Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What We Came With

Yesterday afternoon, my kids came home from school and did the usual things...they had a snack, filled me in on the highlights of the day, did their homework, practiced instruments, and then went outside to play.  It was a fairly calm afternoon, mostly uneventful.  My husband came home around 5ish, and I had just sat down to get the highlights of his day when two arguing children came crashing in the front door.  There was crying and screaming and yelling and defending.  Neither one was listening to the other, and they certainly weren't listening to me.  It got worse before it got better.   Both kids were sent to their rooms to cool off and I went to mine to do the same.  

Eventually, after all of us had calmed down, my very calm and reasonable husband called each child into our room individually to let them tell us their version of what had happened.  It wasn't a huge thing, pretty typical sibling behavior.  June and Mack were both outside playing separately with their own set of friends.  And suddenly, June thought it might be hilariously funny to take Mack's bike and ride off with it.  Mack is 7.  He's the youngest.  When his older sisters tell him things, he believes them.  So when June told him she was riding away on his brand new bike forever, he believed her.  Things escalated and we ended up with the two Tasmanian devils at the front door.

There was more crying and defending and lots of lecturing (because that's what I typically do in these situations), but about 75% of the way through June's lecture, it occurred to me that I wasn't really getting anywhere going in that direction.

So I changed gears, moved closer to her and told her a story...

When June was about 18 months old (old enough to walk, but not old enough to be in Nursery yet), she was sitting on my lap during a RS lesson.  My friend, Laura, was teaching the lesson, and I had chosen a seat WAY in the back of the room just in case June prompted a necessary quick escape.  Laura had a lot of accessories on the table to illustrate the point of her lesson (something about having balance, I think), including a large stack of books.  About halfway through her lesson, she put another book on top of the already teetering stack and it came crashing down onto the floor.  June (still on my lap) jumped when she heard the crash.  She said, "uh oh!"  And then she climbed off my lap and toddled to the front of the classroom to help Laura pick up all those books.  One by one she handed them to Laura until all the books were back on the table and then she walked back to me and climbed back into my lap.  It was unprompted, innate and totally instinctive for her to jump up and help with those books.  I remember lots of women that day gushing about how cute it was, and how helpful she was, and what a great mother I must be to have taught her that at such an early age.  I took absolutely NO credit for that.  With two other kids barely older than June, there was no way I had had time to teach her that in less than two years.  She came with that.  That was one of those spiritual gifts that she had before she even got to us.  I have seen it over and over in her in the nine years since then.  She is the first one to jump up and pitch in when there is a crisis.  She is calm, rational and very duck-like in the middle of chaos.  She's the one you want picking up the pieces.   

I'm not sure that I had told her that story before yesterday.  I'm not sure I've even thought about that story much before yesterday.  But it came when I needed it, and I think it was more effective than the yelling and lecturing that happened before it.  I reminded her that she came with helpfulness and compassion and kindness.  That those things are so much a part of who she is that she doesn't have to work very hard to find them.   Those things will bring a better result than the mischievous, impulsive things that kick up a lot of unnecessary dust.  I'm not sure if she'll remember that story, but hopefully, the next time she feels the need to be mischievous or impulsive, she'll remember who she is and what she came with.  

And hopefully the next time I get the impulse to give a long lecture, I'll remember who I am and what I came with.  

You did what you knew how to do and when you knew better, you did better. - Maya Angelou   

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