It seemed like only 30 seconds elapsed, and my daughters are screaming at each other.
Sigh…all I’d like is a peaceful restroom break. Do I ask too much???
Bang, bang on the closed-door.
Zoe: “Mom! Sister hurt me!”
Sophia: “Well, it’s not MY fault that you wouldn’t do what I told you to do!”
Mommy: “Can I have some privacy, please??? Step away from the bathroom door, and leave my room. NOW!”
Love & Logic parenting FAIL! (Ugh…and the self-scolding begins…)
I’m in a grumpy referee frame of mind as I open the door. I’ve forgotten the importance of calming down and resetting.
“What happened?” I bark.
My daughters talk on top of each other, but I somehow figure out that Zoe was in Sophia’s room, and Sophia wanted her out. Zoe didn’t respond, so Sophia grabbed a limb and dragged her out. Now I understand why my youngest is crying and my oldest is bent on justifying herself.
Zoe: She dragged me!
Sophia: She was in my space and was being disrespectful!
“That’s it!” I shout above their complaints (which is no small vocal feat). “Both of you, into your own room! I will be with you shortly when time out is over.”
I have enough wits about me to walk away and do some deep breathing exercises. All three of us need an adult who is in control of herself.
I attend to Sophia, my oldest, first. I ask her to tell me what happened, and then intently listen. She feels unheard. Her sanctuary has been violated. She was just defending her territory and her honor. I empathize. It does stink when a person simply wants (needs) some time alone, and another person not only prevents that from happening with her uninvited presence, but rudely ignores requests for her departure. It’s also possible that Zoe outright refused to leave. (God bless her, she comes by her stubbornness naturally.)
The emotion is understandable, I tell Sophia. Your reaction out of it, however, is not. We do not hit or physically hurt one another in our family. What makes you think that is an option?
Sophia stammers and says something, but I am already far away. As soon as I ask her “What makes you think that is an option?” I know the answer, and quickly I am drowning in my own shame. She has experienced it. I have done it to her (before I learned about Love and Logic). And if it’s okay for Mom to do it, that must mean that it is okay to do.
Except that it’s not. It’s abuse, plain and simple. Perhaps it wasn’t defined this way in decades past, but it is now.
I did such a thing to Sophia (and to Zoe) because similar physical forms of discipline were done to me. My mother disciplined me that way because that’s the way that she was raised. I honestly wonder how many generations in my family I could go back and find children being abused by their parents.
I am an abuser.
I hear these words in my head. If it weren’t for Sophia’s efforts to explain and understand herself, and my efforts to follow her sustaining me, I would have lost it. I want to cower. I want to hide my face from my daughter who is looking at me in the eyes.
I am the one who is supposed to be protecting her and her sister, and here I am teaching them by terrible example the exact behavior I want to eradicate. Oh, Paul, I am SO with you…I do what I do not want to do, and I hate the things that I do (Romans 7: 14-25). What a miserable person I am! What an awful mother!
And yet, God graces me with this moment, graces me with another chance.
I take a deep, cleansing breath, and say to my firstborn with all of the earnestness I can muster…
I am sorry that I shouted at you earlier, honey. I am also sorry that I have done to you in the past what you did to your sister today. You got that idea from me. You somehow figured it is okay to grab and drag your sister because it has been done to you. Hear me now: it is NOT okay. No one should ever treat another person that way, especially family. Will you please forgive me?
Something in Sophia’s eyes shifts. She’s not just looking at me anymore, she’s looking into me. She smiles, and her eyes pour into me the empathy that I should have extended to her.
“Yes, Mommy, I forgive you.”
She wraps her arms around my neck and heals me with her touch. Her warm breath on my neck and in my ear breath new life into me. Her sweet, sweaty scent acts as a smelling-salt to rejuvenate my heart. She is a balm to my wounded-in-childhood soul, this child of mine. How can an 8-year-old be so mature?
We talk about how the situation could have gone better, decisions that Sophia could have made that would have been healthy and godly. Mostly, I ask questions and listen to her process.
I am uberly grateful. Grateful for second, third, fourth, nine millionth chances to parent my girls better. Grateful that God opened my eyes to how generational patterns are passed down. Grateful that God has convicted me that the buck stops with me. Grateful that my daughters will inherit much less baggage because we are solving problems and making changes for the better in the now. Grateful that through whatever humble work I have been doing and continue to do God is healing me and (hopefully) saving my daughters a significant amount in psychological care fees. Grateful for grace, redemption, and sanctification.
I go speak to Zoe next about respecting people and space. The conversation with her does not go quite as deep as the one I had with her sister, but it is important, too.
I’ll never know what clashes, crises, and calamities God is preventing by leading us through generational pattern-breaking conversations and times such as these. But I trust in faith that there are many.
Honestly, I’d rather not know. God knows, and that’s enough.
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; [God is]the one who will keep you on track (Proverbs 3:5-6, The Message).