Some of you may well know that my beautiful daughter is strong willed and temperamental, and I hate to say this, but she definitely has the only child syndrome. Alex has a lot of her daddy in her too; she loves to be ten steps ahead of herself, ergo she's a planner, and it's nearly impossible for her to sit and enjoy a moment without thinking about the next dozen things she wants to do. I know God has put all of this together to create a sheer force to be reckoned with, which I'm certain is meant to do two things: a) impact the world in some wild, amazing way and b) that God is teaching me something too. The irony of this mother daughter relationship, is that I don't really have any of these traits (I think). I'm pretty laid back, I like to sit and read all day if possible BY MYSELF, so as one can see, this often leads to a Clash of the Titans epic battle between my extremely social little girl and her more introverted mom.
She does share one quality with me that we both need to work through; although we sometimes put up a tough exterior, we are both overly sensitive and look into things too much. Here's how it went down....
After coming home from dinner, Alex gets her bike and plays with the neighborhood kiddos, and she was really excited when her neighbor pal asked her and another friend to sleep over that night. When the weather gets nice, Friday and Saturday nights often become a swarm of activity on our street of children playing and adults catching up. It's kind of like old school Brooklyn, and it's kind of nice. On this particular occasion, a makeshift ramp was set up in the street for the kids to ride their bikes over. Some of the adults got on bikes and gave it a go too. Because I thought this was so funny, I got out my video camera to capture the tom foolery because it was totally hysterical. As I'm capturing all of this madness, I'm giving everyone compliments on their "ramp" jumping. Alex's turn comes up, and I happen to give her a "nice try" rather than "good one." All of a sudden, my kid goes nuts. She didn't totally clear the ramp, so I think that played a part in it, but I'm capturing her tantrum on video. I will say that I had a reason for capturing this volcano erupt: I wanted her to see herself on video act like a two year old because we have been trying very diligently to get our seven year old to stop doing this (this is the hard part about being a parent; admitting that your kid isn't perfect). Well, she lost it, and she did the inevitable: she hit me, not once but three times and hard. I have it all on video.
I would like to tell you that my kid knows better, but apparently not. In the clutch situation, she reacted rather than using the good sense that Steve, Jesus, and I have put a lot of sweat and tears into. On top of this, the whole freaking neighborhood is there watching this like an audience in a movie. To say that I was embarrassed, is to speak lightly on every front of the situation. What did I do?
Well, as soon as she saw the look on my face, she immediately knew doom stood before her. I sternly told her to get into the house. Of course, because her stubborn side kicked in, she said no and fought me all the way to the house. Steve and I are not perfect, obviously, but we have agreed to do the disciplining in the privacy of our home. As she hyperventalated through tears in her room, and I attempted to calm down through my hurt and mortification downstairs, I found myself in tears. I don't know if anyone has ever done this, but I admit that I was. Frustration and confusion flooded through me because I know I've taught her to make different choices than this.
I went upstairs, laid out her punishment and then proceeded to dive through the sea of "why" she would do such a thing. She said I embarrassed her because I gave her a different compliment and she got angry at me. It was obvious to me that she wants to feel like she's one of the gang, and perhaps she feels different. This is a tough one, because a part of me is like ok, get over it, because everyone feels this way. The other side of me totally understands, and realizes that over the years, instead of trying to be apart of a "group," I protected myself by not becoming a part of any group and bouncing between different social groups, but not getting real deep into any one. I can see that this probably started in high school for me. I love my little girl so much, and like most parents, I hurt when she hurts, and rejoice when she's happy. This wasn't a great day for any of us.
Through the situation, I thought of two things that I heard over the last few years. The first thing was a radio program where a mom was recounting the story of when her 7 year old son spit in her face at the playground because he didn't want to leave. She described how all the moms were looking at her and waiting to see what she was going to do. She was mortified and confused as to why he would do this (understandable). The other sage insight was from the mom on one of my new favorite shows, 7 by Design on Bravo. She said that they love having all these kids because they enjoy the messiness of the process of raising children and also designing/renovating homes. Putting this all together, I realized that as a parent, it's inevitable that our kids are going to do the unspeakable, even after we thought we taught them better. This is part of that messy "process." Putting the other piece together, I remember what the mortified mom said on the radio in reaction to her son's spit in her face: it's about what you as a parent do when the kiddo does this, not about what they did. In other words, you must discipline immediately. Ok, check and check.
But honestly, it didn't make me feel any better. Alex herself said that she was "ashamed" of what she did as well as angry at herself. I was glad about this because I'm thinking that yes, the Holy Spirit is talking to her. Simultaneously, it's hard to see that because that's the part you can't control. That's the part where I had to take her in my arms and pray with her about this and give the situation to God and ask for wisdom, guidance, and forgiveness on every end. Not easy.
When Alex was born, I learned quickly to not say, "my kids will NEVER do that." I learned that with every day in the world of parenthood, anything is possible; it is the messy process. With great disappointments also come great joys: like last week when she made the swim team, or last month when she acted like a big sister to one of the little neighbor girls and gave her snack and walked her across the street, or the time the day she rode her bike without training wheels, or when she prayed for people in Haiti "to get food, water, houses, and safety," or even when she wanted to give her Easter money to her favorite radio station. That list goes on and on, and I have to remember this in moments like these.
Maybe I'm the only person who dives into these moments with such intensity, but I realize that Alex and I share this trait. I want her to value that about herself. Like all moments of disappointment, I know we'll get through this, and that it's not about what others think of us because they witnessed this. I'm sure some of them are questioning our parenting and others are saying, "been there." Either way, it's about us putting all we can into this work in progress and asking for God to lead the way. It's all we can do in the uncertainty.
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