I hate to admit it, (and I know this will come as an absolute shock to many of you), but sometimes, I get unreasonably frustrated with Heather. As much as I would like to think that I am a perfect mother, one whose feathers never get ruffled, one who is always calm and serene and sees the big picture of how important the job of caring for this fragile and loved child of God is, the fact is, it just isn't always the case.
Several weeks ago, Heather did something that really frustrated me. She was jumping on the couch (which is a no-no, but a no-no that is only enforced by me), and as she jumped, she inadvertently dislodged my beloved Ott Lite from the computer desk, causing it to fall to the floor, and breaking the ($30) bulb in the process. I was unhappy, to say the least. Okay, let's just be honest. I was angry. As I told Heather in a not-very-nice or patient or kind tone of voice exactly how unhappy (angry) I was with what she had done, her face screwed up in an expression of intense remorse, and she started sobbing and sobbing.
Of course, I felt terrible at that point, full of regret at my misappropriation of priorities, putting the feelings and self-worth of my daughter below a light bulb, even a $30 one. (Now, to be clear, what Heather was doing was wrong, and she should have been obedient to me. But, my reaction was not at all in proportion to her crime, and certainly anger wasn't an appropriate response on my part.) I scooped Heather up in my arms, and rocked her back and forth saying, "I'm so sorry. It's okay. You're only three."
* * *
Fast forward to last Thursday night:
Heather wanted cereal for supper (she had eggs for breakfast). Eric had poured her some cheerios, and she was sitting under the table, eating them. It had been a long day (who am I kidding--it had been a long week!), and I was tired (hence the cheerios for supper). I was puttering around, straightening up the kitchen, when I noticed Heather under the table. I told her to please sit up at the table, that we don't eat our cereal under the table. Heather got up, taking her bowl to Eric (who was in the laundry room) to ask him to pour some milk in her bowl. I asked her what she was doing, and when she explained it, told her that I could put some milk in her bowl if she would take it to the table as I had asked.
Just then, something happened, and the next thing we knew, the bowl was empty and the floor was covered in dry cheerios. Heather immediately dropped to the floor and started scooping cheerios off the floor and into her bowl, saying, "Sorry mom, it was an accident."
I sighed in frustration, and told Heather (not angrily, but somewhat sternly) that this was why I had wanted her to sit at the table with her food and not carry it around with her. Then I joined her on the floor, picking up the cheerios as well. We'd been doing that for about 5 seconds when Heather looked up at me with a fearful half-smile that was about an inch away from tears and with a quivery voice said, "It's okay mom, I'm only three."
I looked back at her, and with a big smile, said "Right!" The fearful-verge-of-tears look fled from her face as she grinned back at me, knowing that all was forgiven. Then we laughed as we finished cleaning up the mess.
* * *
This morning, as I was bustling around, trying to get out the door for work, I stepped on one lone cheerio from that day, and was reminded of that lesson. It's not all that profound, but in the hustle and bustle of mothering, and especially mothering around the holidays, I can use a reminder now and then that people are more important than things, and that love is more important than rules, even valid rules. Also, although I don't have a long history of mothering to look back on, I have a feeling that that it will end up being infinitely easier and better to clean up any number of messes than to have to regain the loving trust of my little girl, if I am so unfortunate as to lose it through careless angry words and actions.
This is getting more wordy than I was planning, so I'll just share one more thing along these lines.
Lately, I've found this scripture to be of particular help to me as I navigate the twists and turns of raising Her Little Highness:
No or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the , [or, in my case, parenthood/authority/etc.] only by , by -suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By , and pure , which shall greatly enlarge the without , and without — betimes with , when upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
The part that runs through my mind over and over is that last part, particularly this: " betimes with , when upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of toward him whom thou hast reproved . . ."
So, not being sharp all the time, but not being afraid to reprove (sans anger) when moved upon by the Holy Ghost. But then, being absolutely sure to show extra-loving love and affection afterwords.
I think if I can get to where that kind of parenting is second nature to me, Heather and I will both be all the better for it. It's a worthy goal.