the whole purpose of me writing posts like this is to give you, the reader something to relate to in our struggle to be good people… I don’t think I have some secret magic. I do however have a lot of help from God and the Church. This gives me hope for my kids. I hope this encourages.
First off, let me present my little warrior.
Adaryn is on the left. She’s quite the girl. Her name mean “not bound by earthly limitations.” And boy oh boy does she live that out.
This kid is boundless. She has huge things on her heart. She’s creative, loves to bake and crochet, loves to design and organize… She’s the type of kid that can and will do anything she puts her mind to. The kid’s got skills.
One other amazing skill she has: blatant, bold faced, look you in the eye as though nothing ever happened lying. It’s incredible. She’ll look at you with those doe eyes and draw you in. YOU WILL BELIEVE HER! Then you find yourself doubting every conviction that you ever had.
But shake it off! You can do this. You saw what the kid did! Call her on it.
So, the struggle that I have, and that I think many parents have is to keep their child’s conscience clear and help them see the value in telling the truth. We all know that this is a good goal. The real trick, however, is helping them to see this without causing them to retreat within themselves.
In Addy’s case, if I get too big with my fury at the lie, she’ll close up completely and I’ll have to do twice the work to recover her trust. Addy desperately wants to look good. She wants to look good for mommy and daddy, as well as her friends. She never, EVER wants to be in the wrong or be found having done the dumb thing. And sometimes, telling the truth about the nasty thing you’ve done just flat out looks really bad.
On to the story…
So yesterday I come home from work. It’s Thursday, grocery day in our household. We live with another family, a single lady and two single guys, and Thursdays are the days when the lady folk head out to hunt and bring home the freshly bagged spoils of the grocery store.
The kids stay with a sitter named Rachie, who is a delight and wonder. She’s one of the greats when it comes to enriching, attentive substitutes for the parental role.
Last night though, Rachie had to have a little sitter/dad chat with me. Apparently Adaryn had made just about every task Rachie set her to difficult throughout the entire day. She would wander, get distracted, and sometimes just flat out do the exact opposite of what Rachie told her to do.
So, I bring Addy back to my room, sit her down on the couch. Her bright eyes beaming, playing (quite convincingly) excited to be here with me and the much hassled sitter.
“Addy, how did you do today?”
“Fine!” she answers quickly. “It was a good day!”
“Are you telling me the truth?” I ask.
“Yeah, it was fine.” and she tries to casually use her arms and hands to illustrate her confidence.
“Did you listen to Rachie?”
I was like I had cracked her in the gut with a wet towel. She changed color, dropped her shoulders and blurted, “Nooooooooooooooo!”
I dismissed our kind sitter and thought for a moment. I need her to tell me the truth. It’s not that I want to grill her on every detail. I don’t want blood. I don’t even want to do the whole “Why did you do this?” line of rubbish.
One of the silliest wastes of time that a parent can do is to ask their child why they did what they did. For the most part, your little one has no clue why they did it. They just did it.
They have no impulse control… only a whim and a carnal urge – then whammo! They did what they wanted to do. (see Bill Cosby’s routine on ‘brain damage’ or ‘I don’t know’)
So, if you find yourself asking a tiny person this ridiculous, (yes, worthy of ridicule) question, and they respond with “I don’t know.” You’d better have the sense to go, “You know what honey? I believe you. Let me help you understand what you did.” ***(see note at bottom of post)
I wanted to help her get it off of her chest, learn from it, and be able to move on.
So I prayed. I asked God for something to keep this lighthearted and not heavy handed. I asked her to take a few minutes to think about what she should actually have told me about her day, and when she was ready, to come and get me.
She did. We went in my room, plopped on the bed, and locked eyes.
“So, what is it.”
“I disobeyed and was a bad girl.” She said contritely.
This was too simple. She was just saying what she thought I wanted to hear. I didn’t want to hear that she was a bad girl. She’s not. She did some dumb and slightly mischievous stuff, but bad, no. I told her this too.
When you’re talking to wee ones, you have to keep it a bit simple. Don’t over lecture. Don’t over analyze. Don’t be a psychologist. Look for what will give them new life.
I had an idea. . .
“Addy, you are not a bad girl. You just did some bad things today. We can handle that. In order to handle that though, you have to be honest about what you did. You’ve got a talk about it, and get it out before you can move on and be happy.”
“Why?” she asked. It was apparent that she didn’t want to talk about it. But this kid, of all of my kids, needs to get it out and not worry about the fact that she messed up.
“Well, it’s like if you eat some bad food, and it makes your belly sick. What does your body want to do with the bad food in your belly?”
“Yep, you’ve got to throw it up. You gotta puke. If you don’t, you’ll only get sicker and sicker.”
This is the part that really got me, she asked, “Are there some people that never puke it up?”
“Yes there are. If you never ever puke up the sickness inside of you, the bad things we do and swallow, then eventually, after long enough, you become the sickness. This is why you have to puke it up. Once it’s puked up, and you get rid of it, you can be done with it and move on.”
I saw this clicking. But then she got that sweet, concerned expression in her brow. “Daddy, but if I puke on you, you’ll get all messy.”
My heart was melting. Good grief that was cute. “Honey, that’s what daddy’s are made for. God made us to take the puke and get rid of it so that you can have a free and happy heart.”
She liked this, and she proceeded to talk openly about the pitfalls of her little day.
What’s the fruit, the rest of the evening she was happy as could be. She was excited about her punishment of no playing the next day and only doing all of the things Rachie had told her to do the previous day… only this time with vigor. She was excited to make it right.
May we help our little ones make it right. May we direct them toward a truly clear conscience and life abundantly.
***my dear sister Allison posted this comment that I’d like for all to see. “I do have to say that **occasionally** it can be useful to ask a kid why they did something, bc sometimes their answer shows some other misunderstanding that needs to be cleared up (ex: Why do you dump your toys out every night before bed? –Because Tommy said monsters will come out of the closet and eat me so I have to block the closet door with toys!) But that’s probably the exception more often than the rule. And, you know, I’m good at having experienced the exceptions.” I thought this was a good amendment.