“Mommy! Bethie’s trying to hurt me! Mommy, she’s going to hurt me! Mommy!” Ava, my three year old daughter, is sitting on the toilet, basically freaking out. She’s crying, and frantically pulling the toilet seat lid that’s behind her against her back as tightly as her little hands can, so that she’s sandwiched between the actual toilet seat and the toilet seat lid.
This same scene has been happening every afternoon for the past 2 weeks or so. One day Bethany, my 11 month old daughter, realized that while her older sister was ‘going poopies,’ she could pull herself up and stand right next to her sister. Unfortunately, Bethany has started to grab the toilet seat lid from behind Ava and slam it into Ava’s head. Needless to say, it’s been an unpleasant experience for Ava when Bethany grabs that lid. Hence, the freaking out on Ava’s part when Bethany starts crawling in her direction.
About 3 days ago, I decided that it was time for me to step in and stop Bethany’s little habit. It was time for me to teach Bethany that although she could stand next to Ava, she would NOT be allowed to even touch the toilet seat lid anymore. Ava, however, has still been crying at her sister’s approach. Her anxiety is obvious in her little hands clutching that toilet seat lid against her back with all of her strength.
In the midst of this potty dilemma the other day, Ava and I had a powerful conversation. Bethie was crawling towards Ava on the toilet. Ava was doing her routine of freaking out. I had been trying to counsel Ava to realize that her sister wouldn’t hurt her. Ava wasn’t listening. All of the sudden, I said to her,
That got her attention. I said,
“Your mommy is here.
Your mommy is your helper.
I will take care of Bethany.
I will teach her to not touch that part of the potty.
That’s MY job.
I am helping you.
You are safe.
I will not let her hurt you.
I want you to let go of the lid.
I want you to take a deep breath and relax.”
She half-way relaxed…and loosened her grip on the lid. I said,
“My job is to teach Bethie.
YOUR job is to sit on the potty and relax.
YOUR job is to trust your mommy. Trust that she’ll take care of Bethie.
YOUR job is NOT to teach Bethie or hold onto the lid so she doesn’t hurt you.”
Ava looked at me, and said, “But, Mommy, I want to hold onto the lid so that Bethie can’t get it. Is that the wrong thing to do?” I took a deep breath and said,
“Yes. That’s the wrong thing.
You need to let go of the lid and trust that Mommy will do her job.
You don’t have to do Mommy’s job.
The right thing for you to do is to SMILE and say, ‘My Mommy is my helper.
She will help me with Bethie.”
So we practiced saying that. We practiced smiling. We practiced deep breaths and relaxing.
It's kind of like interacting with GOD. 'What??' you think. But it's true. We tend to approach life like we're on our own. That's called 'False Gospel Thinking.' Then there's realizing that God is with me, that He's taking care of me, giving me significance and security. My pastor describes it this way:
“Gospel thinking focuses on: Who is God? What does God do?
Who am I as a result? What should I do as a result?
False Gospel thinking focuses on: What do I have to do? Who am I as a result?
What, then, must God do? And as a result, who is God?”
Ava started with False Gospel thinking: ‘I need to protect myself from getting hurt! If I can keep myself from getting smashed, I’m safe. If I can’t, I’m not safe. My Mommy has to keep Bethie from even standing up next to me. If she does, she’s helping me. If Bethie is allowed to stand next to me, she is not helping me and I am alone.’
The Gospel thinking order was completely opposite for her: ‘My Mommy is my helper. My Mommy is keeping me safe and teaching Bethie. As a result, I am safe. I can relax. I can smile. I don’t have to freak out.’
That situation spoke to me. I so often ‘clutch the toilet seat lid’ and freak out. I’m guessing we all do. God, give me grace to learn to do Gospel thinking well…then I can let go of the lid and take a deep breath.