Sometimes we just get off.
Out of sync.
It was nearly 11 in the morning, and I’d already managed to do several loads of laundry, sweep the kitchen, have a couple of “important” phone calls, and I was hopping in the shower – but she was having none of it.
She was fussing at my feet, but I needed to get in the shower. We needed to be ready to leave the house in less than an hour. We had places to go and things to do. We were busy! So I brushed her off; told her to go watch Sesame Street while I took a shower.
Instead she sat on the bath mat and sobbed. I sang a song. She sobbed. I told her I could hear Elmo. She sobbed. I told myself that she didn’t always need to get her way. That she needed to learn I couldn’t entertain her every minute of every day. She sobbed.
But who was I kidding. We’d been up since 7:30, and I hadn’t really “entertained” her at all that day. I was busily checking off things on my to-do list. Breakfast served? Check. Dishes cleaned? Check. Laundry folded? Check. Plants watered? Check.
Daughter noticed? My heart sank at the sad truth.
She sobbed. Big heaving sobs in between screams. She had completely lost control. Did you know that neurologically when a child “loses it,” the part of their brain that controls involuntary activities like breathing kicks in, and they cannot respond to rational commands to “stop it.” They need help to get back to a place of peace. Telling them to calm down; spanking them if they can’t get control; sending them to time out to calm down. None of those common responses really help. I know this could spark a hot parenting debate (not my desire!), but honestly there is fairly strong neurological research that shows doing those things doesn’t help teach a child how to find peace again… instead it abandons them to their own emotions without giving them a way back. (I don’t have an online reference to this… I learned it years ago at an international adoption conference from a pediatric neurologist who studied the impacts of trauma on brain development. He actually showed us brain scan images showing the center of activity shifting from a part of the brain the child can control to the brain stem area, which is an area they can’t control any more than you or I could. Don’t believe me? Stop breathing. Now.)
I hurried through the last of my shower, wrapped myself in a towel, picked her up (still screaming) and followed my heart. While she grows up a little more each day, she is still a baby. And what she needs more than anything is to know she is precious, loved, and treasured. That she is more important than a to do list. Not that she needs to be more independent. Not that she needs to entertain herself. Not that spending real, quality time with her ranks slightly below laundry and slightly above cleaning the bathroom.
I sat down on the bed, cradling her to my chest. Her fingers finding my damp hair, she nestled in and breathed deeply in those heaving sighs that come after heaving sobs. I pushed the play button on the Ipod, expecting the sounds of the ocean – the track we have set to repeat that she falls asleep to every night and every naptime – to fill the room. But she’d been playing with the Ipod recently and must have changed the song, and instead in one of those “everyday miracles we call chances” moments, this song filled the room.
And am I so different than my 16 month old daughter? When I lose control, the only way back to peace is to find the Father’s lap and let myself be quieted by his love. To trust that His love is healing. His love is restoring. His love is calling me into His destiny, away from the chaos and pain I find myself stuck in.
He does not ask me to be stronger. Tougher. To solve problems on my own. To entertain myself while He’s off doing more important things. To calm myself down when I feel overwhelmed, lonely and disconnected. He asks me to let Him restore my soul, to make me whole. And as a mother, believe me when I say I know very little. But each day I’m growing a little more in my conviction that my primary role is to model this Abba love for my little one. To show her that she is so precious and so valuable that spending time cradling her to my chest and whispering my love for her is the most important use of the time I’ve been given. To show her that this is just a picture of the Father’s heart for her… That He sings and dances over her.
I know I will screw up. I know I will again choose laundry over laughing with her. Doing the dishes over reading a book for the 1,289,204th time. I know precious few of us escape the childhood years without a bit of an “orphan spirit.” But I am daily seeking to follow His Spirit prompting me in the ways of gentle love for my daughter, instead of succumbing to the desire for my child to look like other children who seem so independent, so submissive… so perfect. I’m going to stop apologizing when my daughter needs me in situations where other children seem just fine. I’m going to stop comparing myself and my mothering to others – I know the way I do some things seems awfully strange when held up in comparison to the “norm” but that’s OK, because God has given me different convictions. Mostly I’m going to trust that as I prayerfully go through each day, asking God to show me how to love her, He will work out other things in her life at the appropriate time… That He is going before us both.
And I’m going to take more time to just sit on the bed, rocking with her, while we both listen to this song. We’ve done it several times now… and each time it is the same. We sit together, her wrapped up in my arms. And miraculously for my busy toddler, she doesn’t move. She just rests. Reconnecting. Re-centering. Remembering she is loved.
And as I picture us both in an even bigger lap, so do I.