Tuesday, June 10, 2008

To be as a little child

Okay, first off, lets put aside our list of things that little kids do that are naughty and that drive us crazy and that we work so hard at teaching them not to do. This post is about what I learned from my two and a half year old daughter and how she is an example to me. Remember that Christ commanded us to become as a little child:

"And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God." (3 Nephi 11:38)

Here are a few traits about my little Leah:

She believes everything I tell her. She is 100% trusting. If I told her the sky was purple, she would believe me. Today she asked me where her food went when she swallowed. I told her that it went into her tummy and that it would make her eyes see, her hair grow long, and her muscles strong, and her toes grow, etc, and the poopy come out, too (can you tell we're still in the potty-training phase?). Throughout the rest of the meal, she excitedly repeated how her hair would grow longer and her toes and eyes too, and did not forget the part about the poopy. She was so excited to learn something new, and she has absolutely no disposition to question anything I tell her. I'm sure that someday this will not be the case, but for the time being, that sure gives us parents a lot of power.

She is totally innocent.

She has an unlimited supply of energy and imagination. She'll talk my ear off about anything, she'll literally run circles around us, she can make a toy out of a box, a pen, a piece of thread, an empty toilet paper tube, even a few sheets of TP themselves. Then, she'll take that new toy and...

She is a nurturer. She'll take any real or imagined toy and comfort it, saying "it's okay, thread," and pretend to feed it. Then she'll carefully tuck it in for a nap. Another example of her compassion is her unstoppable need to hug any child that is crying. Hugs and kisses just make it all better, and she wants to be the one to fix it. She is so loving.

And today I learned about complete forgiveness. We had a rough evening, after defiantly missing her nap, refusing to eat dinner, followed by at least an hour of intermittent tantrums (from her, not me, although I may have shed tears also). I would have just put her to bed and let her cry it out, but Chris encouraged me to at least let her try again with dinner. I reheated her dinner and stood at the bottom of the stairs, unable to lure her from the top landing. She was standing there bawling, completely unreasonable and uncommunicative. The ultimatum was to eat dinner or go to bed. Did I mention I was really mad and that generally I'm pretty tough, leaving the room to let her sob? She finally let me sit on the stair next to her and she took a bite or two.

As instantaneous as you can turn on a light switch, her countenance completely changed. She was done crying, was smiling again, giving me unsolicited hugs, chowing down on her dinner, and asking me where the food goes when she swallows. Our battle of wills completely forgotten to her. How can one forgive and forget so quickly and easily and so perfectly? Usually when I sit outside her bedroom door listening to her wails, I guiltily picture her in therapy as an adult reflecting on my neglectful and abandoning parenting. I tried to ask her why she had been upset, but aside from "I'm happy now," she gave no reminiscence whatsoever of our power struggle. She wasn't regretful or penitent, and she wasn't ashamed or embarrassed. She was simply herself again, and she saw me as simply Mom, not awful, mean, Cruella deVil who should apologize soon and rectify hurt feelings.

As one who dwells on hurt feelings, its hard for me to forget anger so quickly, or sometimes at all. But I just melt when after an emotional battle, this three-foot tall brown mop runs up to me with a hug and a kiss and a tickle just because she adores me. I just have to give in and hug back because there is no point dwelling on my anger--it's not like we can exactly talk it out. It simply doesn't matter. Today I learned about forgiveness from my two year old daughter. It didn't matter that I may have behaved badly, it only mattered that "I'm happy now."


Rebecca said...

What a lovely post! I really appreciate this because I just let my son cry himself to sleep for his nap which he really didn't want to take but I decided he needed.....

I am so glad that Leah is such a light in your life!

Rebecca said...

Another thought: I had a religion teacher at BYU who talked about "pre-forgiveness": forgiving those we love before they do something wrong. I really love that concept because I know I'm going to make mistakes--and so is my husband and my growing son, etc.I think forgiving ahead of time is what kids do. Leah had already "forgiven" you (although it doesn't sound like you really did all that much wrong); she was just trying to get back to the point where she felt she could handle being cheerful again. That's complete forgiveness.

Nancy Sabina said...

I'm with Becky on the "you didn't do anything wrong" front (and all others, come to think of it). Letting your child throw a tantrum is hard on the nerves, but sometimes they need to understand that you're not impressed by screaming. They need to learn to control their emotions and express them in healthy ways instead of loud obnoxious ways. And it's your job to teach her all that - so you did nothing wrong. I regularly tell Naomi that she can keep screaming and crying if she wants to, but she has to go to her room to do it. I regularly leave Asher in a heap on the floor because he won't stop screaming and flailing his arms and legs. I'm happy to comfort my children when they need comforting, but I don't want them to become big, out of control, teenagers. They need to start to learn control of emotions now. At least that's what I believe. I guess some "child experts" may disagree.

How's that for a rant? Sorry.

david & michal coombs said...

thanks for this beautiful post, jenny! i've always had a hard time with the "as a little child" scripture, because all i picture are the tantrums, demanding nature, "i"-centered world of a 2 year old, "mine", etc., etc. this was a beautiful insight.

Jenny said...

Becky & Nancy: It doesn't sound like I did anything wrong because I left out the parts where I really did become Cruella deVil and did some angry yelling. I know its okay to make kids cry it in their room when they are being completely unreasonable, but its not okay from mom to loose her temper and get really angry and spank in anger. I felt bad for responding wrong which is why I kept giving her more chances, plus I'm married to a softy who gives lots of chances (maybe too many?) and he's trying to rub off on me. :)

The Stiles Family said...

My FIL, who is a child development psychologist, said that when children throw a tantrum (and adults do this as well) it is called "flipping their lid". The emotional part of the brain becomes so overwhelmed, that they lose control. However, simply by talking to them CALMLY and gently reassuring them, they will learn to calm down, and are happy again:-)

Personally, I know that those tantrums can be a pain in the butt sometimes, but I am so grateful for all the wonderful happy moments that I have with my son.