I've worked in Day Cares and church nurseries enough to see countless block towers sabotaged. I bet you've seen them too. A child constructs a tower by tediously placing blocks one by one and then someone comes along and knocks it over. And the result is always the same, the tower builder is devastated. I can't tell you how many kids I've had to console over crashed towers. I also couldn't count the times I've warned kids to stay away from someone's tower lest they accidentally knock it over.
I knocked over Hallie's tower this morning. I didn't mean to. In fact, I helped her build it all day yesterday.
She had EDA today. Don't ask me what that stands for, but I know it's a contest where she reads poetry and prose and performs dramatically. It's really important to her; so important that she asked me to wake her up at five-something this morning so she could be ready.
Yesterday I picked her up from school and we headed to the mall. I offered to buy her the pair of shoes she's been wanting since last Fall. She needed new shoes (Shallow or not, I think every girl knows that wearing something new gives you a little extra flair). She was thrilled. We had stimulating conversation. We talked about how her little sister had been hurt by some unkind words at school. We talked about the power of words. She helped me pick out some picture frames for my new bookshelf, we then ended our short date with a Coke and some chocolate. I was so happy to have had the time to invest in her, particularly with her having a big day the next day. Last night as she rehearsed I beamed with her as she recited her monologue about having Wonderbread stuck in her braces. She's practiced for days.
She bolstered out of bed this morning and was ready in near fifteen minutes. She walked in with her hair in a high bun. I reminded her that she'd said last night that she was going to wear it in a low, side bun, my favorite way she wears her hair. And then as she left the room, it occurred to me that she was ready, but hadn't washed her hair.
And that's when I crashed her tower.
With urgency I knocked on the bathroom door jogging her memory of the condition of her hair when she doesn't wash it daily. Giving her a picture of herself as an impending greasy mess, I made her wash her hair so she "might be presentable" to a panel of judges. In less than two minutes I demolished an entire framework of confidence building and the effort I'd put in to let her know how valued she is. No. This morning, all she heard was I don't care how good your acting is, your appearance doesn't cut it. Those aren't the words I used, but I'm pretty sure that's what she heard.
We expect small children to wrecklessly destroy towers, but we never expected we'd be moms destroying our own kids' towers.
Towers can be rebuilt, but the more a tower has to be put together again piece by piece, the more that tower is going to be guarded. Towers aren't always built easily.
Everybody wants their tower to be safe.
Moms are good at helping their children build towers. We clap and cheer them on. We speak words of unconditional love and affirmation into their lives, only to undo those words when we barge into their safe zone and speak wrecklessly.
When Hallie was four, I sat in the kitchen floor with typing paper and a pencil. I'd told her countless times before how smart she was. I showed her how to write her name step by step in teacher fashion. I teacher-talked her through the "H", "pull down, pull down, and across". I helped her through each letter. But the marks she made on the paper in no way resembled my well-formed letters. I will never forget swiping the pencil out of her reach. She hasn't forgotten either as she's reminded me numerous times. I crashed her tower.
Behaviors have to be demolished, attitudes have to be taken down and mistakes should be corrected, but as Moms, we have to figure out how to do that without crushing their spirits. I read a blog just the other day about a Mom who has overcome yelling. She was writing from a sweet place relating about the improved health of her family. I'm not writing from that place. I'm writing from a place I believe many of you find yourself in. As Paul says in Romans 7:15-
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
We're our kids biggest fans, but we're still sometimes their biggest "Boo" section. Our kids will have enough nay-sayers in their lives without us being one of them.
So what do we do?
- We do the obvious thing. We pray about it. Not just when we've fouled up majorly. We make it a matter of daily prayer asking God to help us in our speech, and keep us from our condescending looks. We ask God to remove those unnecessary and critical thoughts that creep into our brains and right out our mouths.
- We ask our friends to pray. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit my austerity, but I know I'm in good company. By that, I mean that there are good moms out there that say stupid things while wildly loving their kids. And I know those moms would pray for me rather than dub me a bad mom.
- We have to be willing to apologize. I apologized to Hallie this morning. Twice. Though I know it wasn't an immediate fix to her self-esteem, she knows that I know the mistake was mine. I tried to get the point across to her that my words were wrong, not her appearance.
- We bite the unnecessary words on our tongues. As my dad says, choose your battles. Some words or conversations aren't needful. Rylie came prancing downstairs this morning in two shades of pink (that equaled awful) just as she was about to go out with her daddy. I swallowed my disapproval. Does what she's wearing really matter?
- When words are necessary, choose them carefully. Because we need help with that, we must write words of wisdom on our hearts. Proverbs speaks right to us moms.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18
Set a guard , O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3
6. We forgive ourselves. I'd be so bold to say that we moms have all made the mistake of using abusive speech once, if not a thousand times. Wallowing in shame does nothing to better our parenting. Giving our weakness to A God who understands and heals, is our only recourse.
I'm lucky Hallie has a strong will. I'm thankful that my children recover more quickly than I deserve. I'm thankful for grace in parenting that helps rickety towers to stand and allows toppled towers to be rebuilt.
Side note: Hallie approved this message. And she's going to State in EDA!