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Practicing Instantaneous Forgiveness

Maddie’s in the midst of a bad patch
discipline-wise; she seems to have a mini- (or maxi-) meltdown
several times a day. We’ve got a “routine” down
for handling the blowups, which is good, since we get plenty of
opportunities to practice it. I think the world’s a tough
place for her right now: she’s incredibly bright and is
learning at an astonishing pace, and sometimes it’s hard to
keep up with everything she’s being bombarded with. Feelings,
emotions, the appropriate way to express them, are all hard to get
under her own control and channel responsibly. I can’t
imagine what it must be like to be learning how to handle yourself
and function in society while still trying to make sense of your
own tiny day-to-day world.

But Maddie’s in luck – she’s not the only one
learning something valuable through all of this. Mommy and Daddy
are having to work something new into their emotional repertoire,
as well – instant forgiveness.

Here’s how a typical meltdown
happens: I am outside playing with Maddie. I warn her that we need
to come inside, giving her the ten, five, two, and one-minute
warnings. Time’s up and she doesn’t want to come in. I
tell her to walk inside by the count of three or I’ll pick
her up. She doesn’t, so I pick her up. She freaks at not
being able to walk in and starts kicking and screaming. I hold her
firmly and tell her that if she doesn’t stop kicking there
will be no tricycle riding after her nap. Still screaming and
kicking about not being able to walk, she now ratchets it up a
notch and her cries are piercingly painful, while her flailing
lands a few choice kicks in my stomach.

At this point I put her in a break – continuing to take away
privileges would be pointless until she calms down. She screams in
her room a while longer, but eventually stops crying. I go in and
we talk through what happened, discussing where she disobeyed, what
the consequences of that disobedience are (no tricycle), and how
she made that choice to disobey. Then we talk about her feelings
and how hard it was to calm down, and why she needed the break.
When I am sure she understands what she did wrong and why I was
displeased, I remind her that she needs to apologize to me for
disobeying/kicking/whatever. Usually she’ll do this right
away, but sometimes she refuses and spends more time in a break
until she’s ready.

“Sorry Mommy,” she’ll say around her hiccups, her
cries having a last hurrah. And then it’s my turn:

“I forgive you, kiddo.” And then we hug.

Sounds easy, right? But it’s really really not. My kid just
screamed my ear off, leaving me partially deaf, and my stomach
still hurts from her kicks. Not to mention the fact that I’m
now 20 minutes late getting dinner started, and Cora’s been
crying the whole time because of Maddie’s screaming. So
I’ve got a splitting headache and I’d rather be doing
ANYTHING other than taking care of this brat in front of me.

But I’m the model she looks up to for everything, and
I have to remember that. I’m teaching her not just how to say
please and thank you, but how to fight with her future spouse.
I’m teaching her what to expect from other people. And most
importantly to me, I’m trying to model what Jesus asks us to
do. So I don’t have the luxury of holding a grudge, sulking,
pouting, or trying to make her feel bad for a while. I am charged
with the responsibility of showing her that when she asks for
forgiveness, it’s given. End of statement. That doesn’t
mean she escapes the consequences of her actions – she still
doesn’t get to ride the tricycle – but she does get a
fresh start to our relationship.

I’ve never been good at this: I’m an expert at sleeping
just on my side of the line of demarcation down the middle
of the bed, making Brian feel my frosty presence even as I
deliberately hover mere millimeters from him, refusing to touch but
constantly reminding him of my anger. I’m very good at NOT
burying the hatchet and wearing my righteous indignation like a
flag, at saying I forgive while every action screams,
“You must continue to pay! I haven’t finished
emotionally punishing you!”

Did I learn this from others in my family? Probably. Do I blame
them for it? Nope – I’m an adult and can make my own
choices now. But I choose to have this behavior end with me. I
choose to NOT let my daughter see this and think it’s how
fights end. I choose to teach her that my yes means yes, and my no
means no.

I choose to make her better than me.

So I continue to work at dropping my emotions and having the
ability to open my arms with a wide smile when Maddie apologizes to
me. I’m definitely a work-in-progress on this, but I struggle
willingly because my daughters are worth it. And someday, their
husbands and children will thank me for it, whether they realize it
or not.


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