And then some days, I lose my cool. And when I say “cool,” what I really mean is my “ever lovin’ mind.” Suddenly, I’m a toddler again throwing a tantrum. Kind of like my six year old the other day when she didn’t want to ride in the back seat.
You see, when you have as many people in a family as we do, and you must drive an eight-passenger vehicle to accommodate said people, at least two have to sit in the back. To hear them describe the DREADED back, you’d believe they’ve entered the seventh circle of hell. Logically, because of less leg room and space, the smallest people get that honor (except for the baby in his car seat because Lord knows I am NOT climbing my 6-ft frame into that space to buckle him in all the time). And even though this is the arrangement EVERY TIME we go anywhere, somehow the negotiations manage to begin as we are rapidly trying to get out the door for school. Cue: all the complaining and tears.
Well, this particular morning it was such that I only had 4 of the 5 children going with me which meant only one person needed to be in purgatory for this ride. Y’all, I was not prepared. I should have KNOWN this scenario was setting up and had a plan in place ahead of time. Of course, none were willing to take a back seat for another (pun intended), so I had to make the decision. And I really tried to be fair, as I am speedily buckling in baby, suggesting a compromise of Princess Ariel riding there on the way TO school, and Merida on the way back. But before I could even finish the sentence, the screaming began…tears, red face, feigning sickness, refusal to comply. Oh fun! One of those days! Did I mention we were in a hurry?
Ariel (the Kindergartner) was obviously tired from being out the night before, and IF she been the only school child, I probably would have called an audible and played hooky for the day. However, two older sisters, desperately not wanting to miss school so they don’t fall behind, were counting on the ride. They shouldn’t be punished with a tardy when they were ready to go, nor should Ariel be allowed to punish the family with her tantrum. My patience was a bit thin already as I was also tired, had not eaten and definitely had not had any
coffee happy magic sauce yet. I tried quickly reasoning with the six year old (DON’T LAUGH), as if my voice could be heard above the wailing. So my voice got a little louder, just hoping she would quiet enough to hear SOMETHING. No dice. The older girls couldn’t get in the car until she did so the seat can be flipped back down.
Then it happened.
“GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW BEFORE I BEAT YOUR BUTT!”
The yelling AND the threatening. Such a parenting win, right? *Eyeroll* This was also followed by door slamming and screaming for seat belts to be put on, along with a few words (read: guilt trip) about someone always making us late. It was the picture of maturity, I tell ya.
So Princess Ariel reluctantly complied and we made to school on time, hearing her sobs the whole way. I tried to say a few things as we pulled in the parking lot to reassure her I loved her. “Don’t let this wreck your day!” I chirped. As if. Once in the drop-off lane, there was no time to really address the issue appropriately. Also, I had to go to the grocery store and get home before the baby’s nap. But the whole time I was shopping, I was thinking about the little six-year old heart that I just bruised. It did not make her actions excusable, but I was without excuse as well. I don’t want to be that explosive parent who angrily tries to control her kids. I’ll never forget a metaphor I read in the book Loving Our Kids On Purpose by Danny Silk that compares relational power struggles to big yellow trucks that crush the little red trucks, basically operating out of fear of loss of control. The result is broken connection, not love and trust. And even though I definitely needed to address her behavior with discipline, none of that would happen with our connection broken.
(Watch this short youtube clip for more on Danny’s thoughts of Keeping Your Love On, one of the main premises in the parenting book.)
So, on the way back home from the grocery store, I stopped by the school, hauled the baby inside, and pulled my daughter out of class so that the brokenness would not cloud both of our days. I told her I was sorry for my sin of being angry and yelling and threatening her. I told her what she did was not right either and her choices do affect other people. I asked if she wanted to say anything and she sincerely repented and threw her arms around my neck. Then we talked about how to prevent the situation from happening again and agreed upon a consequence if it did. Our connection was restored. The next day she apologized to the rest of the family as well.
That day, I found myself facing a dreaded back seat. Except my seat was Humility In Parenting. I could have fought what God was trying to show me, drowning him out and rationalizing how it was not my fault. I could have continued to yell and scream. I could have ignored that voice of the Holy Spirit trying to draw me to realize my sin. I needed to recognize my own failings and do what needed to be done to make it right. And in the process, I needed to model and display to my precious six-year old that God the Father is not an angry, threatening person. He is forgiving. He desires closeness with us and hates when it is broken. I was reminded, once again in this life, of one of my favorite scriptures on God’s kindness: