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Breathtakingly Bold Disobedience

Our whole discipline thing with Maddie is
built around the ideas of obedience, choice and consequences. If
Maddie chooses to obey, the consequences are pretty wonderful; if
not, the consequences can be hard to take. We’ve been
following this for over a year now and she’s got a very clear
understanding of it, showing she clearly grasps what’s going
on when situations come up.

And by and large, though I moan about how
difficult the discipline thing is with her, truth be told
she’s a pretty great kid. Yes, I see a lot of rebellion some
days, but I can hunt it down to the underlying cause and address
the real issue, not the symptoms. For example, if she’s been
particularly short-tempered and impatient with Cora one day,
pushing her out of the way a lot and taking toys out of her hand,
it’s usually because she’s feeling threatened or
jealous and simply needs more Mommy time. So while she’ll
still get consequences – loss of privileges – from her
actions, I’ll try to help avoid putting her in that stress
place next time. We do breaks rather than time outs, the key
difference being that there’s no time limit to them –
it’s simply over when she’s calmed down and ready to
rejoin the family. Most times they work so well that she will often
request a break these days: if she’s had a series of bad news
delivered (no snack, then Cora gets to play with a favorite toy,
then it’s almost nap time) you can see her wrestling with her
emotions, and she’ll ask to take a break by herself in the
bathroom or another room for a few moments to calm down.

So as I said, she’s pretty great,
and usually her transgressions are the spur-of-the-moment,
emotional, impulsive sort, not the planned-out, deliberately bad

Which made yesterday’s incident all the more heartbreaking.

We’d been to a carnival at the library and they’d had a
series of games you could play with prizes. One of the prizes given
out was a tootsie roll, which promptly went in the bag. Maddie
immediately began asking if she could eat the candy, and I told her
no. “After lunch?” she asked. “No, honey,”
I replied. “After dinner?” she pressed. “Perhaps
– we’ll have to see how your day goes,” I

After we arrived home, Cora had a mini-meltdown and needed some
mommy rocking time. “Mommy, can I have the candy now?”
Maddie called after me as I walked away with Cora. “No,
honey, you may not,” I replied firmly, then sat down to
snuggle for a few minutes.

Once Cora calmed down I realized Maddie’d been very quiet the
whole time. I came out into the living room to see Maddie
disappearing behind the dining room drapes. “Maddie?” I
called, “Are you going poopy?” I saw her shake her head
no, but she still didn’t talk.

And then I knew.

“Oh, honey, are you eating the candy?” I asked sadly.
Maddie nodded, and slowly came out of the curtains to stand in
front of me. “That choice makes me really sad,” I said,
“and you need to spit the rest of it out into my hand.”
She did so, looking shamefaced but not too upset about it.

“Maddie,” I continued, “because of this
you’ve lost your video for the day, and you’re not
going to have any treats for a week now. And this makes me sad
since you were going to get to eat it tonight after dinner, but you
disobeyed me and went into the bag and deliberately got it out,
knowing you weren’t allowed to eat it.”

“But Mommy,” she protested, “I didn’t go
into the bag to get the candy. I just wanted to get out my balloon
animal, and I’m allowed to get that out! And when I was
getting that out, I saw the candy, and I really wanted it.”

“I know, honey,” I said gently, “and I can
completely understand feeling that way. Seeing something you
can’t have is very tempting, isn’t it? But if
you’d only been obedient, you would’ve had the candy a
few hours from now, and you could’ve had ice cream or
whatever treat we might have this weekend. So because you gave in
to temptation, you lost a lot of freedom, didn’t you?”
She nodded.

Later, at naptime during prayers, we confessed the transgression
and talked about it a bit more. I told Maddie that I wasn’t
mad, just sad, and that this disobedience felt different because it
seemed more deliberate. I made sure she knew that even though
she’d disobeyed I still loved her and I forgave her.
“Does that mean I get my video back?” she asked
hopefully. “No, honey, there are still consequences for your
actions, but you should know your actions will never separate us,
and I’ll always love you and forgive you.”

She’s been pretty ok with the whole situation, telling Gamma
and Daddy all about it in a very truthful manner and taking the
video loss in stride, though the loss of future treats still
stings. When she was hiding in the curtains from me, I was so
struck by the similarity between her actions and Adam and Eve
hiding in the garden from God after they ate the apple, ashamed of
what they’d done and full of the knowledge of their sin. I
guess we’re all destined to make the same bad choices, and
Maddie choosing to eat an unauthorized tootsie roll, while
seemingly trivial in itself, signals the start of a life-long
struggle she’s going to have as she chooses the kind of
person she’s going to be.

So I’m probably making way too much about this, but it makes
me very sad, and my heart grieves for her. Yesterday Maddie took
one more step towards being a grown-up, away from innocence, and
these are the kinds of steps I wish I could shield her from, keep
her away from. Being a parent isn’t just letting your kid
make her own mistakes, it’s letting your kid choose to be
sinful, knowing that if you didn’t it wouldn’t be free

And if I grieve this much for her, how much more does God grieve as
we constantly make the same stupid choices on much bigger levels,
over and over again.


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