I grew up in a house with three sisters, four girls. 4 loud girls. (I’m 50% Italian, didya know that?) You know what we did? Lots of fighting. Certain pairs more than others… (the way I remember it I was the calm, peace-loving voice of wisdom). One of the things that my mom used to tell us was that if we really wanted to get the other girl frustrated then we would be really really nice to her. This was called “killing her with kindness”. I’m pretty sure it never worked or maybe we never tried it. As a
desperate mother I can see why my mom suggested we give it a go, but it probably lands on the Misguided Advice side of the equation. Sorry, mom! (She said some other really great and true things like: ‘Your friends will come and go, but your sisters will be here forever’. And I’d fight you to the death for one of my sisters now.)
Now, however, I’m seeing those words actually mean something and have an effect, a brutal, can’t be missed/shouldn’t be messed around with one. Two years, three months, and a scattered handful of days and we have gotten hardcore about ‘therapeutic parenting’. It took us a long time to commit to this in a meaningful, planned out, both on the same page way. It took a parent coaching session with Christine attended by my husband and me at the same time and something else I haven’t figured out yet, but…
I haven’t yelled since last Tuesday. Not once. I have been calm, kind, compassionate, gentle, silly, thoughtful, curious, logical, creative, and when all else fails quiet.
I’m sure I’ll screw up again between now and sending my daughter out as an adult, but the last week has been a terrible, awful, painful, shattering kind of good.
Because of this…
I have felt calm, engaged, supported by my husband and friends, and proud of myself for returning to a Me I Used to Be as a non-yeller.
My husband and I have been working together as a team, stepping in for each other when needed, talking about methods, admiring each other’s parenting skills, and moving toward a goal together.
My sons have been calmer, more cooperative, and happier.
My daughter has fallen to pieces, little bitty jagged hurting pieces. I have seen more behaviors born of anger, frustration, hurt, sadness, and trauma spill out of her than I ever would have guessed her heart could hold. We’ve seen behaviors that we’ve never seen before, verbal and physical expressions of emotional pain that leave me speechless and weeping for her.
Our unqualified acceptance of her has been a lance to the wounds of her four year old soul and the poison of trauma is seeping out.
It is terrible to watch a child respond to love with rage because a child should not ever have been put in a position to learn such distrust. It’s heartbreaking to see her struggle to hold onto anger instead of taking the love that we’re holding out with open hands. There are no strings, no clauses, no conditions. She can choose to do what’s right or she can choose to do what’s wrong and she’s getting the same answer: You Are Good. To watch her fight against her own goodness, against our knowing her goodness is terrible.
But, I will not stop. My daughter was made in the image of God and she is good. I’m praying for the strength every day, every minute to reflect the Truth back to her. The Truth is not her behavior or her choices: those are fleeting. The Truth is not how I feel: that is
based on caffeine consumption inconsequential. The Truth is not her shame: that is a lie. The Truth is that she is created by God, loved by God and designed for relationship with God. (As her parents, we get to be a tour guide and fascinating stop-over along that road.)
So, dear daughter, while right now it seems as if I am killing you with kindness and it feels terrible to you, please know, it feels terrible to me too. I am frustrated by you and by my limitations, and I am so so sorry that this hurts you so much. I see how much this kindness is hurting you and it breaks my heart that it hurts you like this and that even after two years I didn’t know your wound was this deep.
We see signs of progress in even a short time. We have a plan for healing and we’re following it. Right now, the healing hurts more than the original wound, but in time the healing is going to be worth it: because you are worth it.
You. Are. Good.