I wake up to the sound of singing, LOUD singing, and talking, and lots of questions, "Can I come downstairs yet? I'm hungry. Can I get breakfast? I have to go potty." And then clomp, clomp, clomp, a herd of elephants disguised as a 6-year-old boy appears and springs into the bed and I burrow farther under the covers and try to catch the tail of that dreams that's dissolving....
"M--OOO--MM! Wanna hear me sing a song?" and there's no time to reply before the serenade begins and I'm groggily tumbling out of bed to start the day. I alternately wish that I could be as sunny in the morning as my boy or that he would just be quiet for a minute.
My mirror image slumps down the stairs, a vision of tangled hair and grumpy disposition. This girl has been dragged unwillingly from sleep like me. We acknowledge each other with a glance or sometimes a hug, but know better than to speak. It doesn't take long for our mood to spread however, and there are fights about who is sitting where and breakfast choices and cleaning up. Hardly a morning goes by without someone being sent upstairs in time out (yelling defiantly or crying) while I grumble under my breath.
On this morning, I went up to prod them into making their beds and was greeted by the growl of an angry bear where my boy once stood. As the litany began of how mean I am and how he was NOT going to do what I wanted him to do, I returned his anger with my own growls that escalated with his. We were both boiling and the loop running through my head was "How did we end up with such stubborn, difficult, argumentative children?" (ahem)
Through the yelling, a wail arose, and I went into Maryn's room to see what was the matter. I impatiently asked what was wrong and she sobbed,
"I don't know."
"Well, are you hurt?"
"Then WHY are you CRYING?"
"I don't KNOOOOWWW!" as she hiccuped and coughed and choked in her uncontrollable manner, and I couldn't help but notice how she falls apart like me.
So I scooped her up and asked more calmly, "Was it because I yelled?" and she answered, "Yes", and burrowed into me. So we sank down together in her big chair with her curled up in my arms as in her baby days. Breathing together, we both began to calm down, and I marveled that this girl of fire and passion, the one we call "saucy", the one that can fight with her temper, her words, and her hands, still has the tenderness to be broken by a raised voice. This one, who had broken my heart the previous night at bedtime, after another rough behavioral patch, when I, in weakness, asked if they loved me. Brady refused to answer, but she said in the cool tone of a preteen, "Well I'll whisper it...we don't".
This girl is still (deep down) all heart and trust...until they are broken.
I apologized and held her close, and she nodded in acceptance and stayed in my embrace. Brady Bear emerged from his cave to see what was up and was drawn to us and eventually climbed up to cuddle as well. I couldn't help thinking back to that public service announcement from the 80s (thanks YouTube) where a dad angrily confronts his son (over drugs) and says, "How did you learn how to do this stuff?!" and the son replies, "You, alright?! I learned it by watching you!" Now fortunately, my kids won't pick up a drug problem from me (unless they finally drive me to drugs), but they are picking up on my attitudes, my moods, and my angry responses. When I question where they get their smart attitude or that eye roll that is not becoming on anyone (much less a 4-year-old), I don't have far to look for the answer. When I wonder how they could be so heartless as to hurt my feelings, I realize that I have been doing the same to them.
Oh, how hard it is to see myself reflected in their small faces and BIG FEELINGS. How sad to realize the hurts I've caused and the behaviors I've modeled. But how wonderful the grace, to be wrapped in hugs and forgiven and accepted. What a gift to have them run to me again when I come home to show me pictures and share stories from the day. What trust to have them crawl up into my lap again for love and reassurance and blessing.
This is love. Not that we share it perfectly but that we share it with all we have, the good, the bad, the ugly, the real. Love sometimes hurts, but it always heals. May I continue learning about love from my kids as I aim to model God's love to them.