The other day, our four-year old daughter, Precious Maryn, was having a very hard day. It was a day full of meltdowns and fits. Those days start out bad within the first five minutes of being awake. In the past, it indicated that the entire day and maybe several days would be aweful. We’ve been doing trust-based therapy and learning alot about sensory processing. It’s less aweful than it used to be.
The other day, Precious stormed off in a fit because I had given her a directive to clean up the paper clippings she had created. She had been sitting a long time with paper and scissors and I was impressed with her ability to concentrate that long….apparently, it cost her and me both. She screamed, “NO!”….and I tried hard to follow all the steps laid out in our therapy to guide her into compliance….and it was not happening. At all. I ended up silently fuming, feeling like a failure as I cleaned up all the paper, giving up on her ever becoming a child who would just flippin’ clean up her mess…..and I was really starting to have a pity party for myself.
I moved on to the kitchen to start dinner, fuming still. Precious came out of her room with the little hand puppet we use to practice conversations and scripts and redos. She threw it on the counter where I was working and through clenched teeth, screamed, “I hate this thing!”….and just seconds later she picked it up and said to me quietly, “mom….can we use this to have a re-do? I’m sorry”.
Now, one would think that there would be halleluiahs being sung from the rafters…..and praises and more…..but here is the point of this blog. I was still fuming. I wasn’t ready for a re-do. I was wallowing in my justified frustration, and enjoying my lament. It took every ounce of strength and grace and self-control I could muster, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, to look at my child in that moment. It really, really did. Not because of the one episode of paper shreds I failed at getting her to clean up, but for the hundreds of episodes that preceeded this one. I took a deep breath and I turned to my daughter and said, “yes, Precious. That is a very good idea.” I picked up the little felt elephant puppet that we use, and I took my child by the hand. She led me…..she…..led….me…..to the spot where it all went wrong with the paper and we did a re-do. We couldn’t actually clean up the paper since I had already done it (foul on my part. you are supposed to leave it just in case this moment actually comes to pass). We role-played saying “no” and storming off, and then saying “ok” and following through. It was lovely. It was important. It mattered to her that we “finish the loop” and get connected again because she feels thing so deeply and she understood how sad and frustrated and angry I was. We did finish the loop that day.
I have not dared to give her a directive like that one since then….because I don’t have the energy for the drama. I need to. I promised our therapist that I would “poke the bear” and work at urging this child to do chores, clean up and be obedient. She has made such great progress in so many areas lately, that I just want to savor the victories, and notice the progress and celebrate all the reasons I love her so much. Maybe tomorrow I’ll gear up, plan ahead, and give her another directive expecting the fit to follow, have myself braced for the process….and continue to work at it. I trust the trust-based parenting. It works. Now, if only I could begin to trust myself a bit more, that would help a lot.