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Seeing Fruit

Sometimes, you go through a hard emotional growth spurt with your kids. You have days when they seem to jump from disobedient act to intentional meanness to flagrant testing with nary a pause in between, and if you’re like me you’re driven to your knees several times a day, begging for patience and wisdom.

I’ve been through a lot of that with Maddie this fall. Even starting in the summer, her ego-centricity was breathtaking. Cutting in front of kids waiting patiently in line – not even noticing the other kids, really. Ripping Cora to shreds with a few careless words about the quality of work in a painting Cora just finished. Fighting vehemently with her sister for a toy she didn’t even really want – she just didn’t want her sister to have it.

I’ve been praying hard for Maddie, knowing that there are some things that are simply Not My Job, and changing my child’s heart is one of them. I’ve tried to be patient, trusting God that His seeds will take root and bloom in that sweet girl’s heart.

And recently, I’ve seen signs of new growth.

Over the past couple weeks, Maddie has turned over quite a new leaf, and without fanfare or yelling. Last week I was working in the kitchen one Saturday morning when Maddie said from the living room, “Mommy, when it’s convenient for you, would you mind helping me find my sweater please?”

I’m sorry, could you repeat that? Into a tape recorder?

Yes, my self-focused child spoke politely, taking my feelings into consideration, putting herself humbly at the end of my to-do list. Her communication with adults has changed a lot this fall, and while I’d love to point to some magic lesson I taught her, it’s simply something that’s worked its way into her heart on her own.

But as happy as I am with the way she considers me or other adults and she asks us for help, I’m over the moon with the way she’s been treating Cora. That little girl absolutely adores her big sister, and Maddie can crush Cora with a single careless – or deliberate – word. The times, though, are changing.

Last week Cora asked me if she could have a piece of candy after school, and when I said no it was apparently the last straw at the end of a very long day: Cora melted. Hard. But bless her heart, Cora stormed off to the laundry room to sob on the floor behind closed doors and work it out herself, rather than kick and scream at Mommy.

A few minutes later I walked by, knocked hesitantly and said, “Cora, it’s Mommy – can I come in?”

“Go AWAY please!”

That would be a “no”.

Several more minutes passed while I stayed far from the door. When I ventured back over to listen and see if she’d calmed down, though, I heard the low murmur of two voices. I tiptoed over and listened, and heard Maddie in there with Cora. Maddie had brought Cora a sticker mosaic to work on, and sat on the floor patiently handing Cora one sticker at a time while Cora filled in her mosaic – and talked about her bad day with her sissy.

Yeah, I almost started crying, too.

I asked Maddie later about the incident, and she shrugged it shyly off. “I just thought it might help her calm down, and she was fine letting me come in. I didn’t do any of the mosaic myself, I promise! I just held the stickers for her.”

I see little shoots of maturity all over the place here – when Cora decorated a pumpkin with paints and markers, Maddie gushed over it just the right amount – not so little it didn’t seem important, but not so much it felt false. Maddie offers Cora a piece of candy from Maddie’s candy jar, or tells me “thank you” when I make her favorite muffins without being asked. I’m seeing this shy new little adult-to-be coming out of her shell, and let me tell you, it’s beautiful.

I’m not saying she’s a perfect kid now: she still has magnificent storms sometimes, and if Bickering With Your Sister was an Olympic sport she’d be a gold medalist. But those times are outweighed by the times of new growth, and I’m loving seeing this change before my very eyes.

The hard work, the patience, the prayer is all bearing fruit, and that fruit is beautiful.


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