“Uh-oh!” I chimed. It was time to respond to my daughter’s impertinence.
“WHAT?! Why are you saying that?!” A preschool-sized tantrum followed. You know the kind: irrational screams and dramatic body-slamming.
The simple “stop and think about the choice you’re making” verbal cue was enough to perk up the porcupine pricklies on my little strong-willed 3 year old. But when she started virtually picking them off her back and throwing them at me, it was time to bring out the Mama Pricklies.
“Go to your room!”
“NO! You said I could paint! I want to tell you something!”
“The answer is no. Go!”
Time after time I found myself in a high decibel argument with a little girl a third my size. I demanded compliance. She demanded her own way. I envisioned a sports-announcer calling the play-by-play, “Winner takes all!”
Wait. What? No one was winning. Even when she complied, I didn’t have her heart. And who said this was a competition, anyway?
I remember the day I realized there was something deeper going on inside my little gal in the midst of her tantrum. She was keenly disappointed. And though her initial response was rage, sadness was under her anger. I immediately called a prickly cease-fire. I knelt on the ground, opened my arms and invited her in. She cried and cried. I did too.
My daughter is sad, not evil. Sadness is under that anger. How have I been missing this all along?!
I tear up thinking about it. In my demand for compliance, I trampled on my daughter’s heart. I repeatedly missed opportunities to invite her in and nourish her with life-giving love that gently whispers, “I see you. I love you. Now it is time to obey.”
There was something deeper going on inside of me, too. I felt attacked by my daughter’s intense demand, so I had to put her in her place just to keep my footing. Our toddler wouldn’t sleep, we just moved and I was grieving the ministry and friends I left behind. She had to obey me or I would go CRAZY!
My daughter’s demand to have control sprang from the fear that if she didn’t secure her own happiness, no one would. Mine did too. I needed her to obey so I could stay sane! But pressured demands are isolating and life-draining. They might get my daughter to comply but they don’t invite her to connect with me. I want more compassion for my daughter. I want more compassion for myself.
So the next time I feel the Mama Pricklies coming out I’m going to call a cease-fire, take a knee and surrender into His open arms so I can invite my child into His embrace, too.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4