Why am I quoting Taylor Swift, you ask?
Well, today, Laila called me "mean".
She asked if we could stop on the way home and play at the park for a while and, when I said "No" because we had groceries in the car that needed to go in the fridge, her response was "You're mean."
When I sharply adjusted the rearview mirror so that she could see my eyes and gave her The Look circa Donna Golden, 1987 asking "What did you say?", she cleverly changed her tune and said "I love you?"
But the damage had been done.
Ya'll, it hurt my feelings very much. I seriously almost cried. As I drove on, swallowing my tears and wondering where she had even heard that word, I started to ask myself "What the heck, Chels? Why are you so affected by this?"
Very quickly, my hurt turned to anger. I wanted to justify myself. I wanted to remind Laila of all the privileges she enjoys, of all the treats she gets to have, of all the things I do with and for her, of how flipping FUN I AM!! I'm seriously FUN, kid! Don't you know?!? Ask ANYONE. I'm not MEAN. I'm AWESOME!
Right?! Right, blog world?! You think I'm awesome, don't you??
Well, hello, Mommy Guilt. You sly minx, you're back, eh? Well, (mustering my strength) I reject you and your attempts to drag me down into your despicable pit of questioning myself as a mother, comparing myself as a woman and eating pop tarts to ease the agony.
You won't get me this time.
Because, guess what? I AM fun. I AM awesome. But what is so so so so so SO (a little overkill?) much more important than me being fun is that, by the grace of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I am a shepherdess, a guardian and a vessel through which the love and grace of Jesus can flow onto and into my children. I am not defined by the fleeting emotions of a 4 year old. In fact, I am not defined by the emotions of anyone. As my dear sister, Nikki, often says... and, as her Life Disciple (I just made that up), I now often say, "I am unattached to the opinions of others".
Friends, I'm practicing the application of those words.
Laila Grace Chapman, you are not allowed to manipulate your Mommy's emotions. You are super powerful and you have influence, dear one, but Mommy won't allow you to learn that manipulating people's emotions is a way to get what you want. Direct communication of your desires and your feelings is more effective and more kind. We reject manipulation and we reject passive aggression. With kindness, tenderness, love and grace, we care for people's emotions, daughter.
We do not manipulate them.
You can be sure THAT message was communicated, dear reader.
All in all, those few moments in the car accomplished two things.
1). It gave me the glorious opportunity to see how my arch nemesis, Mommy Guilt, was trying to creep it's way back into my psyche. Friends, guilt and shame of any kind should never motivate or rule us. When we feel it trying to push in, let's fight. Reject it. Tell it to go.
Let's be motivated by love instead. And peace. And unity.
2). It gave me the opportunity to reinforce again something that I am super passionate about... In a world where girls are encouraged to use their powers of persuasion, their wiles, their words and their wit to manipulate, coerce, trap and deceive, our daughters will learn that the heart of a person is far more valuable than what can be gotten out of them. With all our hearts, it is our prayer that we will teach them to use their powers for good; to encourage, build up and welcome in.
I'm still working all of this out, you see. As our baby girl became a toddler, and then a bigger toddler and now almost a Kindergartener (spelling?? eesh), Trevor and I are being thrust into the deeper conversations, the harder places of parenting, the greater temptations and the stronger tides. Spirit of God, oh that you would lead us! Goodness gracious me, she's only 4! And was she actually trying to manipulate me with those two little words? I don't know... Was she simply repeating something she heard somewhere? Maybe so. But I'm learning more and more that parenting happens in all of these small and seemingly insignificant moments. They all roll together and become the collective experience of our family. Each minute is an opportunity and every conflict can be constructive. The patterns that we allow to develop now will turn into the stuff our kids are made of.
We have to be vigilant.
So, dear mother and dear father, what we do matters. What we say matters. How we respond matters. May we be held up by each other and, most importantly, by the strong arms of our Father God as we navigate these treacherous and glorious waters.
And may we always remember the power of The Look. Not to manipulate. But to communicate.