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September 30, 2012

Parenting is hard work.  How’s that for an understated sentence?  Not only does one sacrifice sleeping at night, savoring meals on a regular basis (versus inhaling food), and having more spending money, but one must sacrifice a bit of his/her will if one is to be a good parent.

It was one of *those* afternoons for Madeleine.  Two minutes before we needed to leave, she decided she was in fact going to her soccer pictures, only after I assured her there was no reason to wear her shin guards.  We amazingly made it in time, but it wasn’t without a lot of rushing, some cajoling earlier, and a bit of defiance from my girl.  Three hours later we repeated the whole ordeal again, this time about coming inside (from a neighbor’s house) so I could make supper.  In the process, Madeleine lost her TV for the week (her response–I don’t care.  It gives me more time to do homework.)  Once she finally made it inside, I attempted to talk to her about her behavior.  I was met with an attitude of nonchalance….she didn’t know and she didn’t care.

I kept pushing her and she kept digging herself into a hole deeper and deeper.  I couldn’t get her to engage with me and actually talk to me, and her attitude continued to get uglier.  I felt myself getting frustrated with trying to communicate with Madeleine and the anger started to rise.

A rare thing occurred in that moment.  I looked at Madeleine and for an instance, I saw her for who she was, not who I was changing her into in that situation.  Sitting on the floor across the room from me was a hurt, sad little girl, who didn’t know how to leave the path she had chosen for herself.  For a change, I recognized that I was the adult and it was my job to help her find the way back to the light, out of the darkness she felt herself plunging into.  I called her over to me, knelt on the floor and pulled her into a hug.  She stood there, not hugging me back at first, only putting her arms around me after I had held her for a while.  I sat, my back against the refrigerator and held her in my lap, not unlike how I held her when she was a year….eighteen months….three years old.

“That must have embarrassed you when I scolded you in front of your friends.”  I eventually said.  She nodded and tears came to her eyes.  She snuggled closer in and we continued to talk, mostly me asking questions and Madeleine responding with a nod or shake of her head.  After a bit, we were ready to let go of each other.

I thought about everything that occurred and realized that too often, I fail to see Madeleine, in particular, as a hurt not-quite-big-yet girl.  Because her words can bite so hard, because she is so good at pushing my buttons, she brings out that part of me I’m not proud, the part that forgets who she is.  I respond with scolding instead of hugging too often.  I forget what it must feel like to be 7.  I forget that I am responsible teaching her how to do things she doesn’t want to do, without reverting to belligerence.  I forget that we are both beloved children of God and I fail to see the light in her, when it’s obscured by the clouds she feels.

We came back to that incident a couple of times before bedtime.  She started the conversation by drawing pictures for me, starting with what thoughts filled her “bad head.”  I watched her recover, as each drawing moved her a bit closer to her “good head.”   Later, I talked about my side of it all….how her behavior pushed me down a path as well, one I didn’t want to take, where I couldn’t back down.  We talked about next time.  What can we both do differently….she can be a first time listener, I can listen to what her alternative plan is and honestly consider it.  That’s a win/win…mostly because she tends to come up with really good alternative plans and I don’t get frustrated because she’s not listening.

Hopefully, both of us learned something this afternoon.  Even more so, I hope that we can remember what we’ve learned so we don’t need to repeat our mistakes over and over and over.

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