Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Greatest Story Ever Told

Ok, so maybe, just maybe, I tend to be a bit of an extremist when it comes to my present struggles, whatever they may be.  Perhaps I embellish a bit for the sake of ensuring the point gets across.  Or maybe what I’m communicating in a dramatic, “woe is me, all is lost” sort of way really is how I’m feeling on the inside at any given moment and I just tend to hold back nothing when I share.  Lack of filter rears its ugly head again.  Whatever the case may be, these daily struggles and minor nuances I face as a mommy and wife that pale in comparison to the big picture, feel like anything other than a mole hill.  Yep, I am constantly scaling an insurmountable, unforgiving, no-end-in-sight mountain range, on which I currently find myself stuck in a crevice, crying out for a lifeline.  So for the second time in my short run as a parent, I have chosen to phone a friend.  Enter, the child psychologist or as I like to call her, my last hope.

A little background: the princess has grown fond of the term, “Stupid mommy.”  Though it runs a close second to, “I hate you!”  I, in turn, have grow fond of turning her words back on her, which leads to guilt, which leads to self-loathing and eventually leads to a loss of about 3 hours of sleep and quiet moments of regret and fear of the irreparable damage I’ve done in a matter of moments.  Her tantrums are characterized by nonsense and a complete absence of reason.  My tantrums are characterized by Very.Loud.Screaming.  I can’t seem to stop talking, ad nauseum nonetheless, which is very weird, because she does the same thing.  A typical spat begins with a denial of something the princess wants, Oreos, a Barbie (it hurts my heart to say I blame Target on this one, though, after the whole security/identity theft breach, I’m sure I’ll get over it, thank you very much!), or some candy...and not even the good stuff I grew up with.  I mean, I could understand a twenty minute meltdown over an Abba Zabba, but Pocky, really?  I digress.  Whatever it is, she wants it.  I say, “No.”  And thus begins the battle.  I wear her out with my words, threats, and not-so-calm reasoning, which any four-year old would respond positively to, right?  And she returns the favor with endless diatribes in some foreign language that stirs in me all things ugly and unwarranted and boils my blood to no end.  Let me give you an example.  She takes pride in dressing herself - usually 14 times a day - and skips joyfully to her dresser to retrieve her Lalaloopsy funderwear and Ariel jam jams after every bath.  And so last night, somewhere in the midst of hour two of our most recent civil war, I was showering her against her will and I hoisted her out of the shower, toweled her off - oh, let’s just say, a bit enthusiastically, and not-so-gently nudged her toward her room to get dressed.  There was no skipping.  There were no Ariel jam jams.  There was no funderwear.  There was, however, a half hour of begging and pleading, moaning and wailing and insistent cries that she could not possibly dress herself because she was wet and the only solution was for me to dress her.  And believe me, that is exactly what my servant heart and selfless soul desired right at that moment, to dress my little bundle of joy, wrap my loving arms around her, and snuggle with her under the cozy, cozy covers.  In some parallel universe on some distant planet, somewhere far, far away, maybe.  Or maybe in some sitcom of old (not the new ones where dysfunction is celebrated), wherein some small glitch in the story line seemed to always work itself out within a matter of thirty minutes, give or take a few commercials, and moms and dads had an uncanny ability to keep their cool and espouse some life lesson with patience, intelligence, and a sweet, sweet soothing tone.  But not here on Earth.  Not at that moment.  And not if I had anything to say about it.  And so the battle raged on.  We both lost.

Her need to control me and keep me engaged with her at all costs = my breaking point.  It looks/sounds something like this:

The Princess: “I need to ask you a question.”  At this point, I’m usually ignoring her in an attempt to cling to some sort of sanity.  And she continues, “Say, ‘What?’ Mommy, say, ‘What?’”

Me: “What, Analeigh?”  

 The Princess: “Answer my question!!!”

Me: “You didn’t ask me a question.”

The Princess:  “I’m talking nice.  Why won’t you answer me?  Mah-meeeeee?!”

Me:  “You didn’t ask me a question, Analeigh.  There isn’t anything to answer.”

The Princess:  “I need you to come here.”

Me:  “Where?”

The Princess: “Here.  On this step.  No, not that step, this one right here.  To the middle stair, right here.  I need you to hold my hand and walk me upstairs.”  And of course, by this time, there is no way I am succumbing to her demands.

This goes on for hours.  And though I’ve tried to actually appease her from time to time, thinking that she really just needs me to prove my love for her, whatever request I’ve met is no longer good enough.  And I have reached in to the mommy manual and exhausted what I believe to be all my resources.  I have withheld toys and treats, doled out numerous time outs, spanked, hugged, tried to reason (this one works really well with a four-year old), ignored and removed myself from the situation.  If I ignore her, she follows me and kicks my bedroom door or throws things at the walls.  If I give in to her unreasonable requests, how is she learning respect, kindness and delayed gratification?  If I spank her, who really wins?  To be honest, that only hurts us both.  And if I do somehow manage to mold her into whatever shape I’ve deemed acceptable that day, I’m still left with a feeling of emptiness and sadness.  What have I created?  Good Lord, it’s me, isn’t it?  ISN”T IT?!  I have created a mini-me and while that should be flattering, it saddens me to say that I have created in her all the things in me that I loathe and detest.

I see in her the things in myself I would change in an instant were I to stumble upon a genie in a bottle who’s dying to grant my every wish.  All is lost!  All is lost!  No, it’s really not.  Well, maybe it’s hiding, but it’s not lost and so I began the arduous search and as usual, it ended on a park bench, in a pool of tears, drowning in a mountain of frustration and hopelessness.  I am tired of my own voice, tired of the pity party and tired of the battle and if I feel that exhausted, I can only imagine how my husband, family and friends feel.  And so I dug deep - way down into the archives of my cell phone contacts where first we met - and I made the call to Dr. Rad and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  What seemed like an eternity was really only a day and a half and then the call came.  I vented my frustration and received the much needed validation I had so longed for, as I always do.  Indeed, I have a challenging child.  So what?  Who doesn’t?  But I received the validation my fragile and insecure mommy-soul needed, along with my instructions.  The princess and I will be conducting an experiment.  She will emerge, no doubt, unscathed and better able to understand her behavior and feelings.  I can only hope that I will emerge with all my limbs intact.  It’s a tough one, for sure.  Basically, I am to ignore her and not as I usually do, making sure she knows I am ignoring her, but for her own good.  Literally, the moment she begins to act unreasonable or throw a tantrum, I am to cut off eye contact, no longer communicate verbally and wait her out. I am to become a virtual ghost.  Wow, really?  My heart hurts already.  And when she is done hurling her insanities on me and barking her demands for love and attention, it is only then that I may give her the positive attention she deserves and affirm her with, “Now I will speak to you.”  Now I am guessing that the idea is to cut off the emotional investment I have at that moment and shift the focus to the behavior alone.  I’ve watched those videos where the mom ignores the baby for just one brief minute only to leave the baby confused and bewildered and it breaks my heart.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know the princess is four and she knows I love her, but the idea of cutting off my emotional connection with her even for an instant is not an easy pill to swallow.  But I can do this.  I will do this.  And so I politely thanked Dr. Rad, not fully appreciating the gravity of the experiment I was about to perform, and hung up.  And mulled it over.  Can I really do this?  I will do this.  And I prayed, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (her), the courage to change the things I can (me) and the wisdom to know the difference.”

And that’s when it dawned on me.  The princess is not my project.  She is not my latest challenge to overcome.  She is not my problem to fix.  She and I are a team.  And as we undertake this experiment and learn how to surmount this speed bump on our road to a deeper, more fulfilling mother-daughter relationship, we will grow together AND individually.  As I learn how to draw out of her the beautiful, soulful, soaring spirit I know is there, that same spirit will rise in me.  As I learn what makes her tick, what ignites a fire within her, and what touches her heart, my heart will inevitably be moved as well.  We are each others teachers.  We are each other’s cheerleaders.  We are each other’s mirrors.  And while I don’t always love what I see looking back at me, I am so blessed to be able to catch a glimpse of the child that’s still there, deep within me.  And I’m excited to set her free, excited to see what SHE will become, excited for her to grow in grace and wisdom.  And I’m so thankful that it is my beautiful, undeserved, challenging and determined daughter who will be the one to teach me.  When you make the decision to have a child, as difficult as it is, you almost have to wipe the slate clean, erase what’s been done to you and by you and start fresh, writing the book as you go.  So here we go, Princess.  Let’s pick up the pen, look to the one true author and perfecter of our faith (our Heavenly Father) for guidance, wisdom and grace, and write the sweetest, most exciting and magical tale ever told.   The End.


The Koenig Family said...

Stop it. Love. This is sooooo Avery and me too. <3

The Koenig Family said...

Stop it. Love. <3 You just described my relationship with Avery. Thank you for inspiring me to write our own story together. Love you, Noodles.