All the parenting books in all the world can’t prepare you for the emotions that rise up when your child screams at you, slams the door, and yells, “I don’t want to see you anymore!”
I want to help her. But I don’t know how. So I sit on my side of the door. And wait. And listen.
“Get away!” she hollers, and my ears are throbbing. It feels like they could bleed at what she says.
My own childhood memories are resurrected. They only stay quiet for so long. Because it’s not the first time I’ve heard those words. It’s not the first time I’ve curled up on my side of the door. It’s not the first time I’ve listened to the voice of someone I love screaming.
So I get up from my side of the door.
I go to a quiet place to think, to pray, to be alone with my thoughts.
“Dear God, help me show love,” I beg Him, alone in my room. Can He hear me over the pounding of my own heart?
Should I go back and try to comfort her? What’s the point? She just needs to finish her tantrum, get her cry out. There’s nothing I can do to help anyway.
“Nothing I can do to help” . . . those words are familiar, too. I will my hands to stop shaking as I wipe sweaty palms on my jeans.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. And listen. It’s quiet here. I can hear the birds outside my window. Maybe I’ll stay.
It’s tempting to hide on my side of the door until it’s all over. And maybe for a while after.
Like I learned long ago.
I shake my head, I shake myself. Out of my memories. Out of my thoughts.
No. Today is not yesterday. Today is a new day. And today is a good day.
Today, my daughter needs me.
Something inside says, go to her. I know it’s Him. The One who gives love when I’m empty. Can He give love even today? When I’m not only empty but exhausted?
Decades-old memories can be exhausting sometimes.
When I stand up, my heart is quiet. And I know He heard me. Maybe He came even closer because my heart was pounding.
I walk slowly to her room. She’s still kicking the floor, still blocking the door.
“Can I come in?” She says nothing but moves aside. So in I creep. And I sit down, this time on her side of the door.
Her tantrum lasts a while longer. I don’t remember what it’s about anymore. Is it because I put cheese on her eggs? Or because I told her ballet was canceled today?
It doesn’t matter. She’s five. It’s hard to be five.
For some reason, I know I shouldn’t leave her to cry it out. Not today. But what’s the point of staying? She won’t look at me, won’t talk to me.
She’s getting louder, again. So I get quieter. I’ve learned, over the years, when I don’t know what to do, to do the opposite.
“Leave me alone!” she yells.
“I’m here because I love you,” I whisper.
She’s crying fast, loud.
I take deep, slow breaths. And I know Jesus is with me.
He’s the reason I can be the mom she needs, the peace in her storm, the quiet to her crazy, the smile to her tears. He’s the reason I can be different.
Finally, she’s exhausted. She comes to me, weeping quietly. “I’m sorry, mama,” she whispers.
I take her in my arms and carry her to the rocking chair, where she melts into my lap. She snuggles up so small, like when she was a tiny baby. I smooth her hair back—it’s curled and damp.
And I rock her, back and forth, and pray. I can’t fix the cheesy eggs or the canceled ballet or whatever it was that got to her. But I can be the adult, I can let go of the triggers that got to me. And I can be here with her.
And the point of it all was to get to this point with her in my arms—melted, loved.
From where does it come? Only one place, I know. There’s only One who can heal the far-distant past. Only One who turns pain into love.
And my mentors have told me to forgive. They told me about trusting God.
But they never told me my past would heal when I loved you.
We rock and remain there a little longer. Back and forth. Her tutu is wrinkled. Her tears are on my sleeve. She’s almost asleep. Today is healed. And so are my memories.
Healed by the One who said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9).
Originally published on the author’s blog