Friday, October 22, 2010

I Drive My Daughters to Prayer

A friend of mine refers to parenthood as “the guilt that keeps giving.” Generally, I try not to live that way; accepting that I have good and bad days, and trying to let the bad ones go. There are times however, when I hit a rough patch and find myself broken down and humbled by the responsibility for nurturing young life. I’m crawling out of one of those rough patches right now.

My older daughter, usually independent and capable, went through a needy spell when she learned we were going to have another child. She was fine all day, but at bedtime she would suddenly beg us to let her sleep in our room and complain of maladies that required us to administer care, attention, and occasionally Tylenol, well past when she should have been asleep. We were a little slow to catch on to the pattern, and then once we did, we were reluctant to come down on her, because we understood the source of her sudden insecurity. So, in other words, we let it get out of hand.

This bedtime nonsense culminated in a horrible night a couple weeks ago where she completely lost her mind. Our calm and calloused response to her perceived need only seemed to send her into a spiraling frenzy of tears and screams. She threw a tantrum like I haven’t seen since she was a toddler. Two hours past bedtime, I warned her firmly that we were done with the show and if she didn’t silence herself and go to sleep, my next trip to her bedroom was going to include a spanking – which, of course, I ended up having to make good on, still with no success. My husband then took the behaviorist approach we should have employed from the start, turning off her nightlight and warning her of the uncomfortable consequences if he had to return again (hall light off, door closed all the way, etc). She finally went silent as he came back into the living room.

After ten minutes of silence, knowing my younger daughter had been kept awake by the whole shenanigans and not wanting the girls to go to sleep angry or upset, I slipped back into their rooms and kissed each kid on the forehead as they dozed off.

Aside from being out of practice on toddler tantrums, I also found out this last week that I’m a lousy nurse-maid. My younger girl woke up with a hot fever, so I kept her home from school and gave her ibuprofen to keep her comfortable. She was tired and wouldn’t eat much, but the next morning, she woke up with renewed energy and scarfed down a big bowl of yogurt. I was relieved that she was on the mend. I even held off on her afternoon dose of medication, because she was getting antsy and I wanted her to feel sick enough to rest. She took a decent nap, watched a lot of PBS, and even asked me to slice an apple for her.

Then she woke up with hives on her legs. The fever was hot again. I called the walk-in clinic, and the nurse asked, “Does she have a sore throat?” She hadn’t complained of one, but I asked her. “Yes, Mommy, my throat hurts really bad.” I dragged her to a light and looked in her mouth – it was a mess! We were two days into Strep Throat before I thought to look into my kid’s mouth.

As if to finish me off, after church on Sunday, she declared to me, “Mom, God really does answer prayer.” Feeling parental pride well up inside me, I affirmed her observation and asked if there’s something that made her bring it up.

“Yes. The other night when you were hitting sis, I prayed to God that you wouldn’t be mean to your kids anymore. Then you came back and kissed us, so God answered my prayer.”

As a prisoner of the Lord, I beg you to live in a way that is worthy of the people God has chosen to be his own. Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. Ephesians 4:1-2

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