Having only parented from birth to six (discounting the years with teens), I can honestly say that 21 months is the hardest. This was the age with Isaac that I began to wonder what in the world went wrong. He was crazy, boundless, pushing every limit, with little ability to communicate his will. By that point we were pregnant with Ella and looking at each other thinking, "Are we really having another one? What were we thinking?"
Ah, deja vu. Enter Ella. Enter current pregnancy. Boundless toddler meets tired mom. Ella is of the Isaac variety, not of the Drew model that had one temper tantrum (over broccolli, now one of his favorite foods) and we kissed the terrible two's good-bye. She is so stubborn and so willful like her closest sibling. But, unlike Isaac, she is dispassionate and calculating, simply ignoring directions instead of screaming her rage against them.
In the last week I have thought long and hard about the state of Ella, of how to shepherd her, what boundaries to add, where I have gone wrong, and what in the world to do about it. It is hard to admit, but I have not spent the time teaching her to obey, or perhaps I did not understand that her strong personality would simply need more time. Either way, these are things I can admit, even confess, and seek to right. But there is one idea that has occurred to me about this lady that is giving new life (and happier dealings) to my relationship with this girl.
It is this: behavior modification is a blessing and a curse. It works, often, and can help achieve many behaviors, often. But sometimes it takes my eyes off the issue at hand- my child's heart. Sometimes I become so geared up for training my kids, I forget to listen to my kids, see my kids, and I forget that they are not puzzles to be solved, but souls.
One morning, as Ella bounced happily into our room in the wee hours of the morn, I rolled over in bed and said, "Good morning, little soul." She chatted back, telling me about how she slept, her bed that is new, the book she stepped on, that she wanted to go wake bubbas, and would I please lift her up so she could kiss daddy. Maybe there is no secret to getting her to sleep in. Maybe her little soul rises with the sun because she senses that is the only time of day when she can have mommy to herself. Maybe it a million other things, but the truth is that I can keep attempting to solve the puzzle or just appreciate it for what it is.
Of course, we do need to work on this obedience issue. And yes, we are trying to break the habit of pouring things out on the counter, using others' tooth brushes, taking off her pants, opening the back door to free the cats, showering in the water that comes from the fridge door, and a couple other hundred things. My breakthrough is not a gearing away from discipline, but seeing those behaviors not purely in light of defiance. Some are out of curiosity, some are signs of growing independence, and some are cries for attention.
All in all, Ella is a soul that is emerging with words and capabilities and passions all her own. I am thankful for her will that will one day give her strength, her words that will allow her to communicate truth and life and grace, her independent spirit that will help her tread her own path in the Kingdom.
Good morning, little soul.
Well done, little soul.
I love you, little soul.
You are good for my soul, little soul.