There was a bit of sunshine today, so I decided that after breakfast, chores, and our history read-aloud, we would head out for a walk before we moved on to our other school work for the day.
My announcement was met with cheers from the kids and we readied ourselves to get out the door. The kids were all outside, waiting on the porch swing, when I made one last sweep through the house to lock the back door and get my hat, keys, and phone. As I passed through the kitchen I saw the cup of water (w/ medicine) that my five-year-old was supposed to take with breakfast. I'd told her numerous times to drink it but didn't see it through. Apparently she'd decided not to drink it and instead placed it on the counter, hoping I wouldn't notice. I promptly picked it up, brought it outside, set it on the porch and said, "Drink this up and then you can come with us." And the rest of us began our walk down the sidewalk.
I naively thought she would pick it up, drink it down and scramble to catch up with us, but when I glanced back at our house from about a half-block away, she hadn't moved and the cup remained untouched.
That was just the beginning of the battle with my girl. She wouldn't drink her medicine. She refused to walk. I tried to get her into the stroller so that I could just push her and the rest of us could go for our walk, but failed in that attempt. When she finally joined us for our walk, she walked as sloooooooooowly as she possibly could- remaining at least a half-block behind the rest of us, stubbornly taking tiny steps. I was at my wits end: I felt sorry for the other four who just wanted to get to the trail and walk. I felt powerless and yet didn't want to let her control the morning/whether or not we walked. It seriously took us about 20 minutes to make it a block and a half from our house with her baby steps. It was awful. And the whole battle had been going on for nearly an hour.
So I called in for back-up. Mark was leaving the post office and heading out to his route so I asked if he could show up on our walk and have a little pep-talk with his daughter. He pulled up and I started crying. He gave me a hug and told me to go on with the other kids; that he and Adelia would catch up with us.
Daddy spoke some magic words (in reality, he just possesses some magic authority as a daddy that I, as mommy, do not have. Thank God for daddies.) They came running down the trail toward us just minutes later. Mark and I chatted briefly and then he headed back to work and I was on my own again, with the kids- and truly wondering what I would possibly do if she refused to walk again. But apparently she'd forgotten her earlier attitude, because she was running and playing and seemed just fine.
I, however, was not fine. I was tearful and frustrated and crabby. I held back tears and prayed. And as we walked, God reminded me of these verses, in Proverbs:
He who covers over an offense promotes love (17:9)
A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense (19:11)
At the time I didn't recall those words verbatim, but I remembered the general idea of "love overlooks an offense", and prayed toward that end; that God would help me to let go of my anger and resentment; that I wouldn't treat her differently because of her earlier behavior; that I would be merciful, etc.
She came to me a couple minutes later and asked me, impatiently, to tie her shoe. I wanted to make some smart remark about how maybe what she SHOULD be saying was sorry, but- by a complete act of God I was able to hold my tongue and knelt down to tie her shoe.
By the time we were on our way home, she was holding my hand and I was holding my tongue (not entirely, I was speaking, just not about her earlier attitude). As we neared our house she began chattering about the video she wanted to watch when the big kids did school (she loves videos) and I wanted to take that privilege away from her, too- because I was still crabby. But I didn't. Because I was overlooking the offense.
When we arrived home, she was off to choose a video while the other kids began their book work and I stopped her and said, "I'd like to talk to you first, actually..." and so she followed me into my room and sat across from me on my bed. It was then that I was going to "let her have it", so to speak: to remind her of her disobedience, tell her that she should say sorry to me, and then either remove her movie privilege or notify her that I was being gracious to allow her to watch it. [I'm just being perfectly honest, here.] But again- I couldn't. I kept remembering that verse, and even thought I wanted to let her have it, I chose another route: What I said was, "Adelia? Thank you so much for changing your attitude on our walk. I'm so proud of you for doing that. It was a fun walk, wasn't it?" And then I gave her a hug. She hugged me back and scurried off and I again thought: "Huh. I don't know, but wasn't that PRIME opportunity for her to say sorry?" Grr. And I went and put a video on for her.
We finished school, had lunch and quiet hour. I sat with my Bible and journal and asked God what I should have done differently. I didn't come up with much, honestly- but even though things felt undone, I truly didn't feel crabby at my girl anymore, and I trusted that God had led me in my morning interactions. (As I already mentioned- it is an act of God to get me to hold my tongue. Truly. I usually don't.)
I've been praying fairly regularly for the past few years that I would be led by God's Spirit in my correction and discipline of the kids. I fail, so much more often than not. And this morning is a great example of what I never would have come up with on my own. I am so thankful that He is faithful to lead us and that He knows my kids: their needs and their hearts, better than I do.
I thought that was the end of the story.
I wrote this blog post and got right up to that point but hadn't edited it yet and then one more thing happened.
Adelia came upstairs from her quiet time and was chatting with me about what she'd been playing: she had dressed up some stuffed animals for swimming. She'd found some old baby clothes under the bed and there were some summer clothes in there, including two infant swimsuits, and her stuffed lambs were wearing them. I smiled at that because my girl is obsessed with swimming and she asks almost daily when it's going to be summer so that she can swim. I imagined her delight when she discovered those tiny swimsuits and how much fun she must have had playing "swimming".
I was still sitting on my bed with my Bible and journal and I said to her: "Come here, you." I pulled back the covers and tucked her and her stuffed animals in with me- facing me- and hugged her and said, "I love you so much." She hugged me back and she said "I love you, too." And then, this: "And I'm sorry about all the things I did earlier. I'm sorry I disobeyed you." I thanked her with a lump in my throat and off she scurried, on to the next thing. I was stunned. It had been *several hours* and I had not said one thing about it to her. And yet God was working in her little heart all along.
Grace. It's a beautiful thing.