Embracing the bittersweet

Fridays are ‘mommy days’. The other days are Omie and Ena days, the grandmas’ days. Fridays are the days that mommy picks D up from preschool because I don’t work on Fridays…this year.

IMG_1443Most Friday afternoons involve play dough creations, art sessions, baby doll mothering, bubble blowing, or marathon book readings. But this afternoon, we were both tired. Between allergies and some unexpected emotional upheavals this week, Friday was going to be a ‘napternoon’.

We cuddled in bed and I read two hilarious books (reviews forthcoming) and we almost decided not to nap. But I yawned, and she rubbed her eyes and we knew. She cuddled into her pink cat quilt, and I rolled into the other bed in her room, and we closed our eyes.IMG_4421

I opened my eyes a few minutes later to see if she was truly asleep, and she was. Two middle fingers in her mouth, little line of drool starting to form, breathing softly and rhythmically. The pristine blue spring sky and the soft green leaves celebrated new life outside her window. But inside, something was ending. ‘Mommy days’ on Fridays were almost over.

In four weeks, she’ll graduate from preschool, and  (hopefully) I’ll be employed with a full time job for next year. I try not to get weepy about things like this with my kids. I spent most of my youth weeping about my own transitions. But this one gets to me. The bittersweetness of it. And i let myself wallow.

Times are a-changing. She is no longer a baby. She loves school. She’s a little knowledge sponge. She’s so ready for the next thing. I’m so ready for my next thing. I’m restless and ready and admittedly, I’ve just been biding my time this year. IMG_3016

But can’t we come back to this? The endingness of it hurts. The finality. Friday afternoons will be spent in school. For her, eagerly gluing her last pieces of colorful craft in place to bring home to show me. For me, grasping at the reigns of control over my impatient adolescent students. No more play dough and dolls before a refreshing nap. No more laughter until hiccuping at amusing nap time stories. (*sigh*) Maybe she could just come to work with me…

I have no regrets. I spent as much time with her as I could during these years. I would not change any of it.

Now we move into a new phase, with new excitement, new ideas, new exploration…for both of us.

IMG_4187And when we come home from our long days of learning and instructing, we will still have each other. We’ll still have our afternoon routines, just later in the afternoon…and maybe alternating days of play dough and dolls and tea parties and games. We’ll still read books before bed. And we’ll always snuggle. Because truthfully, everyday is a mommy day…and everyday she is mine.      IMG_4299

Loving God, Loving Others

I was a teacher before I was a parent, so you’d expect that I’d have this whole discipline/ behavior management thing figured out, right? Nope. The lines get blurry when they’re your own children. We’ve tried various techniques with varying results which has often left me wondering: what are the desired behaviors? What do we most want our children to portray? Well, that answer is actually pretty easy: loving God and loving others.

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Guess what? Those are the exact  desired behaviors that God established a few thousand years ago. It’s a shame I didn’t consider that first…

Our infinitely merciful Father reminded his wayward Israelite children, ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself’ (Exodus 19:4). He craved fellowship with his children, and he brought them out of their slavery to spend time with them. So desirous of communion was he that he wanted them to understand the way to make relationships last. God gave his children clear, simply stated instructions on how to live harmoniously with him and with each other. If followed, then these ten rules of friendship could guarantee relational strength and growth.

The primary rules taught the Israelite children how to commune with God, their father, our father: Hold him in highest regard, as he is the giver and sustainer of life. Don’t allow any object to become greater than he in your mind or actions. Respect his name, his power, and his authority. Set aside uninterrupted, specific time to commune with him. In short, show God(and those around you) that he is your primary object of devotion. (Exodus 20:1-11)

The succeeding tenets taught about maintaining healthy relationships with others: Respect the lives, names, and authority of parents. Be helpful, not harmful. Be thankful, not jealous. Be truthful, not dishonest. In short, show others that they are worthwhile, significant people. (Exodus 20:12-17)

Hmmm…well that makes establishing limits for my children a lot simpler. Do their behaviors show adoration for God and appreciation for others? Appropriate. Do their behaviors dishonor God or degrade others? Not acceptable.

If the Ten Commandments are used as a filter for our actions, then we really will maintain the relationships with God and those around us…the way he intended, the way he desires.

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Birthday cake, tacos, and crow

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Every once in a while, I become the child and my children become the parents. This is not an announced role reversal. Oh no, it is a very subliminal, silent, stealthy occurrence. But it shakes me, rattles me, and rolls me into a new stage of parenting. It happened last night in the midst of cooking dinner and playing with Duplos.

The Duplo task at hand was to make a birthday cake for one of the beloved baby dolls. This baby has a birthday about every six weeks and we celebrate in varying ways mostly singing, dancing, and dressing up. This particular celebration involved a colorful, cubic, cake, made to the ‘mom’s’ exact specifications. I was not the mom…I had no specifications. I was thinking of the baked taco dinner that I needed to put in the oven.

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Research shows that 20 minutes of parent-engaged play with each child on a daily basis aids in their social, academic, and emotional competence. BUT, an important variable is that the parent must let the child lead the play session…the parent follows the child’s lead. So, I was trying…really trying…to learn the details of Duplo cake creating, without applying my design techniques. I was trying…really trying to put family dinner on the back burner, literally and figuratively.

Finally, I asserted myself and began adding pieces to the colorful confection. I thought I had grasped the general recipe…a little of this, a little of that…a dash of farm animals for flavor. D was struggling a bit to get two blocks to stay put while she clicked another on top, so I ‘helped’ by laying a flat piece across the two wobbly blocks to steady them.

She looked at me, sighed, and held both hands in the air.

‘You’re solving problems that I’m supposed to solve, Mom!’

BAM! 

She’s five…and she has identified the horribly sensitive parent/child conundrum. I’m solving problems that she’s supposed to solve. I was simplifying what was supposed to be hard for her…I was making it too easy. She wanted the challenge.

Wow…

I had to sit back, lick my wounds, and examine my existence. I need to let her struggle. I need to let her fail. I need to let her figure out the colored blocks, the doll clothes, the playground pals,…so that she will develop confidence in her own spatial-relating, decision-making, people-accepting abilities.

I love my children more than anything. I want them to be stronger, wiser, gentler, and greater than I have been. But they won’t get there by my doing the hard work for them. They won’t build their academic, social, or spiritual muscles if they aren’t challenged with tasks greater than they think they can handle.

1 Kings 3:7-9 tells us an amazing story of an adult-child, Solomon. God allowed him to ask for anything…:here’s his reply:

 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.  Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.  So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

Wisdom…a discerning heart. That’s the greatest need of all parents. When to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, when to step in or leave them alone, when to push or pull back, when to talk or listen, when to pity or punish…millions of decisions, daily begging for discernment. We can give answers, but is that giving direction? We can reply, but is that instructing? Only with the Spirit leading us will we be parents who lead our children into competent adulthood. They’ll grow up regardless, but will they grow strong and wise? We must rely on God’s guidance to raise God-loving, God-living children.

We had tacos for dinner last night…and baby birthday cake for dessert. And I went to bed with a full heart and a spirit longing for more God than I’ve ever requested before.

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<<Here’s the final birthday cake. Complete with apples, bananas, and a balancing chicken, ‘because baby will think that’s soooo funny!!’

And here’s more of Solomon’s story. You should read it! >> I Kings 3

You’re right…you can’t…

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 9.29.18 PMHomework time is an humbling time at our house. My son drops to his knees, wailing in sorrow and frustration. I reach for my hair, pulling out one chunk for the teacher half of me who knows the benefits of at-home practice and another chunk for the parent half of me who dreads this lengthy battle each evening.

It’s the math…the regrouping, the carrying over, the letters and numbers mixed together…that baffles my son. He wants to know it all, know it quickly, and move on. He’s capable…he’s just impatient. He can do the work; he just wants to be done with the work. (He is his mother’s child…I recognize these traits all too familiarly.)  Alas, math homework is not so easily vanquished. I’ve coached, corrected, calmed, caressed, and cajoled to get the job done…as quickly and as painlessly as possible. But it still takes an hour and a half. Nearly 100 minutes…nearly every night. It’s exhausting.

Tonight, I’d had enough. Eight problems took thirty minutes. Little D was waiting so patiently for her turn with my attention. I was spent. When B dramatically buried his head in his paper and lamented, ‘I just can’t do it! I just. Can’t. Do. It!!’, the rotten ol’ middle school teacher in me came out of hiding and snarked, ‘You’re right. You can’t. You can’t do it.’

The  living room was eerily quiet as the two large brown eyes rose from the depths of the multiplication paper and ogled me.The edges of the paper still curled around his mouth, safely hiding him from the cruel woman who would speak such curses. She’d already held his feet to the algebraic fire for thirty minutes and now she was heaping coals of burning spite on his head…he was safer buried in associative properties. She said what?

I succinctly picked up the markers that D had been coloring with and, without making eye contact with the disbelieving eyes beside me, I stated, ‘You can’t do that math. It’s too hard. You’ve been saying it for a half an hour, and I think you’re right. You can’t do it.’  B sat up and looked at his paper and tapped his pencil and looked at me, ‘So I’m finished? I don’t have to do anymore of it?’ Despair turned to hope. ‘No, I didn’t say that,’ I clarified. ‘I said you can’t do it. You can’t do the math if you’re using all your energy making excuses. You can’t do it if you’d rather waste time wailing and moaning. And you can’t do it if you’d rather let that brainless piece of paper be smarter than you. Nope, you can’t do it.’

I wasn’t busting out reverse psychology on purpose. I was just an exhausted mom who was trying to point out to her son that more time was passing without homework being accomplished than vice versa.

And then, I went to clean the bathtub and left him alone with his paper, his pencil and his thoughts.

While I was scrubbing the ridiculously thick soap scum from the bathtub walls, I realized that God gets that frustrated with me sometimes too. ‘But, Father, I’m working as hard as I can…I’m being as nice as possible… I’m being as good a steward as I know how to be…but I just can’t do it all. I just can’t!’

Isaiah 40:28-31

28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

It’s not about how hard the work is; it’s about being faithful to do it. And trusting the one who is within us to help us each step of them way…or through each step of each equation. I was right in my schoolmarm approach with my son…we can’t do it. But with his guidance, grace, and goodness, we can.

When the bathtub shone as brightly as I hoped my son’s attitude had become, I returned to his side to see his progress. He had made none…on paper…but the light of challenge was now shining in his eyes. We finished the rest of the page, 14 more problems, in 12 minutes…a world record, no doubt!! B learned what I learned, no we can’t when we say that we can’t. (But we can when He says that we can.)

Need more words of encouragement? Here you go!

Deuteronomy 30:23

23 The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.”

Joshua 1:5

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

I Chronicles 28:20

20 David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.

Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Colossians 2:23-24

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

&

When I was a child, discipline usually began with the statement, ‘You know I love you…but…’ I don’t think the conditionality of that statement scarred me, but I didn’t like the sound of it coming out of my mouth to my children. It sounded wrong. Like my love was limited to times when behavior was stellar…which isn’t going to be always with kids. I was perplexed about how to phrase my deep love for my children while addressing their inappropriate actions. I needed new words.

Enter Andrew Taylor-Troutman, minister, author, blogger (http://www.takemyhandmemoir.com/blog) . He was invited to speak at our church on the topics of parenting, pastoring, and publishing. I posed my question to him: how do I communicate ‘I love you, but you can’t do this’ without the ‘but’? He thought for a shorter moment than I expected and replied with, ‘What about ‘and’?’ Hmmmm…

‘I love you, and you can’t behave this way.’ Hmmmm… ‘I love you, and you must stop hitting your sister.’ ‘I love you, and you cannot be disrespectful to me.’ Hmmm… I liked it. I could see how it could work. Affirmation and redirection. Probably with a long pause in between to let the first message sink in before delivering the instruction of the second one. Unconditional love with the added bonus of showing them a road map to getting out of the predicament wherein they found themselves.

Yes, this would work. I liked it very much. It was hard to implement as the old phrase kept popping out of my maternal mouth. I jokingly told a friend that I needed to tattoo ‘and’ on my arm so that I remember to say it. But I actually ended up doing something a little more drastic…I painted it on the wall.

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Reminders that good things come in pairs. Bacon and eggs. Hugs and kisses. Forgiving and forgetting. AND that joys and sorrows come together, too. Work and play. Sinners and saints. Love and discipline.

When the kids have asked, ‘Why did you paint a big ‘and’ sign on the wall?’, I tell them it’s a reminder that sometimes good things happen AND sometimes bad things happen. AND that we survive them both. It’s a healthy way to view life, I think. We can celebrate the joys and work through the sorrows together. Always loving, though not always lovable. And always loved.

James 1

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Psalm 1

Oh, the joys of those who do not  follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lordmeditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. 

Matthew 5

3“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”

What little ears hear

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My son doesn’t like to be startled. At all. Ever. He doesn’t like alarm clocks ( I don’t either ), car horns ( unless he’s honking them ),  or fire drills ( they bring him to his knees).  I know this about my son, and I accept it. We all have our quirks. I don’t like jumpy things…grasshoppers, frogs, crickets…bunnies are only just tolerable.

We were with a well-meaning acquaintance doing a planned activity that ended up being a bit louder and startling than expected. My son balked. He ran from the fun to a safe space some distance away…and I was okay with that. I knew what was happening, and I knew he was finding his solace. Our host did not understand that so much. And there were some chastising words spoken toward my son. And that hurt me.

I wanted to plug my son’s ears. I wanted to erase the two minutes of time that had just occurred and take him back to when that person was a ‘safe’ person to be around. Without realizing it, that individual had just permanently damaged the relationship with my great kid. No longer was he a trustworthy companion in my son’s eyes because he had poked an already sore spot in my son’s psyche.

As a kid, I used to sing the song ‘Oh Be Careful Little Eyes What You See’ in chapel at school. (And subsequent verses, ‘Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear’ and ‘Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go’…) It was a cute little ditty, reminding us not to put ourselves in places where we shouldn’t be…places where we can get into trouble…or where trouble can find us. But what if trouble finds you when you’re where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to be doing, with the people that are acceptable company? What then?

Oh for cotton balls to shove in my son’s ears, band-aids to wrap his heart or bubble wrap to roll around his spirit at that moment. I agonized for him because I knew he had tried to be brave, and though he had succeeded in my eyes and his own, he had failed in the most verbal presence there. And there’s the key. He had succeeded, and there will always be verbal presences. He had sought his safe space where he could still participate, but from a distance. He had not denied the total experience. He had not thrown a fit. He had not screamed at the adult. He had not reacted negatively. He knew his limits and he lived within them. And I was proud of him.

I cannot follow my son everywhere and protect him from everything. That would create more problems than it would solve. But I can help him become strong enough inside that he is prepared when trials come along, expectedly or unexpectedly. I cannot shelter him from meanness but I can teach him to be brave in spite of it. I cannot block him from the evil that resides in this world, but I can show him that God is bigger than evil and that God lives in him…and loves him more than anything.

People hurt us. People close to us that know our inner struggles can hurt us deeper because they know our weaknesses. But we can heal and learn from those painful times. We can learn to protect ourselves emotionally when we’re around those people, and we can be compassionate enough not to act that way to others.

Oh, be careful little ears what you hear, and don’t become like the voices that spoke those words.

Psalm 103…parenting like God.

(Picture courtesy of blog.childandfamilydevelopment.com)

Lucky Charms

We don’t often eat Lucky Charms cereal at our house…too much sugar, too early in the morning. But, in a moment of  maternal weakness, my little cherub got her request at the grocery store…a vibrant red box of oaty, marshmallowy goodness. At least I had the foresight to buy a box of Cheerios to combine with the Charms to balance out the nutritional value a bit.

The opening of the box began the competition…who could get the most marshmallows in their bowl? Or more accurately, who could brag about having more marshmallows in their bowl, regardless of the actual mallow count. My son eats the cereal dry, but my daughter likes hers with milk. He digs through to find the colorful clumps; she eats the soaked mallow/oat combination on her spoon. He makes a dry mess; she makes a wet one. They both enjoy themselves.

This morning, he woke up before she did and burrowed down into his bowl of Charms like a paleontologist. She came in and snuggled on the couch a bit. As she was finally coming around to admitting she was awake and cognizant, she realized that he was eating the treasured breakfast bits, so she asked for some as well. He, in a fit of kindness, brought his bowl over to her, reaching out in a gesture of goodwill to give her his breakfast. She looked at me in awe and then at him in awe, and said, ‘Thanks’. Then, he ran off to play, with a glimmer in his eye. He had done a good deed to start his day…or had he?

As I got milk for her cereal, I realized there were no marshmallows in the bowl. He had picked them all out. She had not noticed, being so overwhelmed with his kindness.

I added some cereal to the bowl so as not to start a civil war, poured on the milk, and gave her the bowl. She began to eat happily. Then, I stepped around the corner and glanced into the playroom at him. He looked up from playing Legos and met my eyes. We exchanged a look that indicated we both knew what he had done. But nothing was said. He had shared, that’s what she thought, that’s what she learned. He had withheld, that’s what I knew, that’s what he learned. Lesson accomplished.

Oh, but wait, the real charm was this…the luck of being grown up and realizing I do the same thing. I make my ‘personal donations’ look good, but I hold back what I really want. Money, time, love,…hmmmm…

God sees, and he knows, and he gives me that same knowing look I gave my son. He has given me all the lucky charms I could ever want, and he will continue to do so as long as I have needs. I should share the good stuff when I have it. My unused coats, my excess books, my spare change, my extra time, my open hugs… I need to give away not just my oats, but my marshmallows, too.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:7-9 (www.biblegateway.com)

Family pile

I rarely sew, but today I was attempting a simple construction that involved 4 straight seams. While I was attempting this, my daughter was playing in the room with me and my son announced that he was going to ‘mop your floor, mommy, since you cleaned up all the clothes and stuff.’

So we were doing the ‘Leave it to Beaver’-perfect-Americana thing, until my daughter pulled a piece of fabric off the sewing table and dumped about 500 straight pins on the floor. I stopped my sewing and got on the floor to help her pick them up, hoping that we would get them all before she or my son stepped on any of them. Meanwhile, he came in and announced that my room was closed while the floor dried, and then he went back to his ‘job’.

When the pins were cleaned up, she went in to join him and I went back to seam construction. And then, the sewing machine broke. Just broke. The bobbin holder just popped loose. I fiddled with it, cursed a bit, tried a screwdriver to unhook the plate…but all with no success. Sighing, I went in my room to get my phone to call a friend, hoping I could borrow her machine to finish my simple project.

And that’s when I smelled it…opened the door and saw it. All over the floor. My beloveds had used a homemade salt/ olive oil body scrub and a family heirloom shoe brush to clean the bedroom floor. A pint of it. There were blobs of salt and slime everywhere. And two smiling children in the midst of it.

I could see the streaks on the floor, not permanent but drying stickily. I could imagine the length of time it was going to take to clean an oil based product from the floor. I could feel the chunks of salt under my bare toes and wondered how long I would be tracking them around.  I could hear the slippity-clunk as the kids tried to walk across the floor and fall down. And I could see two bright brown eyes and a gap from two missing teeth beaming at me. ‘Do you like it, mommy?’

No, no I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the mess, the clean up, the frustration. I didn’t like the talk that we were going to have to have. I didn’t like the long evening that was shaping up in front of me. I didn’t like the anger that was boiling up inside of me, when all they wanted to do was help. I didn’t like any of it.

But his little brown eyes are so much like my own, that through them I could see back in time thirty years when I wanted to clean my mom’s car really thoroughly, so I used Pine Sol. I can still see the swirls of stripped wax on the dark gray surface. I can still see the flames of anger in my dad’s eyes. I can still hear my mom’s preparatory explanation to him. I can still feel the imbalance of doing a good surprise deed and asking for permission to help.

So I said, through tears of my own, ‘It was a really nice thing for you to do, buddy. It was really kind of you to want to clean my floor. Next time, let’s just stick with water, though.’

Because my husband had come home, I sent the kids downstairs with him so that I could clean up the mess and have a little decompression time. And when I finished and went downstairs, they were all cuddled up on the couch looking at a book about boats. My son asked my daughter, ‘Which boat do you want to be in?’ My daughter squeezed her dad’s arm and said, ‘Whichever one daddy’s in.’ When my son realized I was standing there, he exclaimed,  ‘Look, mom, we’re a family pile!’

‘Family pile’ is a term we use when we’re all piled up together on the couch. And I realized that the evening could’ve turned out a whole lot differently. There could have been yelling and crying and taking away of privileges. There could’ve been impulsive reactions instead of slow, thoughtful ones. Rather than wanting to be on the same boat together, we could’ve all wanted to sail far away from each other…and the pain that we had caused.

I am not a great parent. I know that. But tonight, I’m a happy parent. We will have to discuss some boundaries within the coming days. We will talk about what is acceptable to do when mom’s not around and when permission is needed. And even those rules will get broken. I will yell and I will make my children cry another day. I know that. But tonight, I didn’t. Tonight, we are a sloppy, messy, sticky, loving family pile.

Don’t make me…

I never knew it would be this hard. I thought I would be the nurturer and your dad would be the disciplinarian. I didn’t realize what an all-important, all-consuming role I would play in the development of your behaviors. And quite frankly, I don’t like this part.

I want to snuggle you, scratch your messy little head, rub your belly and your back, watch your drowsy eyes close at night. I want to be your cheerleader at games, your sneaky chef who crams protein in your growing body, your advisor on important decisions like birthday presents for friends and toys for yourself. I want to wash your clothes and your body and revel in their fresh smells after relishing their filth from a day of romping in nature. Let’s make crafts together, messes together, cookies and dinner together. Let’s clean up and organize together. Let’s just enjoy being together.

Don’t bring discipline into it. Please.

I don’t want to fuss at you, correct you, reprimand you or punish you. I truly don’t want to. I hate that part of us. I hate (a word that I don’t like to use at all) seeing your glowering face, hearing your mean retorts, watching you plug your ears or refuse to listen to me. It hurts me so deeply. Those times hurt more than the pains that brought you into this world.

But I know that as much as I despise this now, I would despise even more the child you would become without discipline. As much as I dislike our feuds now, I know they would be intolerable if we don’t get these boundaries established now. What would middle school be like with no ground rules laid? You…driving with friends if you had no appreciation for others? Dating …if you had no respect for your mom? You would be a wretch! I’ve known plenty of people like that and I desperately don’t want you to become one.

I want you to be polite, respectful, and kind. I want you to esteem others the way you esteem yourself. I want compassion to be your first instinct. I want you to grow farther than you think you can. I want you to leap over those obstacles you will encounter and not even consider turning away from them. I want more for you than you can even imagine for yourself, but you will never be that person by getting your way all the time. You won’t develop character and confidence if you don’t learn about boundaries and limits. Quite often there are many ‘no’s’ before you will find even one ‘yes’. You must understand this awful truth about your upcoming life.

I wish you could grasp the notion of how deeply I hate our confrontations…and how deeply I love you. Someday, when you can read, and when your egocentrism has waned, I will probably let you read this and hope that you can begin to see my side of this relationship. But it probably won’t really be until you are enduring this with your own child that you will know what I’m feeling now.

I love you so much.