The lead up to gymnastics had been pretty bad and involved some verbal scuffling and maybe some threats. But my sweet gymnast bounded into class in normal enough fashion. Things began to unravel when one of the coaches came out and asked if I was Bella's mom. She explained that Bella didn't want to do something and was crying against the wall.
Imagine a pouty child. The bottom lip is stuck way out. The posture is hostile. The snarl is just behind their teeth. Arms are certainly crossed, and the chin may be up just a bit, as if to say, "I am above all of this and really can't be bothered with it, but I am still quite angry." This girl nails all of it. In fact, Bella takes pouting to places that seem comical in their sheer extreme. I can often find room in my heart to laugh at it (when she can't see), but only when our predicament isn't so insidious.
However, we were indeed in a pickle. I think that because of all of our weekend activity, I had a tired, irascible girl on my hands. Reason had totally fled from the situation, and I felt I was trying to cling to her coat tails as she ran off from the gym and left us with what felt like madness. A lot of screaming/wailing/kicking madness.
This may all sound extreme and dramatized. I assure you. It is not. You can ask any of my friends that bore witness to the sights and sounds thereof. I am not exaggerating. It was a fit for the ages and will live forever in my mind in infamy.
The third time I carried her out of the gym as she screamed, "I want to stop crying!" while flailing and kicking the door on the way out, I started breaking down in sobs of my own. There was no private place to let this run its course, and though I knew that just about nothing would reach her in this state, I had to at least look like I was trying for the sake of all the other parents that were around us. Most of them shot me sympathetic looks. But there was one dad who looked at me with a raised eyebrow and scared/skeptical expression as if he had never seen or experienced the like of what was taking place. I wanted to hit him, but I settled for pretending he didn't exist.
After a walk outside, a little cuddling and an inward vow on my part to deal with the rest of it at home, Bella walked calmly inside, mostly pulled together and played with the other kids in the lobby while we waited for Lily's class to finish. I was frazzled and humiliated.
I wish I didn't care what other people thought. I wish I could pay them no notice and satisfy myself with the thought that I do know what is best for my daughter - or at least, I have the best chance of knowing, since I know her the best. I wish that God's wisdom came in flashes of brilliance in public moments so that I could magically turn around her fit and have her march back into her class a reformed little soul. I wish children were in the habit of trying to make their parents look good.
But, alas, it all reveals the problems in my own heart - as most hard parenting is apt to do. I am selfish. I want to look good. I want it to seem like my children listen to me and have a bit of self-control. When those things don't happen, I am unreasonably surprised and upset by it. But, by the light of God's truth, I know that my heart is a big part of the problem too.
Bella had a long talk with daddy and an early bedtime that night, because being tired certainly helps no one. And yesterday was a much better day. I saw the foul attitude peek out a few times and sniff the air to see how its reception would be. Thankfully, I managed to quell its spirit, and the day came off in a much more cheerful manner for all involved. Some sweet friend called and asked if we would want to let the girls play on some equipment that is being used out in front of their house. They had gotten permission and thought it would be fun, and we had a lovely evening walk.
Thanks, Bill and Mary!
We grabbed a quick bite to eat as a family, and it went really well - though our children were quite loud. John and I smiled at each other and thanked the Lord again for the small people that he has given us. They are precious indeed, and it is all worth it. The work is real and hard - for they do not parent themselves - but it is work worth doing and persevering through and trying to figure out. There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach, but, instead, each child needs their own map. We are trying to read those maps and asking the Lord for extra wisdom, grace and love.
I need all the help I can get.