When Noble's freaking out, I don't freak out--I just hang on and know that the moment will pass. When he's screaming, I don't feel like screaming back (most of the time) because I understand that he's just frustrated and it needs to come out somehow. When he trashes a room, I don't (usually) to grab a black trash bag and throw away all of the offending toys. When he's melting down in a restaurant, I don't take it personally. I don't get ticked off (most of the time) when he's throwing a fit in the grocery store. I don't get embarrassed when we're at the library and he toots--loudly--while we're all sitting there quietly for story time.
I've learned, over the past couple of years, to enjoy him. God has blessed me with patience and forgiveness and grace to extend, and the ability, finally, to slow down and enjoy the little moments that make up our life.
But I didn't just become a parent a couple of years ago. Almost seven years ago, we were blessed with this beauty. Kayci is a beautiful child, inside and out. I can't say enough about her--she's just amazing. She's smart and funny and sensitive yet resilient...generous and caring and sarcastic and intuitive. I have been amazed, since the very moment I met her, at the work God has done in her. She is everything I could ever hope for a child to be, everything I could ever hope for ME to be. She is me...only so, so much better.
From the start, though, I'm wondering if my feeling toward Kayci hasn't been flawed, somehow. I saw her--still struggle not to see her--as an extension of me. A reflection of me. While that has its good side (when she was little, I may not have had new clothes, but she always did. I have worked with her extensively on manners and politeness and how to get along in the world, how to be a good friend.) there's also a huge, horrible downside: I take her human-ness personally. I don't want to say her flaws, because she's 6--we don't know what those are, yet. I don't want to say her mistakes, because again, she's 6--she's learning. Kayci rarely acts up, rarely throws fits, rarely is unkind, is almost never disrespectful...I say this as a Mom but also as a professional: she's a wonderful, wonderful child.
On the rare occasions when Kayci has acted up or been disrespectful or thrown fits, I am embarrassed to say I've overreacted. I think I've disciplined her too harshly (my ugly voice is my downfall...I hate, hate, hate it about me but don't know how to STOP). Not physically, before you call CPS. It's worse than that, because I think a physical injury would be easier to nurse, to see it heal. I worry, I regret, that I've been too impatient with her (which is ironic, as she requires so little patience in the first place--how horrible does that make me?). I regret that I've been downright ugly at times. I regret that I've overreacted to minor things. I regret that I've cut her off at times when she was trying to explain herself. I regret that I haven't always encouraged her to feel all of her feelings, but to buck up and be a good little camper. I regret that I spent the first two years of her life working 24/7 and, though I loved her beyond distraction, I couldn't STOP working to enjoy her. Sadly, now I realize I just didn't know how.
We prayed and waited for a child for a long time. When Kayci came along, I KNEW how lucky I was to have her. I appreciated it--I appreciated her. I spent hours holding her and just loving her. Talking to her, listening to her...every day she changed and I think that at the time, life was so busy and I just didn't know to really stop and enjoy the little things. I was always looking at the next big thing. By the time I left the classroom and started spending more time with her, she was 2. But then for a year I was torn between life in Houston and the life I wanted in Brenham and learning how to be a consultant...then we moved here and I had to relearn who I was as a parent, a wife, a worker...I think I got a little better every day at slowing down and enjoying her. By the time Kayci was 4, I was feeling pretty good about things...I think we'd found our rhythm. Well, I had--she'd always had it, always been exactly what she's needed to be.
It took having Noble, losing Dad, and taking stock for me to realize that I am a different person, and a different parent, than I was before. All too often, though, that impatient Mommy comes out and gripes at Kayci. All too often, I speak in a harsh voice over something minor, like a wadded up hand towel or the dirty socks stashed under the bed. All too often, I put too much pressure on her to buck up. All too often, I ask her to be the bigger person if there's a struggle with Noble or a friend...and none of that's fair.
Don't get me wrong, I do have peace that I've been a good parent to my Bitty. She's amazing, and I love her beyond measure, and I know that she knows this. I don't know why I'm so flawed and have to work at being patient with such a good kid. I was trying to explain it to James...I think part of it, as it tends to be with Mommys and Bittys, is that she is so much like me. The things that drive me nuts about me...these are the things, I'm afraid, I overreact to when they pop up with her. Maybe all these years I've been looking at it wrong, like I was training her to be a better me. Inadvertently, I'm afraid, I've been one of those sad parents trying to live vicariously through her kid. How sad is that? I always swore I would NOT be that guy--the parent yelling at their kid from the little league stands, making her daughter dress perfectly...you know, all those things we make fun of. I have been the worst kind of hypocrite, though, because I've been doing it--feeling it--on the inside.
So as I stood there on Friday and Noble rode the cow for the 2nd time, I finally put a name to my regret. I've been aware for a long time that I parent the kids differently and that I'm too hard on Kayci...and I've been working on it. But when I get stressed or things get tough, old tendencies come right back. So I'm working on it. I can't undo the damage I've done, but I can pray that it stops now before it's too late and something comes between Kayci and me, before she quits looking up to me and having faith in me...before she doesn't want to be my best friend anymore. I don't know what's next, but I know that I'm working on it. Now's a great time--summer's coming, and for the first time in a long time, I don't have plans. My plan is to enjoy my kids, fix healthy meals, be active...and be patient. With them, and with me.