If there's a strict parent and an easy-going parent in this household here on Sassafras Street, I'm DEFINITELY the laid-back parent. Typically TOO laid-back.
It's hard for me to be 'on top' of our two girls' behavior. I tend to let too many things slide and it always comes back to bite me. It just doesn't come natural to me.
Our first daughter Ava has been having a lot of episodes recently where she complains and talks back and whines. I've been trying to follow my husband's lead and jump on these instances of talking in ways that we don't want to talk to each other in our house. I've been really working on trying to catch her, to NOTICE when she's doing it (because naturally, I won't even notice it; I'll just reply), and being firm in my response.
Now that I'm working on noticing it and correcting her, though, it can tend to irritate me because she persists in talking that way. And I've been trying to talk in a serious tone, letting her know by my words, tone, and consequences that the way she's talking is unacceptable.
This morning was one of those times. Three instances piled up on each other very quickly.
First, she was complaining in a whiny voice about me not letting her wear her 'cape' outside to run some errands. I said calmly, "No, you can't wear the blanket that's tied around your neck outside." "Why not???" "Well, it's raining and the blanket will get wet and dirty." "No it won't." "Actually it will. You can't wear it." "But can I just wear it in the car?" "no, not today." "WHYYYYY?????????" And so on and so forth.
Next, she was complaining about me asking her to sit on the potty and try to go to the bathroom before we got in the car. "Will I have to sit here for 100 years?!?!" she asked in a voice full of tears. And when I tried to reason with her about the time frame she's be expected to 'try' for, she always had to have the last word and last complaint.
Then, a few minutes after leaving her 'hundred years' of sitting on the potty, her younger sister picked up a rock that Ava has deemed 'hers.' So she started crying right away. I reminded her to ask for help, and I said, "Remember who your Big Person is that loves to help you..." (meaning me). She said, "I don't know who will help me." (Definitely a defiant comment if you could've heard her tone). Then, "But Mommy, she's going to BREAK it." I said, "Ava, do I let your sister break your things that are important to you?? I will help you." She, of course, in the mood she was in, replied, "Yes, you let my stuff me broken all the time."
At that point, I did what I should have done much earlier. I sent her to the steps to take a break until she could remember how we want her to talk, and until she was peaceful.
It was time to go in the car, so after a few minutes on the steps, I brought her into the car and I proceeded to try to address the situation. So I lectured her strongly. I told her the ways she had been talking and how that was unacceptable and we would not allow it. I told her she would not wear her cape for the rest of the day. I felt angry and I talked to her in a strong way that allowed her to see that I was angry.
Then my husband, my wonderful, discerning husband, started talking as we drove down the road. And everything changed.
He told her, "Ava, Mommy's right. We can't let you talk like that. Ava, we love you too much to let you talk like that. Some girls who are 17 and 16 and 19 and 25 do not talk right or kind to people because no one ever taught them when they were a little girl. And we want to teach you Ava. We want to join with God to RESCUE you, Ava. We want to rescue from talking like that. We want to show you that there's another way to talk, another way to say what you need. We are not angry at you. We are not disappointed in you. We are happy with the way you are. There are many times you speak kindly; there are many times you talk in a sweet and peaceful way. We are just noticing that there are some times when we need to teach you how to talk. We want you to be more free for your light to shine" (we talk a lot about eltting her light shine to others around her). And he continued on, laying out her consequence and our plan on how to teach her another way.
For me, that was a game-changing speech. To you it might seem like run-of-the-mill, everyday parenting stuff. But for me, it was like my eyes were opened.
The goal of addressing her complaining is not to vent my anger or my frustration, or to communicate that I'm disappointed. I realized that in my attempt at firmness, I was leaning towards angry lectures that were more about her 'getting it right' and not continuing to do this wrong thing. Wow! That is SO NOT how God interacts with ME about MY sin!!! When He corrects me, it's always a gentle invitation to something better. To leave the old, yucky, sinful behind and move into His much better ways. God would want me to see Ava's struggle the same way. I have the opportunity to invite her to something better, a better way of interacting, of expressing herself, of communicating. God is wanting to use me, as her mom, to rescue her. I can be very happy, instead of very annoyed, and still firmly show her another way.
And you know what else? It was like as I was sitting there, listening to my husband, it was like I felt God gently telling me, "Yes, I want to use you to help Ava let her light shine even more. But I am also doing this to help you let YOUR light shine more, too. As you interact with Ava in this new way I'm inviting you to, firmness in the flow of happily rescuing Ava with Me, YOUR light will shine to her even more as her mom. I'm inviting you to something better, another way."
I'm so thankful. I really don't have what it takes to be a mom. I don't have the insight, the skills, the competency. But God does. He has everything I need, and He brings it to me just when I need it. He offers another way.