My eight-year-old packed a bag the other night. She didn’t know what else to do to get her point across than to empty her drawers to run away.
Sassy is a wonderful girl. A head taller than most of her friends, sensitive and sweet and so willing to take responsibility at home. Like many firstborns, she tends to be bossy and controlling with her younger siblings, and sometimes with me. And she has a very hard time sharing. These are her issues, and I know them well, because most of them were mine too (I was the oldest of three, just like her!).
I think her firstborn issues can be summed up in one incident that took place a few months ago. She was telling me about something her sister had done wrong, and I replied that “Yes, Scooter did make a mistake. You make mistakes too.” Sassy replied instantly, “Yeah, but not as many as Scooter does.”
Isn’t that a true reflection on the human condition? We all want to believe we are mostly right, at least more right than to whomever we happen to be comparing ourselves. So on Monday night, after I had checked Sassy on some bad choices in her behaviour, and then checked her again, and then, frustrated at her stubborn unwillingness to admit her mistake and start over, I sent her to bed a half hour early. Which is when she started packing.
I sought Sassy out to talk about what was going on, and my initial thought was that she was running from me, big mean Mummy. She’s not good at talking about her feelings and it would have been easy to continue to assume that – her face was still set, chin jutting, eyes downcast. But a few questions revealed that she had swung on the pendulum from self-righteousness to self-condemnation, and she wanted to run away to spare her family her presence.
Oh, have I been there. It just seems too awful, to snap out of a stampede of selfishness to the reality of the damage I’ve inflicted while on my rampage. I don’t want to look at myself in those moments of realizing just how ugly my behaviour has been. And I don’t understand how people can think they are generally good when we all have such ugliness simmering inside.
How glad I am that I can offer my child unconditional love when her behaviour is most hideous! How important it is to model that kind of acceptance and forgiveness when my deepest desire is to point her to a God who offers unconditional love, forgiveness and grace. It felt so full of hope to tell her, “Honey, you belong to God. Your problems are His problems – you can bring all of this to Him because He is the one who changes your heart.” These teaching moments are always so timely for me too: I so quickly forget that when I am looking at what I have or haven’t done, I am failing to look at what has been done for me by Jesus Christ and trusting in Him to continue to do it.