Daughter has entered that in between stage, too old for baby things and too young for tween things. She is caught between desperately wanting hugs, cuddles and nurturing and I am too old, too cool, too whatever for all that.
The stage where you hear, “Don’t call me Pumpkin Zoofie (don’t ask) in front of people, only at home!” and “I can do it (the things you have been doing forever) myself!” The stage where the horrifying words “I hate you!” escape her lips in great drama followed by tears, apologies and grand expressions of love and affection.
It is the start of the life-long war between accountability and grace and it is up to you, the parent, to decide which is to be the victor in each instance. Yours is the battlefield for “Train(ing) up a child in the way he should go.” Proverbs 22:6.
It is a scary proposition to be the coach of a precious life looking to you, fighting with you, testing you, seeking wisdom and discernment, love and affection, and wanting freedom and independence all before the hormones kick in!
I picked daughter up from school the other day, as I usually do, and somewhere between the school parking lot and our front door came the words “You are the worst mom ever!”
I found myself faced with the temptation of letting the absentminded, emotionally charged and dramatic sentiments of a seven-year-old trying to figure it all out and get her own way give me pause and draw me into self-doubt.
I was at a crossroads. Do I give in to the button she so effectively pushed, igniting my own insecurities and fears? Do I pursue the route of accountability and how far do I take it? What about grace?
Fortunately for me and unfortunately, but really fortunately, for daughter, I am wise to the words of condemnation, the attempt at deflection, to focus on my “poor” parenting rather than her taking ownership of her own poor choices. I have already journeyed down this path with stepdaughter from nine to nineteen and counting. I know this trick well and I know what is coming.
I was not deterred by her exacerbated and baiting statement that she came to regret as soon as she said it. Instead I was able to recognize that I have an obligation to teach daughter about choosing her words carefully, meaning what she says and being accountable for the consequences of her statements and actions.
It was not easy. She put up a great fight. Her continually evolving recant of the morning was significantly different from mine. Without killing you with the blow by blow of our “food fight”, the bottom line was she absolutely did not want to eat the sandwich and I absolutely wanted her to eat at least part of it as she asked for it and had even gone so far as to confirm the choice that very morning.
Still, I had to determine the right thing to do, which felt especially challenging having been worn down from the whole encounter thus far. The easy thing to do would have been to accept her apology, tell her that next time she needs to eat what she asks for and let her have what she wants.
The hardline would have been to say you asked for it, I confirmed it and you will eat it in its present condition, which by that time was mangled and smashed as she twisted the bag and banged it on the seat with each and every scream and sob on the ride home.
I managed to step back long enough to realize that I do the same thing to my Heavenly Father. I deflect. I cover up, I throw fits. I regret my behavior. I seek forgiveness and beg for absolution with no ill effect.
I am forever thankful that God is merciful and grace-filled and that, because of Jesus, I am forgiven. I also know that His forgiveness is not a “get out of jail free card.”
It is darn hard being the parent, making these choices, praying they are the right ones for life lessons. Here is what I have learned over the years:
- Do NOT take anything spoken to or yelled at you in anger personally.
- Do NOT get sucked in to any negative self-talk no matter what nerve was hit.
- Have all parties TAKE A TIMEOUT to calm down and assess the situation.
- The child yelling at you certainly needs your assistance to get out from under the nightmare they are creating. They need your help to calm down, refrain from disrespectful behavior and think through their predicament and course of action.
- You need a timeout to calmly and rationally think through the situation and the appropriate consequence.
- Prayerfully seek the outcome that reflects Christ’s love, grace and accountability.
- Take time for restoration. Deliver the consequence and move on. Don’t dwell on their iniquity which only tears them down. Find something else to talk about or do and let it go.
- Show love! Little kids, ok all kids, just plain need a hug and reassurance that they are still loveable and that you still love them.
The outcome for daughter was this, I made her a new half of sandwich (grace) that she reluctantly and unhappily ate (consequence). She apologized and I accepted (forgiveness). We briefly discussed the importance of taking the time to think about what we say and be prepared to receive the consequence of our words (restoration). We hugged (love) and then we worked on a coloring project (let it go).
I am proud of my new title, “Worst Mom Ever” because it means I am doing my job. I am not here to be her friend. I am here to do the best that I can with an extreme amount of help from God, to “train (her) up in the way she should go.”
Blessings to all of you who share my space of Worst Mom Ever, NOT!