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Spectacularly Bad Days

I’ve been a bit scattered in my
blogging the past couple of weeks – largely because during my
kid-free “down time”, I’ve been ingesting copious
amounts of alcohol.


A little bit.

For whatever reason, the girls have been
on a tear recently, and we’ve encountered a few painfully bad
discipline days. We’re talking about the day Cora locked me
out of the house, with a grilled cheese burning on the stove, and
laughed at me. Or the time (yesterday) when Maddie ran away from me
in the middle of the post office, and I had to chase her all over
the space, stepping out of line, while she screamed
half-laughingly. And then screamed the whole rest of the time we
were there, since I refused to put her down after I caught her; it
was the consequence I’d told her she’d get for running
away, and I refused to give in, even as twenty strangers watched my
four-year-old thrash in my arms and scream. Loudly.

Or how about the day Maddie refused to get dressed until almost
lunch time? She gave up all the privileges I took away with calm
and detachment, and stayed in her room as ordered until she got
dressed – for lunch. One of the privileges she lost was the
right to go to the library that day and get new books, which was
thankfully the only thing we had on our calendar that morning.

I could, of course, have forcibly dressed her myself, just as I
held her at the post office and contained her by brute force, but
there comes a point when physically exerting my will on my child
becomes counter-productive; they both have to learn that they truly
have free will, and the choices they make will have horrible
consequences sometimes. Maddie sobbed for quite a while after the
post office, saying how unfair it was that Cora got to walk around
still and she didn’t, and how much Maddie hated that.

I’ve explained to Maddie that with free will comes choice,
and she can choose to obey or not, as she wishes. Maddie and I
talked at length last night about how the post office was the
perfect example of the freedom that comes through obedience: Cora
was obedient, and had the freedom to walk around the space as long
as she obeyed- staying within my eyesight. Maddie disobeyed, and
lost the freedom to walk around. Her choice to run away from me and
hide– which felt like freedom at the time – actually
cost her that same freedom.

This is, of course, an issue we all wrestle with ourselves, in our
relationships with God. Obey His rule about that one dang apple
tree, and we’re free to roam about paradise at will. Disobey,
and the consequences are disastrous. I myself am far from perfect
in my obeying my Father, and can only hope that Maddie learns from
my lectures as much as – if not more than - she learns from
my example.

The problem with this learning curve is that the person suffering
the consequence isn’t always alone in the consequences of her
actions. Just as an innocent child may suffer the consequence of
someone else choosing to drive drunk, the innocent daughter will
reap the negative results of a sibling’s disobedience. Maddie
disobeys, and Cora loses the right to go to the library as well.
Try explaining that to a two-year-old.

Maddie’s largely been the ringleader on this rampage, with
Cora following admiringly behind. And I know Maddie’s simply
defining her boundaries and making sure I’m there in a
consistent and comforting way. I get that, I really do.

But several nights, when the girls are in bed, and the best I can
say about my parenting that day is that I didn’t hit either
one of them, I reflect on how nice it’d be to see the bottom
of a wine bottle. I mean, glass. I get frustrated, and walk out of
the room with tightly controlled anger, saying only, “Mommy
needs a break” before taking a few moments to calm myself. I
see the worry in Maddie’s eyes, that uncertainty, and I worry
myself that the uncertainty is about my feelings for her.

Yesterday, when we got in the car after the post office –
where, by the way, I’d kept my cool the whole time, thank you
very much – I turned around in the car seat and smiled at the
girls. “Mommy?” Maddie asked timidly. “Yes,
Maddie?” I answered.

“Was that smile for me, or for Cora?”

“It was for both my beautiful girls – didn’t it
feel like it was coming right at you?” I asked, wanting to
make sure Maddie knew she’d been forgiven.

“Well, it did, but I was worried. I saw those lines on your
forehead while we were inside, and I worry those mean you
don’t like me right now. Sometimes I think that’s what
they mean.”

And those fears are what make me dig deeper into my pocket of
patience and remember that no matter what, I’m the mommy, and
I’m always supposed to be the bigger person.

And bigger people are allowed a glass of wine at night.


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