yesterday something happened, and right when it happened i knew things would have to take a new direction.
we were sitting on the couch and the girls got into the bickering which has become as familiar this summer as every single note of every freaking song from Frozen.
due to a sleeping baby we are home more than in summers past, which means we are all sorts of up in each others grill. On this particular morning however, it wasn’t clear how many times i could entreat the girls to have a kind heart and think of whether they would want someone to treat them that way. if my brain heard my mouth utter the words, “your heart was made for love and when you use what was made for love to hurt instead, it damages both you and the other person” one more time i was going to start looking up farm houses that were close enough for my family to visit, but not large enough for them to stay.
unlike other days when it takes me only a few moments to lose my cool i was able to confront each instance in our morning with kind words and genuine concern for the habits that were forming. i was frustrated and they were too. they were tired of my interrupting their attempts at world domination to speak of things like kindness, generosity, and gratefulness, especially when i wasn’t even breaking up the monotony with burps or farts or the word panties.
in this instance mc was the one who had been unkind, so i addressed it head on with clarity and firmness. and i saw her lose a bit of hope. she had been caught again being the opposite of who i wanted her to be, but she was being someone she herself wasn’t even sure she wanted to be, and i could see she was flailing. shortly later she “bumped her toe” and the tears came. i knew for some reason right there that her toe did not hurt at all, but that she needed an outlet for the pain and frustration.
so i held her and as hazel came in to bring her offerings of stuffed animals, stickers from Frozen, and blankies for comfort i said something that is at the core of who i am: “sometimes you just need a really good cry. there will be times when you don’t even know what you are crying about, but you will know that you have to let it out and i want you to know you can always come to me to do that.” no sooner had i uttered those words than i could feel the tears drop on my shoulder and run down my back to be warmly welcomed by my tank top.
Holding her tighter than i had in a long time, it dawned on me that i had been asking the wrong questions. Many times this summer i’ve asked “why”. “why did you do that?!!” and a fair amount of “what made you think that was ok?!” while i am genuinely shocked and appalled that my 7 and 5 year old do not know how to honor and respect each other, the realization that came with the damp tank top was that i was wasting time on the wrong words. it is my job to teach them how to honor and respect each other.
they don’t know why they are acting out, why they are plotting each other’s demise, or why they are choosing their own way over the way that we have laid out as best in our home. it is not my job to simply educate them on the set of rules to abide by, because there is no amount of positive reinforcement or negative punishment that will curb a kid’s desire to get to the top of the mountain and declare themselves ruler of the roost. they want to understand the world and their place in it. the questions i was asking were the worst possible questions i could have chosen.
now, i seek to unpack a bit of the story each day. who they are in the adventure unfolding before their very eyes. why they were made to love. who made them to love. why we would ever choose to obey over just run with what what we feel will make us happy. in all of this, my focus has changed. they are going to behave poorly often and publicly, and most likely at the moments where i am hoping they will be at their best. my reaction to this says as much about my love for them as anything else i do or say all day. my invitation to come and settle into the warmth of my embrace and be just where they are is only as appealing as my ability to embrace them just where they are in every other moment they’ve provided. the good. the bad and the ugly.