Tuesday, May 10, 2011

pondering practice for the big one

We have an explosive daughter.


And I am NOT talking about the one who is adopted. Nope, she's home bred and born. So what's the deal? Beats me. An observer once noted, "She has a lot of passion." (oh, you have no idea!) She also has the most tender spirit (this is the one who bawled like a baby when I told her the story of Noah's Ark - other kids were like, "oh cute! animals!" but not her - she was inconsolable because "all those people died, Mommy!") Truly she is full up with life. But it's hard to contain such a spirit within an 8 year old's life-skill-set and maturity level. In fact, sometimes it's plain impossible.

Tonight was one of those sometimes. Just a bad night. B-a-d. I credit my husband for staying calm and steady through attempts to help her with math homework. But eventually I stepped in and "called it", gently declaring that it was now time for her to go to bed. The explosion worsened, of course. Thank God this was one of those times we both remembered to be the grown ups and not let her push our buttons. (remember my post on labor breathing? well, there's that ... and wine. definitely wine.)

She begged for mercy. For another chance. But we were solid in our decision, and the realization of that frustrated her all the more. Picture an episode of Super Nanny.

So what does mercy do in such a situation? I wrote some time ago that I believe when the world says "you made your bed, now lie in it!" that grace says "skooch over" and crawls right in there with ya.

So ... I did that.

When I went into her room I noticed that she'd taped a poster to the wall that had her name on it, a drawing of herself with a horrible face, and the words "Wanted: Dead!" Nice. So we were to the self-berating part of this drama. I didn't react except to say, "Well, that's a lie", then crawled up next to her. Her fitful cries slowly subsided as she snuggled in close to me.

Eventually, I felt her entire body relax. We just laid there breathing together for the longest time.

Then out of the blue she said, "Mom, do you really think cock-roaches were on the Earth before dinosaurs?"



We went from 9.8 on the Richter scale to a calm, thoughtful discussion about the possibilities of theistic evolution in less than ten minutes time.

Several more minutes of deep, slow breathing and silent cuddling were then followed by, "Mom, what's it like at college?"

Where were these questions coming from? And just how intense is that little brain of hers? I have no idea. But I know this.

If we'd screamed back at her, yelled louder than her, threatened her, if we'd "won" somehow because we're bigger ... I'd never have gotten to hear those questions.

And if we'd sent her to her room to sulk alone, slammed the door with all the satisfaction that brings and left her there to eventually cry herself to sleep ... I'd never have gotten to hear those questions.

And if we'd let her go on exploding all night long, wreaking havoc and piling up more regret for herself later, if we hadn't stepped in and said, "enough, you're done" ... I wouldn't have gotten to hear those questions.

Just as I was thinking she might actually be asleep, she got up out of bed. "Hang on," she said sleepily. She walked over to the wall, tore down the poster, balled it up and threw it in the trash can. As she crawled back into bed and snuggled in close to me, I smiled. This time - this one moment - I got it right. Every fiber of me knew that.

Please God, please let me get it right when it really matters.

I heard Wisdom say, It matters now. This is practice for "the big one" (or "ones"). How you respond when she's out of control because her math homework is too hard is what she will expect from you when the worst happens. Every time you walk through this cycle and come out again on the other side together, the bond grows stronger. It matters now.

So this is practice for whatever lies ahead. I think I get that. Oh, it's exhaustively hard, but the payoff is beautiful so far. Father, keep me ...

Here's my concern: that you care for God's flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.
~Peter's first letter, the fifth chapter


christina britt lewis said...

ohmygoodness, you've got me all weepy again. please keep writing about parenting. so many confused young parents who follow tradition rather than the Spirit and wonder why their children hate them. keep writing.

Cammie Howard said...

Way to go Michelle! Beautiful parenting picture-thank you!

Bergy said...

Oh my! So many times have I been down this road. Certainly have felt those moments that said "I got it right" and of course the moments I knew I blew it. Reminding ourselves we are in training is a great reminder of how this parenting thing works. :)Good thoughts!

m. said...

wow. you inspire me. love, love, love the mercy & grace you show others.

(ps: is it terrible that I laughed out loud about her "wanted" poster? that is SO something my dramatic 8-year-old self would've done- she is, like, the epitome of me at that age.)