Monday, October 1, 2012
I won't get into the details too much, but, basically, for the past two days Olivia has been flat out refusing to tell me sorry when she does something to hurt or disrespect me. She'll do something to me on purpose or accidentally, I'll request that she apologize, and she just plain refuses to. It's not that she doesn't feel bad. I know she feels bad. But instead of apologizing she cries and tries to get out of the situation instead of confronting it and taking responsibility for her actions.
Now, listen, I know she's three. I know she's little and she has limits. I don't expect her to be perfect or to have perfect behavior. I let things slide because, yes, she's little. And for a long time I had been excusing her treatment of me by saying, "She's just little. She's not trying to hurt me or hurt my feelings. She doesn't know." It still hurt me, of course, but I tried not to be offended by it. There's a difference. I still try to consciously remember not to be offended by the things she says or does to me that hurt my feelings, but that doesn't mean the hurt isn't there. Or that it doesn't drive me crazy sometimes.
But sometime recently I reached a breaking point. No, it is not okay for her to physically hurt me--even if it's a small thing and it's on accident--and not apologize. I'm a human being too. And, hey, if nothing else, it's good practice for the way I want her to treat everybody else in the world.
But, even deeper than that, I don't want our mother-daughter relationship to be set up in such a way that she's disrespectful to me. Yes, I want to be kind and loving and shower her with praise and all of those warm fuzzies. But I also want her to know that I am a person, just like her, and that I have needs and feelings too. I want her to know that I give everything to her, that I sacrifice everything for her, that she is smack dab at the very top of my list of priorities, and that all of that deserves her respect.
But, of course, you can't make a three year-old say "Sorry." You can't make anyone say sorry. No matter how much I may threaten to put her in bed and take away all of her toys, no matter how much I hold her on my lap or keep her in time out, no matter how much I tell her, "You're going to be in so much trouble," I can't press a button and make the word, "sorry" come out. This life is about agency and, for better or worse (and it's for better), it is her choice to apologize. Given, it's also her choice to not apologize and suffer the consequences of not having any toys or shows or fun activities to do, but it's her choice all the same.
For two days in a row now I've been running the gauntlet of "Say, 'I'm sorry, Mommy," and having her refuse. Both times, she's eventually come around, but not before she's worn us both down to practically nothing. Yesterday Bryan was home and could play his role. Today he was in class late and I was all by myself. By the time he walked in the door after a long, hard day himself, I was falling asleep on the couch. Olivia had finally apologized by then, but I felt entirely spent, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
I spent most of the day thinking about how grateful I am that she's in preschool now. But I also spent a lot of time thinking about my own role in the whole ordeal, whether I was right to do this or that, and what else I could do to help her. More than once I prayed inwardly, asking for help not only to not mistreat her or emotionally scar her in some way, but to handle the situation well. It's hard to think back on the whole thing because, while I know I did my best, my best wasn't very good. But, deep down, I also feel strongly that I did the right thing. Even, that I handled things with Heavenly Father's help. And that's hard to accept because it was still such a dark place to be. But I'm learning that that's part of being a mother who loves unconditionally. To stay with my daughter, even in her darkness, and help her find the brightness on the other side. To essentially say, "You're in a dark place right now, but I'm still not going to desert you because I love you no matter what."
She fell asleep in the middle of her tantrum and after she woke up and had a snack, she asked for something and I told her for the millionth time that I was happy to give it to her after she said, "Sorry." I expected to hear more of the same thing I had been hearing for the past several hours, but to my relief and delight, somewhere inside her a cloud lifted and she said, "Sorry, Mommy."
After being mad and frustrated for so many hours, the selfish part of me wanted to keep on being mad. But I knew I better not miss my chance, so I let it go as much as I possibly could. I lit up, gave her a big smile, hugged her, told her thank you, and did just about everything I could to communicate to her not only that I was grateful for her good choice and her kind words, but also that her mommy still loves her, despite the bad choices she had made.
I know all you people out there with five kids and another one on the way are thinking, "Oh, how cute! She thought this was a big deal, but really she's just a dumb first-time mom who was too stupid to put her kid down for a nap! Aww." I'd think the same thing if I read this somewhere else, but let me just say, yeah, I had totally thought of that. But that is exactly what did not happen when we went through this whole ordeal yesterday. Yesterday she was being rude, refusing to apologize, and generally throwing a tantrum, so we put her down for a nap, sure that she'd wake up and be her happy, kind self again. Except she wasn't. She woke up happy and kind, was gently reminded that she still needed to apologize, and suddenly we were in for round two of the saga. So when it happened again today I was less than hopeful that a nap was going to provide the cure. And I think both the nap and the snack helped, but the real thing is that eventually she chose to say she was sorry.
So often we only see the cute pictures of people's kids. The happy birthday and first day of preschool pictures. The smiles. The good behavior. The I'm so proud of my kid because. And I certainly do my fair share of bragging about Olivia's good looks and smart brains. So I am here to say, this is what some of our other days look like. Like a mommy that's so, so frustrated and a daughter that just wants her daddy. Like tears and time outs and all the toys suddenly belonging to Mommy. Like she's begging to sit on my lap and wants nothing to do with me all at the same time. Crying at me from the other room when I try to step away for a few minutes and catch my breath.
Friends, some days it's hard to be a mom. Some days I'd give anything for a break. Some days I walk the dark road and can't help but think to myself, "No wonder we haven't been blessed with more children." Maybe for you when you have these days you think, "How could we have been blessed with so many children?" Days like this leave me feeling drained of any desire to wash the dishes or work on things I love. Days like this make me feel entirely inadequate. Hello, humility.
Today was hard. Today was not fun. But today was also important and, eventually, we got through it. To all you fellow moms out there struggling with your own important hard days, hang in there. This too shall pass.
Posted by Katie Lewis at 10:21 PM