I am constantly amazed at how grown-up the kids are . . . I never get used to it.
When other people are amazed at their kids growing up, I think, “Well, what did you think was going to happen?”
But, for some reason, I am still genuinely surprised by my own kids’ rate of growth.
Eliza has the privilege of being our “clean and sober” marker. So . . . Caleb has been off drugs for 15 years now (that story here). Honestly, it seems a lot longer than that.
When this sweet little girl toddled into our lives, it began to dawn on me how little my parenting influenced our kids’ behavior – and how much was determined by their own personalities.
Of course, parenting is important and very necessary! Don’t get me wrong. But after almost five years of fighting tooth and nail over absolutely everything with our oldest, we were stunned the first time this sweet cherub looked her dad dead in the eye and climbed right back up to stand on the rocking chair he had just removed her from with a firm, “No, no!” He gave her one more chance to obey, and then he gave her the gentlest swat on her diapered butt that I have ever seen. He set her back down with another firm, “No!”
Now, with Lynn, this would have been the beginning of a 30-minute ordeal which would have involved a lot of screaming and eventually ended in some sort of confinement (for Lynn, not Caleb).
But on this occasion with little Eliza, she just looked at him so betrayed, put out her lower lip and cried! And do you know what else? She never stood up on the rocking chair again! And not only that, she obeyed what she was told, at least intermittently, because she did not like that little swat.
All of the parenting advice that did not help us with Lynn, might actually come in handy with this one.
I began to feel that this kid would be a piece of cake. Her attempts at temper tantrums were laughable. I would just smile and say, “Honey, is that the best you can do? After your sister….that’s nothing!”
Well, I didn’t really say that to her, but I thought it.
Anyway, needless to say, I got a bit too overconfident, and soon learned that Eliza’s sweet, sensitive nature would bring a whole different set of parenting challenges. In some ways, she tried my patience even more than her older sister.
Lesson #1: Do not rush Eliza. The more urgency in your voice, the slower she will move (This one alone is enough to make me want to scream – or cry – or both).
Lesson #2: Just because she does not question the rules or argue, does not mean that Eliza intends to do what she is told. Though a long, protracted battle is not likely, verification is still necessary – that she is in fact doing what you told her to do (or not doing what you told her to stop doing).
Lesson #3: Eliza connects primarily on an emotional level. Words mean very little. Tone of voice, body language, and actual feelings are what she “hears”. This can be very challenging for her no-nonsense mother!
Lesson #4: ADD looks very different than ADHD. Just because Eliza is not “bouncing off the walls” or acting impulsively, does not mean that she is paying attention. The fact is, she is more easily distracted than her sister – just less disruptive.
Lesson #5: Being sweet and sensitive also means you get your feeling hurt more easily. I had to shift gears from teaching my oldest to consider the feelings of others, to teaching this one not to take others so seriously.
I have had to learn to slow down and stay calm, even in the face of tardies and being late to work. I had to embrace my mother’s (most irritating) words, “Oh well, it’s not the end of the world.”
I have had to learn to pay more attention to emotions and communicate in a more genuine way with my kids.
I have learned to be open to seeing what is, rather than what I expect.
And I have had to learn to stand on the sidelines and coach and pray my girls through difficult hurt feelings and life experiences that I can’t control…holding their hands, but encouraging them to take the hand of the One who is in control.
Proverbs 23:15-16 My son, if your heart is wise, my heart will rejoice—indeed, I myself; Yes, my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak right things.