Do you ever wonder how we became so cookie cutter?
Lately in my struggle to fight for Rory, I have found myself desperately wanting to put her in a box of “this is how it is going to go”. Me, the person who prays so hard to never have her put into a box…. I’m the very one trying to do it.
Rory has been counting down to the day she went to Kindergarten for what seems like years now. She was so ready and so eager to get there that it drove us nuts all summer, ha!
Then a funny thing happened. Kindergarten started and the first week was amazing. And thennnnnnnnn, well we all know how fast that went downhill.
As we have already discussed, Rory is the definition of strong willed. In fact, when you google “strong willed”, I am certain that her face will pop up.
Rory struggled so hard for a few weeks. She had so little self control and so much strong will. That is not a good combo. It leads to things like, oh I don’t know, gluing your neighbor’s hand to the desk. Or cutting their paper. Or getting into a fist fight on the playground. Just hypotheticals, of course….
Life for those weeks was not fun. She would have a terrible day at school and since I am her mother, I disciplined her when she got home. We were both frustrated and agitated and feeling like failures.
It all came to a head one day, as things spiraling out of control seem to do, and I just broke down. I was so weary and burdened by parenting my precious girl. I didn’t know what to do. I cried so many tears I didn’t think I had anymore in me.
Because I can tend to be strong willed and stubborn too, it took me a long time to figure out what was happening. When I realized what I was doing it knocked the breath out of me. I was trying so hard to put her in the box.
I was desperate to fix all the problems by making her be that kid that sits in her chair and does all her work and never says a word.
I mean, can you imagine a world where Rory Harris didn’t have her spunky personality? The thought alone causes a giant lump in my throat.
Do you know what would be more devastating than some hard days with bad colors on a chart?
A world without Rory exactly how God made her- strong willed, hilarious, unique, fabulous, and absolutely stunning inside and out.
I’m so ashamed of myself- what an epic parenting fail. I spent weeks torturing Rory and myself while I was trying to enforce the worlds’ view of “normal kid behavior” on her.
So here is what happened that has changed everything:
1- I apologized. I got on my knees in front of Rory and told her that I was so sorry for not trying harder to understand what was going on at school. I apologized for not showing her enough love and for being too harsh. I asked her to forgive me. And then we prayed together and asked God to forgive us both.
2- I talked to Rory’s teacher as a mom desperate to help my kid. Not in the defensive way most parents go at teachers. I just flat out said, “I know my kid is a great kid and I expect more out of her.” Because I do not want to put Rory in a box, but if I don’t discipline her and let her know that I love her too much to let her act the way she was acting I will be putting her in another kind of box- the box that labels her forever as a problem child whose mother won’t step in for her. I am so incredibly thankful because Rory’s teacher has not once told me she was a bad kid. She has encouraged me and Rory. She, like me, expects more out of Rory because we know she is a good kid. She is committed to letting Rory’s personality shine but also directing her to make the right choices. Again, I am so incredibly thankful for her teacher. God answered my desperate pleas to place Rory with a teacher who would love her and encourage her.
3- For the most part, I let the discipline at school be enough. If she had an especially bad day she would write a letter to apologize to her teacher and lose TV. But that is as far as I would go. I realized that Rory’s spirit was being crushed by me because I was berating her about her behavior when she got home. I trust her teacher and respect her so much after speaking with her so I trust her discipline to be enough to help Rory realize bad behavior is not okay. Now. The next thing I’m going to tell you isn’t for everyone- but I know my child and know that this was completely needed- I told them to paddle her. Rory, her teacher, and I talked and we explained to her that they had permission to paddle her if she needed it. Rory’s eyes grew so wide I thought they were going to pop out of her head. The knowledge they have my permission alone has made Rory turn a complete 180 at school. They have never come close to needing to paddle her, but they have my permission to do so and Rory knows it. *Again, I know this is not the path everyone agrees with and I whole heartedly believe this is a child by child decision.*
4- Prayer. I cannot stress to you enough that this is the most important and crucial part of the equation. My biggest failure in all of this is that I didn’t have the wisdom to start this on day 1. Sure, we said short “bless this day” prayers before school. Sure, I prayed over her and her school the first day where she could hear it. But that wasn’t good enough. So now, each and every morning Rory sits in my lap in the living room and we pray. I snuggle her up and kiss her face until she rolls her eyes and then I put my hand over her heart and start to pray. First I pray something like this- “God bless this day. Help Rory to have a wonderful day today. Lord, we know that Rory is such a great kid. We are so thankful that you created Rory and gave her to us. She is so precious to us. God, we are so thankful that you have given us another day. We pray that we will use it well and show others love and kindness. Lord, control our hands and our mouths today. We are so thankful that the Bible promises that you will help us and we are praying that you will help us today to make great choices. Please bless our teachers today and help them to have a great day. We love you and praise you for giving us another day. Amen.” Then Rory says her prayer. It varies every day but she always, always asks God to help her have a good day and to help her make good choices. Since we have been starting the day off like this, we are all so incredibly blessed by it throughout the day. Our hearts are lighter because the burden of carrying the behavior is off our shoulders. We start the day fresh and confident that we aren’t alone in our struggles. Again, I cannot stress to you enough how this is the most vital change I have made to help Rory and her confidence. She has to know that we all struggle and all fall short but God is always here to love us and help us. If I do nothing else, I have to at least teach her that.
The thing I’ve been asking myself the most over the last few weeks is this – when did the fight for our kids and our families become so cookie cutter?
I want more than anything for Rory to be strong, independent, and confident in herself because of the way God made her. But how could I ever expect those things to be instilled in her if I’m trying to make her into a cookie cutter child? She needs to know that we mess up and we ask forgiveness and we move on. She knows that consequences for poor behavior are going to be hard and that we expect more from her.
She has to know that we love her too much to let her keep sinning and keep making bad choices. If we don’t teach her this now, when will we? This is the most crucial time in parenting. We have to show her how much we love her and how unconditional that love is. We have to show her that it is okay to mess up but that we are not going to stop her from having consequences. We have to teach her how to apologize and how to forgive by always being willing to do so ourselves.
I’ve said this a million times, but I will never, ever stop fighting for Rory. I will never stop fighting for Ryder. I will never stop fighting for my marriage and for Andy. I will fight until I die for their hearts and I pray that I’m never cookie cutter about it again.
Let us start fighting for our children’s hearts instead of fighting for their behavior. The heart is so much more important and the heart will lead the behavior in the right way.