Eyes streaked with tears and hands planted just a touch too high to be on her hips, Faye set her eyes squarely on mine and pointed to the floor. “You need to go to time out, Mama. Sit right there in your shirt.”
Yesterday afternoon I pushed Faye too far. The result? I was to sit by myself in timeout and under no circumstances was I to remove my clothes.
For the record, I don’t make a habit of randomly undressing regardless of whether or not I am in some sort of trouble. The requirement to keep my shirt on forced my cheek muscles to work against the upward turn of the corners of my mouth. I managed to keep my composure, don’t worry.
My offense? Dragging her out of the street where she was demanding to stay until I fixed the velcro on her empty lunchbox. Apparently, a securely velcro-ed lunch box is worth risking your life for when you are two.
Arms overflowing with the fruit of a successful grocery trip, I managed to get a hold of her wrist and force her to the door of the parking garage and out of the way of any oncoming traffic.
Being dragged against your will isn’t the height of comfort but her removal was relatively gentle and no doubt painless.
Between heaving, over-the-top breathes and forced sobs Faye cried, “You hurt my wrist!”
No red mark. No scratch. Certainly no swelling or bruising. Yet for this injustice I had a price to pay–fully clothed time out.
Bending down, I took her little hands in mine and explained I was not going to go to time out, but I wanted to sit and talk about why she was upset. With pouting lips and head cocked to the side she managed a quick reply. “You just keep hurting me. You’re always hurting me.”
Oh, the drama.
We talked. We talked about listening and obeying. We talked about how much mama loves her. We talked about being respectful. We talked about exaggerating and how that’s a form of lying. We talked about the importance of always telling the truth. We talked about who makes the rules.
I apologized for hurting her wrist unintentionally. She apologized for saying mean things, exaggerating, and not listening and obeying.
Walking back to the kitchen I let out a sigh of satisfaction.
I was glad she tried to put me in time out. Yes, it was hilarious and I love that about toddler-hood, but there was more to it.
I loved it because by bringing her grievances to me we were able to sort through what was true and what was not true.
It would have been easy to brush her off or be frustrated that I was dealing with yet another two-year old meltdown.
But she is only two. I know that she doesn’t see the bigger picture of even a walk through the parking garage. Therefore, her frustrations don’t send me into fits of anger (well, most of the time).
Instead, I want to acknowledge her feelings and sift through her experiences with her. I want to hep her pull apart truth from flasehood, right from wrong, drama from legitimate concern.
As I continued to make dinner I realized how like her I am and how much like her I want to be. I get frustrated with my circumstances and feel that there should be justice for perceived wrongs against me. Yet how often do I miss the opportunity to sift for truth with God because I don’t think I can bring him my grievances?
One of the beauties of toddlerhood is that it never occurs to tiny people that maybe you should hide your frustration from the people who take care of you.
I don’t do that with my heavenly father.
I want to reason myself out of my thoughts and emotions. I want to find pat answers or scripture on coffee cups and call it a day. Above all I do not want to tell him I am upset. I mean, who knows what he’ll do if I tell him how I really feel? Right?
But as it turns out I am not subject to smiting my two-year-old. No, I long for her to understand the world rightly. I long for her to understand things she doesn’t know today. I long for her to flourish now and as an adult.
Isn’t that what God wants for me?
Don’t so many new testament letters start with a prayer for knowledge and understanding? Don’t we find that in God through the person of Jesus with the help of the Spirit?
Don’t we have so much to learn from the psalmist? He seems to lament and lament; it’s almost uncomfortable. But after a few stanzas he has a clearer view of God’s character, his providence, and his love.
God longs to sort the truth from the falsehood of our experiences.
I didn’t go to timeout. But I did take the time to pray. I took the time to sort through some things, to ask some questions, and to have the one who cares for my heart and mind sift through them in light of my circumstances.
Even as things that felt like legitimate critique fell from my mouth they were exposed as wrong, as selfish, as silly even.
Here’s to airing more grievances, being sifted, and being better off for it.