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On Obedience and Biking

On Friday, I read through Crystal’s article on Kindness vs. Obedience. I thought it was a good article and filed it away in my “Things to remember” memory part of life.

Cue this last Sabbath afternoon.

The girls and I went to the park while Daddy was otherwise occupied. Sweetness rode her bike and I pushed Light in her stroller. The park was a blast as always. Lots and lots of lots of time on the swings and the slide. Light is really loving the park nowadays and quite the daredevil for being one year old. 😉

Before meltdown city could start to occur, we said good-bye to the park and started off. At least, I tried to do that. Sweetness had gotten on her tricycle and was taking off while I was still trying to round up Light and convince her that it was time to jet.

“Sweetnees, stop.”

She looked back at me.

“Stop now!”

Mild panic because she’s getting to the end of the block and Lightness and I are right by the road so I can’t abandon her to chase down the 2 year-old.

Super-stern voice. “Sweetness, stop now!”

She got to the shade and stopped. My heart skipped a few beats and I ran and caught up with her.

“Honey, when Mommy says stop, you need to stop now.”

“Okay, Mommy.”

We got to the corner and checked to see if there were any cars coming. No cars, so we crossed the road. I got slightly ahead of Sweetness as she stopped to take in the sight of a running squirrel.

“Mommy, stop! Stop and wait for me!”

“Okay honey, I will. I’ll stop.” And I kept on going until I hit the shade, which was just a few feet away. I looked back to see Sweetness frantically pedaling to catch up with me and yelling, “Mommy, stop and wait!”

Then it hit me. My daughter wasn’t being bad earlier. She was just doing to me what I had done to her. On our walks, I had constantly told her I’d stop and then keep going if she hadn’t caught up to me fairly quickly.

How could I expect her to be obedient and respectful when I didn’t comply with her urgent requests? She didn’t realize the danger she could be in and why I wanted her to stop. I didn’t realize how desperate she was that I wait and be a companion to her on her rides.

Man, I really need to work on this. I need to respect her so that she will respect me. How can I do any less, when she really will do what I do, not what I say?

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Trigger words

There are certain words that we hear a lot that can trigger strong emotions on our parenting journey. I know I have several that make me cringe; do you have any?

Some of these are:

Defiant

Sinful nature of independence

Self-willed

Rebellion

Disobedience

Tantrum

Why do these words trigger such strong emotion? I think part of it is because in Christian culture, there is a lot of baggage and self-image involved. We want to look like a good Christian family. And of course a “good” Christian family has children who do NOTHING like the above, especially in public.

At least, before we become parents, that is our intention. My children with NEVER act like that, we think smugly to ourselves.

And then one day it happens. We’re at the grocery store, close to naptime and the meltdown occurs.

Or, as happened to me at one MOPS meeting. Sweetness was not willing to go into the MOPPETS section that day. I have a policy of not forcing children to stay in a place at church where they are unhappy, so I brought her into the main group with me. She sat with me for a bit and ate and drank some.

Then she and her sister started playing. It’s a fairly big room, with the tables set up front and big windows overlooking a field in the back. They were crawling all over, looking outside, playing with things and just having fun. Then they got into the area where all the sound/video equipment was. I don’t remember all the particulars, but Sweetness started touching different knobs and switches while Light was crying because she’d just hit her head. I was telling Sweetness stop and she just would. not. stop. touching things.

In the process of jerking Sweetness’ hands away, I knocked over the VCR. Light started crying harder. I stage whispered extremely angrily to Sweetness. “See what you made Mommy do? Are you happy now? You should be so ashamed of yourself for not listening to me.” Sweetness started melting down too.

Naturally, that’s when I heard someone behind me asking, “Do you need some help?” I was about ready to crawl into a hole, ashamed that she’d heard me say that to my own daughter. I shook my head and told her that we were going to go out to the hall and talk.

And as I did, I realized how much in the wrong I was. Here I was, an adult!, shaming my 2-year-old child for being curious. And curiousity is a God-given trait that just needs to be managed. Fortunately, my friend either didn’t hear me or chose to ignore my words to my child.

But you know what the worst thing was? I wasn’t upset that Sweetness had gotten into something she shouldn’t have. I was upset because I looked like a bad mom to these other women. I had a child who was–wait for it–defiant, self-willed, rebellious, sinfully independent and having a tantrum. Could I look anymore like a bad Christian with the resultant bad Christian child?

But that wasn’t the truth. That is what it may have looked like to some of the women, but it wasn’t the truth.

As I discovered that afternoon, Sweetness was getting sick (had a temp of 103 that night). She didn’t want to play with MOPPETs because she was feeling sick. She wasn’t being defiant and not listening and tantruming because of her sinful nature of independence was being crossed. She was getting sick.

People who feel bad, act bad.

That’s as true for a child of two as an adult of 37.