Monthly Archives: November 2013

Four Year Olds Feel Ways About Stuff

Dear Jubilee,

Tonight was a rough night for both of us. Melody was going to a sleepover, Romeo was staying home with Daddy, and you and I got dressed up and headed to a variety show that was a fundraiser several of our friends were performing in. When we got to the show, plans changed suddenly (the reasons don’t really matter), and instead of going in to watch the show, I decided we would leave with some friends who weren’t staying and go get ice cream.

You’re 4. I guess because of your age, I figured going to get ice cream would be just as fun for you. You did ask a couple of times on the way why we weren’t staying for the show, but I assumed that once you got your ice cream and were hanging out with your friends, you’d forget all about it.

Fast forward 2 hours. We are done with our ice cream. The variety show is over by now so going back is not an option. We get into the car to head home and you ask me again, “Why didn’t we watch the show?” I explain to you in young terms what happened and why I decided ice cream was a better option. You still didn’t get it. And you began to cry. And cry. And sob. For 40 minutes, you sobbed your little heart out because you REALLY wanted to see the show, and you REALLY wanted to see your other friends perform and you REALLY didn’t want ice cream. Oy, the sobbing.

At first, I tried to placate you with things like, “But wasn’t your ice cream yummy?” and “We’ll see other shows.” But you would have none of it. You sobbed like your heart was broken all the way home. I carried your heaving, teary, snotty, sweaty little body into the house and we sat down on the couch. And that’s when I realized. You may be little, but you have feelings, too. And those feelings matter. And those feelings deserve at least to be heard, even if they don’t change the course we take.

So that is where I started my apology.

“Jubilee, I am VERY sorry that I did not ask you what YOU wanted to do.”

You looked at me through red, swollen eyes.

“I had no idea that it was so important to you to see the show. I thought you’d enjoy getting ice cream just as much. I should have asked you how you felt about it and I’m very sorry I didn’t. Can you forgive me?”

You nodded and dissolved back into sobs. You asked if we could start the day over so you could see the show. I said it doesn’t work that way. You said there’ll never be another show like that one. I admitted you were right. I didn’t try to cajole you out of your feelings. I just let you have them and helped you name them. You were very sad. You were mad at me for not listening to you. . .And you felt like no one cared about your opinions.

Now I know a lot of grown-ups who would say you’re too little for your opinions to count. But I disagree. I want you to grow up feeling heard. Feeling important. And feeling like your feelings matter, even when they seem too big for what’s happening. I truly am sorry I didn’t give your thoughts the space or respect they deserved tonight. Thank you for forgiving me for my mistake. And I hope someday if you look back on this incident, you don’t remember so vividly that you missed the show, but rather that we worked through your grief together even though it was hard. Because I want you to know you can do hard things. And I want you to know that I’ll hold you when it feels too hard. Because you’re worth it.

Love, Mama

Because I love you. . .

Yesterday, in the midst of our usual chaos of homeschooling and breakfast and chores, Jubilee asked for help applying glue to a piece of construction paper. When asked why, she replied, “Because I need to glue it to the wall.” Uh, no. Tape was suggested as a viable alternative and I told her that under no circumstances was she to use glue to hang anything up.

Fast forward several hours. I am rearranging the magnets on the fridge to get them out of Romeo’s reach when I discover that a piece of purple construction paper is stuck to the refrigerator quite solidly. I pull it off to see that it has been glued there. I call Jubilee in and ask her if she glued it there after I told her not to use the glue to hang things. She says yes with a look of shame. I put her in time out to give myself time to gather my thoughts.

After her time out was done, I brought her into the kitchen and required that she stand with me as I tried several different things to remove the paper from the fridge. I first had her try scraping it with a plastic scraper, but she was not able to make progress at all on her own. So I took over, but made her stay with me through the process. By this time, she had gotten sad because she sensed my frustration and wanted me to be “happy” again. I periodically took time out from the task to hug her and explain that I was frustrated that the paper was so hard to get off. I told her that she was going to pick up all the tiny paper shavings that had fallen to the floor as I worked. She again looked very sad and with tears in her eyes asked, “Will you help me pick them up?” My first instinct was to say no and to launch into another diatribe about how she made the mess by disobeying me and I was already doing most of the work and blah, blah, blah, lecture, lecture, lecture. Then I took a deep breath and looked at that sweet little concerned face and said, “Yes, Jubilee, I will help you pick them up.” She look a bit relieved and then asked, “You’ll help me because you helped make the mess?”

An onslaught of surprisingly deep thought ran through my head at that moment and I realized I had the opportunity to teach my little girl a lesson about grace and mercy. My response was, “No, I’ll help you pick them up because I love you and I know you don’t want to do it because it feels hard. So you have to do it, but I will be here with you and we will both clean it up.” She nodded and fell hard against me for a very vigorous hug, and the parallels between my own heart and this situation began to form in my mind.

The definition of mercy is undeserved favor. In the simplest sense, Jubilee did not “deserve” my presence or my help in cleaning up the mess she had made. . .but because I love her, I was able to look past that “fact” and be there with her to help her through something that was hard. Even if the difficulty was the consequences of her own actions, still I love her too much to leave her to sift through those consequences on her own.

I do not deserve the mercies of God. I have made many messes over the course of my life, some in ignorance, some in disobedience, some in selfishness and some with good intentions. Where would I be today if God stood by, brushed off His hands at me and declared, “Well, you MADE the mess because you didn’t listen. Good luck cleaning it up!” But because of His enormous love for me, that has never been His response to my mistakes. Sure, as I’ve grown from a baby Christian into a more mature one, He has let me own more of my consequences, but He has never just left me alone to pick up the pieces. And more times than not, all it takes is a little effort in the right direction on my part before I feel His hand intervening to “help” me in sometimes almost imperceptible ways. . .but sometimes miraculous ones.

So in this journey through brokenness as I learn to parent my children in a way that is also discipling them for Christ, may I learn to respond more and more often with, “. . .just because I love you.” Because that’s the character Jesus wants to build into them as well. And children learn from what they see. And my prayer is always that they can learn from my failures. . .but a little more often these days, they are learning also from my example. And that feels good. And is well worth the pain and the turmoil of deep changes in my heart and mind. Because they’re worth it.

Home Base

Dear Romeo,

Home Base. That’s what I am to you right now. Gone are the baby days of long snuggles and extended nursing sessions. Here are the days where you NEED to move. All the time. Confinement is death in your little emotional world. You tolerate being trapped in your high chair as long as the food is fast in coming. You tolerate being strapped into your car seat as long as the car is moving and providing you with passing scenery to hold your attention. . .well, most of the time. If you’re feeling icky, you want me to hold you for longer periods as long as I’m doing something interesting. But mostly, you want to move. To explore. To touch, to smell, to taste, to smash, to run. And watching you amazes me every day. For the most part, you move from thing to thing with a speed that is almost astonishing. But occasionally something grabs your attention and provides opportunity for a baby-sized science experiment and you stay in one place for a while. That’s fun to watch, too.

So now, instead of wanting me right beside you all the time, you want me nearby as long as I’m not cramping your style. You tell me “no” when I get too close to whatever it is you’re exploring. But if I leave the room, you come to find me. Now and then, you leave your project, fly into my legs and give me a hug. . .or reach for me to pick you up, get a quick squeeze and immediately demand to be put down to continue on your way. Your newfound independence is both fun to watch and a little sad. I miss your baby snuggles, but I’m honored to be the safe, quick hug that makes you feel safe to keep on moving. Watching you figure out your world is a lot like the way I feel like I’ve started to figure out my own. I’m starting to get comfortable in my own skin, and to be comfortable being my own home base as well as one for you and your sisters.

So here’s hoping that as you move into this new toddler realm, I do an even better job helping you with your emotions than I did your sisters. Because doing better with what we know is always right, and sticking with a method of parenting because it’s how we’ve “always done it” never is. Thank you for trusting me to be your home base. I’ll keep working to be worthy of that trust. Because you’re worth it.

Love, Mama

Growth

Dear Melody,

Today we had a moment when my heart swelled with joy over a small thing that to most probably seems insignificant. You were getting yourself a glass of ice water in the kitchen when you dropped an ice cube in the floor. You didn’t know I was watching as you kicked it several times across the floor and underneath the stove. When you turned and saw me standing there, your countenance dropped and shame flushed your features.

“Why did you do that?” I asked you. “Oh, sorry,” you said, flustered, and bent down to try and reach under the stove. “Melody, it’s clear from your reaction that you KNOW that was the wrong way to handle that. Why did you do it?” You dropped your eyes for a moment, then looked back up into my eyes. “I know it was wrong. I just didn’t feel like picking it up. I’m sorry and I won’t do it again.” I drew you close in a hug and thanked you for being honest with me.

After I thought about it a few minutes, I wanted to say more. So I told you that I was very proud of you for not making excuses and for being honest and owning your mistake. You and I have been talking more lately about the fact that Jesus lives in your heart and because you love Him, the best way to show it is to live in a way that pleases Him. And we know honesty makes Him happy. . .And I truly believe that owning a mistake makes Him happier than not making any. . .and so I told you this. I told you I see you growing in your faith and it makes my heart happy.

This little moment in time might seem insignificant to many, but not to me. Because I parented you with a lot of punishment as a toddler, you learned to do what you could not to get in trouble. Since we’ve been trying to focus more on discipling you than training your behavior, this small incident was a huge window into the fact that you’re getting it. You’re learning that being honest about your feelings and motivations is more important than dodging our displeasure. And I hope it means I’m doing a better job encouraging that level of honesty in you. . .helping you understand that you can be honest with me about anything and trust me to respond the right way.

Because I want to know you, little girl. The sweet parts and the broken human parts. The kind, thoughtful parts and the selfish, fearful parts. All of you. And by knowing you and loving all the parts of you, I’m learning a bit more about how to love all the parts of me. Thank you for sharing yourself with me today.

Love, Mama