A couple weeks ago my daughter stormed into the kitchen around breakfast time. She is often grumpier in the morning than the rest of the day, but this was different. She was mad at the world.
“I just feel like hitting something!”
She went on to rail against every personal and global injustice and then argued with me about her assigned chores. She complained about her brother. She announced that she wanted her own room.
When she stormed off stage Kip looked at me.
“Were you EVER like that? I don’t think I was ever like that to my parents.”
I stopped loading the dishwasher to make appropriate eye contact.
I only mouthed the word “Hell” because I believe that I am still a good girl. Besides it is true, I was a very good little girl and I would have never been so rude to my parents, especially at 10.
Later that day I began to remember being 10 and 11.
I remembered a lot.
It was probably a God thing, because I remembered things I had forgotten for a long time, like arguing constantly with my mom and my siblings.
In a house already full of verbal females, I might not have “mouthed off” as much as my little drama queen, but I got physical. I actually kicked my mom in the shin – at least once. One day I gave my big sister a bloody nose and my little sister a black eye in the same day! (Well, she was stupid enough to be standing behind the door when I yanked it open. Too bad she was so small that her eye was at doorknob level.) Poor thing, she must have only been three!
I must have fought constantly with my older sister because I remember my visiting grandmother sitting us down, opening the Bible and telling us a story about a group of people who didn’t get along and how they worked out their differences.
My parents had a very low tolerance for any kind of physical fighting, so I am sure my sudden surge of outbursts must have been frustrating for them. But I never thought about it until now.
Around this age I also became a vagabond in our house. I moved out of my sisters’ room with the homemade Barbie house and into my little brother’s room. That didn’t work out too well because I had to clean up after him. So I moved into the study for awhile.
I got my last spanking from my mom about this time too. I was bigger than her by then, and one morning I decided not to get spanked any more. I grabbed the wooden paddle in mid swing, ran out the back door and up my favorite tree. After a few hours, under solemn promises of amnesty, I dropped the paddle and agreed to come down.
I remember telling another adult that I hated it when my mom was mad at me. We were really close, so I'm sure this part of growing up, growing apart must have been difficult for both of us.
And now that I am on the other side of it, I think I understand how she felt. She was probably just frustrated. I know I am . Disappointed too. I just can't help but feel personally insulted by every complaint, every sassy remark, every unkind word.
Yesterday, after a classic confrontation, I found myself on the verge of swatting my daughter. I couldn’t believe the angry back talk and defensiveness that was coming out of her little mouth. After I had more than I could tolerate, I ordered her to leave. I would finish cleaning up the kitchen alone. She fled to her bunk bed.
I finished the dishes, calmed down and went to sit on the end of her bed. She was curled up in a ball, hugging her teddy bear.
Oh, Jesus, she is just a little kid. I forgot.
“I’m sorry,” she said first. Her eyes were glistening with unshed tears.
I hugged her.
I need a huge dose of extra grace and wisdom these days.
I know that the way we deal with conflict now will set the stage for the next decade, and I want to have a great relationship with her. I want to give her the space to grow and become the beautiful, independent woman that she was created to be. I want to be friends.
But somehow, I know that right now I need to be her mom.
And I know that I am going to have to expect respect, but not take it personally when she doesn’t give it. And I am going to have to “roll with the punches.” It should help to remember that I had my turn throwing them.