my scattered mind. So I loved thinking over how true this simple statement is. When something happens, what's the difference between reacting and responding?

Responding is intentional, it's thought through rationally, even in just a moment. Reacting is simply a knee-jerk in which someone almost always gets hurt by my response. Or at the very least they're irritated, annoyed, or frustrated by my irrational reaction.

Right after I heard this, my closest friend called so we could catch up on our weekends. She told me about a BBQ she and her kids had gone to on Saturday. There were a lot of kiddos at the party, and my friend was sitting with the adults while the kids played on the other side of a line of trees. There was an above-ground pool near where the kids were playing, but since it was pretty cold out that evening, it was covered with a tarp that was held down with bungee cords. My friend was talking with a group of people when in the middle of the conversation the thought went through her head, "There's someone in the pool." (Yeah, pretty crazy since she hadn't heard anything that would make her think that.) She walked through the trees to see a two year old boy tangled in the tarp with his head under the water.

Did she scream? No. Did she panic? No. I know this because she talked about being calm, and I also know this because I know her. She responds, she doesn't react. She could have had the whole place in a chaotic uproar, but she simply took care of business, carefully removing the boy and pulling him to safety. She must have gotten there right after he went under because he didn't even sputter. He just wanted her to hold him, he was cold, and I'm sure a bit shocked. So she carried him back to the house and asked the host for a towel. She calmly let his mother know what happened without giving her details. He was fine after all, and her response was one that was thought-through. Why make this nightmare even worse for these parents?

I don't know what I would have done, I probably would have screamed and flailed or something. I'd like to think I've made progress enough to believe I could pull it together, but I don't know.

All I know for now is that I'd like to keep reading those words on my fridge and applying them to our daily lives. Hopefully I won't need them for a life-threatening emergency, but I'd love to respond with actions and words that are life-giving rather than knee-jerk reactions that hurt the hearts of my husband and boys. If I read them enough, maybe when someone spills juice or hits their brother, I'll be able to pause a moment and respond rather than growling without thinking.

(If you'd like to read an excellent post about the power or words, click HERE.)

For more Works For Me Wednesday posts, visit We Are That Family

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I had to pick two winners of the "Name the TV personalities" game from the other day. Both Lisa and Laura did such an amazing job, I had to give them both a shout out. You guys sure know your TV folk!

Laura, do you remember that time in high school when suddenly my car would only go backwards? Yeah, only the reverse worked, so we just drove it that way?! That was funny. Do we call it responding or reacting? :)

47 clicked right here to comment:

Manic Mother said...

You would be surprised how calm and calculated you can truly be in the eye of a storm. I am just like you and tend to over react, but I am learning to take it as it comes, and not panic as much. You would do just fine as well, you have no other choice, so have some faith in yourself, and your natural mother instincts, they would kick in, I promise! :)

Keyona said...

I don't know which one I am. I know when Lael was a baby and cut her head on a table I FAH-REE-KED. But I think since then I have calmed down.

Kelline said...

Its amazing how some people can just handle it and others freak-out. I think we as individuals each freak-out over different stuff and manage to hold our cool over things, where others would freak.

Carrie said...

I'm very much a reactor, too. I remember specifically one day, as I was washing ceiling fans & about to stop to get ready to leave for my son's dr.'s appointment, I heard a splashing noise. I looked down to discover that my then-16-month-old son had splashed my cleaning water ALL over the kitchen floor. And somehow, that day, God gave me the strength & presence of mind to just scoop him up, place him in his highchair & calmly clean up the mess. And that one incident just sticks in my mind, because I KNOW it wasn't of my own strength. :)

Jillene said...

I am a reactor too. I try really hard not to be but it is SO hard!!

Beck said...

I am a panicky mom but I HAVE found that I've been able to hold myself together while actual emergencies have happened.
Scary pool story! ACK!

Tooj said...

I'm "right here" with you about how words should be mulled over. I think that's a great quote to have on your fridge. I am thinking I should de-clutter mine and post that up....and then go over it with my kids and see if they can try and be the same way. Thanks for the thought...and kudos to your friend with the baby in the pool.

Kristina P. said...

I am in a lot of crisis situations at work, and I'm always very cool and collected.

But I have never been in a crisis situation with a loved one, so I don't know how I would react with that.

Mommy Mo said...

Heather, so many of your posts make me nod my head in agreement- you and I are so alike in many ways. I react, and then calm down later. Although, I have to say there have been several emergency situations with my kids or friend's kids and I have responded with amazing calm- yippee. But most situations, I react crazily, then calm down later. It drives my husband bat shit crazy. And I know you are not a cusser and I am sorry for cussing here on your blog, but I couldn't think of any other words to describe how crazy my reactions make him : ).

I am so excited to meet you at Blogher.

Mommy Mo said...

Heather, so many of your posts make me nod my head in agreement- you and I are so alike in many ways. I react, and then calm down later. Although, I have to say there have been several emergency situations with my kids or friend's kids and I have responded with amazing calm- yippee. But most situations, I react crazily, then calm down later. It drives my husband bat shit crazy. And I know you are not a cusser and I am sorry for cussing here on your blog, but I couldn't think of any other words to describe how crazy my reactions make him : ).

I am so excited to meet you at Blogher.

Jenn @ A Country Girl's Ramblings said...

I, too, am trying to respond rather than react. As my children have gotten older, I think I have gotten better at this. But, then again maybe I should ask a third party. I might just be fooling myself on this one!

jubilee said...

I tend to be an over-reactor instead of a responder. I think because my personality is such that I am always thinking and trying to prepare for the worst.

I've gotten better, but still have a long way to go.

They say that the more kids you have the better you get about those kinds of things. Personally, I think, the more kids you have, the more tired you are to react! But, that's just me. BG

Wendi @ Every Day Miracles said...

I don't have those words written down, but I have thought about them SO much and they are constantly in my head reminding myself to "respond Wendi, DON'T REACT!". I need reminding SO often and in so many situations. Just having that phrase running through my head has helped so much!

sara said...

great post, Heather. I, unfortunately, am a reactor, not a responder. It is something I have worked on all my adult life and am still working. I am getting better though....it's good to see progress!

Jen said...

b/c of my profession I am a responder and I am happy to say that it has carried over to my life as a mom too. Well, sometimes.

L.T. Elliot said...

Yeah...I'm a freaker-outer. I need to put that saying on my fridge. =[

Mylestones said...

For the BIG stuff, I'm tend to be a responder. Like emergencies or huge conflicts. I don't usually get panicky.
BUT for the little stuff (spilled juice, 2 yo refuses her shoes, etc.) I'm a big time reactor. I get irritated and flustered so out of proportion with the event. I drive myself nuts with this. I SO want to be different. This is helpful to read just to help me be mindful about being a responder in my daily interactions with the kids. Thanks!

Adventures In Babywearing said...

Oh, wow. I am a very calm reactor but get the whole post traumatic thing later on big time.

Steph

Erin said...

My husband is so calm in terrifying situations. I don't know how he does it. But I sure am thankful because he evens out my craziness.

I like that saying, "don't react, respond." I definitely need to practice that.

Heidi Ashworth said...

Knowing me (a dirty job but somebody has to do it) I would have reacted AND responded at the same time. I would have done what needed to be done but flailed and screamed a lot while I did it. tTen, later, everyone would whisper amongst themselves about how much I love to draw attention to myself.

jen@odbt said...

I believe when a crisis comes up, everyone is capable of reacting and staying calm. I've had to deal with a few events in my life that even I surprised myself with how I acted in the face of these accidents. Now if I could only handle those little moments that drive me bats with the same attitude. It's a great mantra.

Debbie said...

Heather, I just have to tell you that if I had been that mom, I would have screamed and yelled and flailed my arms. 911 would have been called for the boy and the other bystanders that I would have cause to have heart attacks. I can take you any day of the week on overreacting:)

Jan the crazy lady said...

Popped over here from Heidi's. I have a local blogger named Heather and her blog is titled Ordinary and Occasionally Extraordinary. I really thought it was her that had the Heidi joke of the day. Oh well. You have a way cool blog. So hello, I am Jan.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I take back that pool invitation. (just kidding)

I do usually react fairly sensibly to things, but I AM a gasper. It drives my husband nuts. I always startle him.

Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting said...

I am just like you. I totally wig out (you read my spider post.. right???)

I would love to say that I react, because at times I do, but at times I just flat out freak out bigtime.

I was so glad 2 weeks ago when I experienced that health scare to calmly ask my husband to call 911, but when it first happen, I was panicking bigtime.

I think I might do as you're doing. Maybe tape it to my forehead, or something.

And the game the other day? I haven't stopped thinking about. There was something SO reflective about it, seeing all those characters again, remembering all those memories. Thank you for the honor to dig up and dust off all of those treats from my past. And to be chosen as one of the winners? Icing on the cake, sister, thank you!!! I only hope to infuse such memories into my children's lives such as watching those shows and putting together puzzles on New Years Eve did for me when I was their age.

Melanie J said...

I hate drama so I've found responding instead of reacting helps keep it toned down. If I do react, it's usually the unimportant stuff. Dealing with critically ill parents for so long trained me to handle crises pretty calmly.

Interestingly enough, if there's someone more capable and responsive around, sometimes I indulge in a little reaction. Not sure why.

MommyTime said...

This is such good advice. I think I need to keep it in mind too. I am really good in a crisis, but in the day-to-day, I do tend to react more than respond -- with frustrations, in particular. Thank you for the reminder to take a breath and think first. It's really a good thing to remember.

tara livesay said...

huh ... you've got me thinking. i believe that i respond first and react a lot later -- which is really no better. spazzing out after the fact is counter-productive too. hope to see you this fall in mn.

Muthering Heights said...

LOL, I come from a loooooooong line of OVER-reactors...

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I get chills when I hear stories like that.

I'm one of those even keeled types - but I don't know what my reaction would be to a two year old with their head in a pool...

JCK said...

I know what you mean about reacting rather than responding. I feel that I need work in this area. I think you underestimate yourself, though, Heather. In an emergency, you also need a quick reaction and sometimes responding can take too long. :) Huge kudos to your friend. These stories of children falling into pools always scare me.

Peanut said...

I'm going to put that on my fridge too - I really need the reminder. I tend to respond in real emergencies (like yesterday, JJ fell and got a big gash on his forehead - I calmly picked him up, took him to the van, washed it off, and settled him without freaking out) but the daily stresses, I totally freak out about. My husband devastated me the other day by telling me that I must yell a lot, because KK yells all the time and she must be learning it somewhere.

Eowyn said...

This is something I'm trying to work on as well. Prayer helps.

Kim said...

I have repeated this to myself several times since I read it yesterday. I am also a reactor, not responder. Changing now though :)

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I wonder how much of this is genetic. I'm a responder. It's just who I am. I've always worked in crisis-driven industries, and I actually get MORE calm and aware in the midst of an emergency. It's weird.

I'd like to take credit for it, but there isn't anything I've done to develop it, you know? It's just me.

And my Dad is the same way. He would have made a great air traffic controller if God hadn't called him into the pastorate.

Kimberly said...

I might have my husband read this so he knows it's not just me . . .

L a u r a said...

Very nice post--good reminder!

L a u r a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Midwest Mommy said...

I like this...it made me think. I think I would have freaked out. Freaked. I need to work on this.

Pink Ink said...

I tend to scream a lot during NBA games, so I might be a reacter.

But when it comes to my children, I think I will try to be that calm in the storm. Try is the operative word.

I think we have it within us, if we really want it.

Kristen@nosmallthing said...

I remember watching a documentary once on "survivors" of disasters or dangerous situations. It illustrated that survivors are made differently...they respond. There is something innate in all of us...we either crumple into a ball and ultimately die during a disastrous situation or we survive.

It really made me wonder what would happen to me. I think in serious situations I am a responder.

I remember once being at my mother's house with my sister and her baby, who was under a year old at the time. And we were talking away while my sister cooked and the baby ate. I looked at the baby, and her face was beet-red--she was well on her way to passing out from choking. I just jumped up, cleared her throat and got her out of her seat, and gave her to my sister. It was all so silent and quick. There was no thinking, I just did it.

But let me tell you, if the situation is not dire, not serious, I am a reactor. Totally.

Jules from "The Roost" said...

That is a great post, Heather and wonderful hummm.....reminder for me!

minnesotamom said...

That pool story freaked me out. I would probably NOT have been the calm mom your friend was. I'm so glad she was the one in the situation!

Perhaps I need to put those words on my own fridge...

charrette said...

I come from a long line of reactors too. My current mantra is "Choose to be amused." (Rather than irritated, annoyed, etc.) But yours is excellent. I may need to put it on my fridge too. And the pool story? I need to carry that image of your friend and her calmness with me 24/7. I have a friend who is similarly calm and knows exactly how to respond...especially in emergencies. She totally inspires me.

As does this line from you: I'd love to respond with actions and words that are life-giving rather than knee-jerk reactions that hurt the hearts of my husband and children. So well said. (I loved Jessica's post on this topic as well.)

charrette said...

p.s. Heidi's comment made me laugh out loud!

Luisa Perkins said...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure I would have panicked, then stayed awake while staring at the ceiling that night reliving the drama. Wow.

Jessica said...

Okay, I'm writing that Don't react, respond quote on my fridge too . . . but it's a day late because just yesterday I completely over-the-top lost my mind and reacted . .. ugh. I hate that. Thanks for the link, but I'm a big fat hypocrite.

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