Shrinking Rocks with Smiles

by flowers on August 2, 2010 · 9 comments

I’ve invited a series of guest posters to contribute as we welcome the newest member of our family. Please welcome the wise words of Kelly who blogs over at Sage Tribe.

You know that feeling- that one that sometimes starts out because of something small- maybe a stubbed toe, a hang nail, or a mean look- and it just starts to grow and grow. Anything can make the feeling grow or nothing- nothing that can be pinpointed anyway. It grows and consumes, and for me, before I know it, I just feel MAD, like really really mad. I think of it as my rock. Sometimes it’s a pebble. Sometimes a bolder- it all depends on if I feed my ill-will or let it go.

I’m noticing my four year old’s starting to get a rock. We’ll can be having a great time or doing nothing much at all, and then the frown, the tensed jaw, hands in little balls, the “Humph.”

Perhaps it’s all the change- a new summer home with a more lax routine, a sister he suddenly has to compete with for time with mom, no preschool, friends who are far way. We’re having a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of change- for everyone.

Just looking at his face I know exactly how he feels. I hate this feeling.

I’ve found through the years it’s easy to feed my rock and make it grow even larger. I think about all the things that annoy me and before I know it, I’m even madder. Once it gets really big, it’s not as easy to make it shrink. At least- it’s not as easy to remember that I have the power to make it shrink.

Just the other day we were on our way to the park. Painful I know. Who wants to go to the park! Not my son. Or he did- until it was time to go. As soon as it was time to leave, his attitude suddenly went sour. He wasn’t going to play. He wasn’t going to “have any fun!” I could have made him rest it out or we could have just stayed home, but I needed to get out of the house. I needed to get him out, get him running and free from the constraints of our wonderful but tiny space.

So, we drove and he pouted. We drove and him muttered things under his breath. We drove, and I could see his rock just growing and growing. I thought about telling him to stop being ungrateful. I thought about telling him he was being a brat. I thought about how those things would make his rock grow- how they would make MY rock grow.

Then I thought about what would make me feel better if I were feeling his feeling. When I remember not to feed my rock- when I remember how easy it is to shrink it back to a pebble- I remember to smile.

“Clark, sometimes I feel like someone is just squeezing me so tight. It feels like there is this rock in my stomach, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger and as it grows I get madder and madder. Do you ever feel that way?”


“When I feel that way it really helps if I do something. It may seem silly, but all I have to do is smile. Did you know the rock will shrink if you smile. It’s like it loses it’s super power. Like right now- I’m smiling and I just can’t help but feel happy.”


I watched in the review mirror as his little fists unclenched just a little. His jaw loosened. His brow went back to the place his brow belonged. He let out a little smile.

We got to the park. He slumped to the bench. I deposited our stroller and took his sister to the swings. He is stubborn- his rock was still very much present and was not budging.
He slumped over to the swings and sat in the mulch. He sat and sat.

“Clark, do you want to swing with the baby seat upside-down? There aren’t any big kid swings, but I can lift you up.”

A small smile emerged.

I lifted him up onto the swing.

A larger smile emerged.

“You rock is getting smaller.”

He looked down at his belly as if he was seeing it shrink and his smile spread across his face.

“It is, Mom!”

And we had a wonderful day. I know the importance of good food, sleep, and schedules. But I also know that sometimes that rock just pops up no matter how things are going. I’m hoping that he, unlike his mother, deals with his rock with smiles- something it took me years of making mine grow to learn.

Kelly Sage is a mom to Clark and Sophie, wife to a much taller Clark, who is getting closer and closer to earning his PhD in Anthropology, and an English teacher to an incredible group of middle and high school students. The above mentioned make it easy to shrink her rocks when she allows them to do so.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tara August 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Great post! I plan to teach my Clark how to make his rock get smaller too.


Kate August 2, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I LOVE this post! It really is refreshing to read these real moments of struggle and how we make the best of them ~ it’s truly the things we mothers need to share! Thank you ~ this is beautiful!


flowers August 2, 2010 at 10:11 pm

I was rereading this last night as I prepared the post and was really thankful for your thoughts. I think you really nailed it when you said:

“it’s not as easy to remember that I have the power to make it shrink.”

That is completely where I am at. I know how I *want* to parent. I know how I want to be, but to remember to be that way in those tricky, or even mundane moments is the challenge. Thanks so much for reminding me. I really enjoyed the story.


Kelly August 3, 2010 at 8:15 am

Thanks, Ladies! I am constantly having to remind myself of this. Like last night when my daughter was up at 3am (she just went to sleep-8am). I wasn’t mad- but I needed to smile- to remember that this isn’t forever. She will sleep and my frustration will only make it worse. It’s hard to remember in the moment though and sometimes harder to forgive myself when I don’t.


Amber August 3, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I carry around a lot of rocks, I’ll admit it. This reminder was actually helpful for ME. Although I can see how it will also help my kids, too. :)


flowers August 3, 2010 at 8:36 pm

right! how can we expect things of our kids unless we are able to do it ourselves.


Trisha August 3, 2010 at 10:46 pm

I want to print this post out and reread it often. I carry around a lot of rocks but never really thought about them or shrinking them. Now, reading this, I’m seeing them in myself and my daughter. I can’t wait to start shrinking them and teaching my daughter to do the same! Thanks :-)


exhale. return to center. August 4, 2010 at 8:12 am

wow kelly.

this really speaks to my heart. thank you SO much.



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