As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Constructive Drama

My girl, she can be a bit dramatic.  And at times, it is a little much.  At 4 1/2 years old, I feel like I've turned a corner with her where it's easier for me to appreciate her and meet her where she is than when she was say, three years old, and completely incapable of reasoning.  At both ages of course, I am called to be a loving and patient parent, something I fall so short of so often.  But I'm trying.  And the Lord never ceases to teach me through this precious girl.

Her thing these days is that she fixates on crying.  And if I happen to talk her down from whatever causes her to start crying in the first place (you can't have a cookie, for example), she'll make other small things bigger in order to justify her crying.  She doesn't do it intentionally, since kids her age are not capable of thinking beyond their current situation (my favorite parenting expert talks about how destructive it can be to mislable a child as being manipulative, which assumes she thinking ahead to a desired outcome and tries to make that happen through deliberate deception.)  But she is, I think, just trying to make sense of her situation.  I'm crying.  Mom said I can't cry about this cookie.  But I can cry about this cut I just noticed on my arm that I haven't noticed for three days but clearly is a cut, and therefore it must hurt, and OWWWWWW I need a bandaid, it hurts sooooooo bad!  Try as I can to reason her out of this, she is lost in her moment.  And I am frustrated (so frustrated!) and exhausted with the influx of emotion on both our parts.

So I tell her the story of the boy who cried wolf (and thank the genius who came up with that in the first place!)  This girl loves stories, and is engaged from the start.  I make it as grand as I can, and she giggles and laughs right to the end, until the father doesn't come back, and it's like a dagger to her heart.  "Why?" she wonders, near tears.  And I explain to my sad girl the problem of making small problems seem like big ones all the time.  And then again that problem I was trying so hard to get away from, her incessant crying, starts all over again.  Oh dear, this wasn't what I was going for.

And yet, there is an opportunity to meet her.  She is trying to make sense of this hard lesson, that I imagine hits home for her.  When she is hurt, she wants her Daddy to be right there.  If he's at work, she wants me to go get him.  If I can't, she wants me to call him.  Daddy makes things better.  So the idea that a Daddy wouldn't be there, that crushes her.  I scoop her up in my arms, and gently try to explain that it wasn't the Daddy's fault, that the boy shouldn't have tricked him, and that he probably went in the house away from the wolf (but that maybe he couldn't play outside for the rest of the day, and that the wolf probably killed a few of their sheep.  I know I made that part up, but I figured the version I knew was more than she could handle!)  I told her that if she always made a big deal over small things, that sometime when she was hurt really badly we might not believe her.  Katie always makes a big deal over everything, we might say.  And of course, neither of us want that to happen.

Still, she was not appeased. She had so many questions about what would happen if she ever got hurt and Mommy and Daddy weren't there?  And I wanted so bad to just stop her crying, and to assure her that we'd always be there, and that we'd always come, and that no, we'd never ignore her.  But the truth is, we won't.  As much as parents always want to be there for their children, we can't guarantee that we will.  But we can teach them to turn to the One who always is there.

Immediately I recognized something beautiful about my daughter.  This dramatic side she has, this need for comfort and over-the-top search for a hero, is not meant for her parents.  It is the cry of her heart that only God can fill.  She searches in the only way she knows how, by screaming and crying, and finding that nothing satisfies it, crying some more.  And instead of getting frustrated with her, I embraced her and told her about God who loves her so much, who is always there even when Mommy and Daddy can't be, and who always will be.  "But Jesus lives in Heaven," she responded, after I told her that Jesus is always in her heart.  "Yes He is," I replied, "but He's also with you.  He is everywhere always, taking care of you."  And while I don't know if that made any bit of difference to her, it did help me to see my daughter with new eyes.

One of the best bits of encouragement I ever got about my children was from a pediatrician, who said that sometimes the traits we find most challenging in our children tend to be the ones that serve them the best when they get older.  Jesus, help me to embrace every unique quirk that my children have, seeing it not as a detriment to me, but instead as an opportunity to turn them to You, who are the greatest of all the desires of their heart.

"When you look at any of the children wonder at their destiny.  Think on who God created them to be."  
(Jeff Mazerolle, paraphrasing Enzo Piccinini, paraphrasing Msgr. Luigi Giussani)

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