There are roughly five million lessons I need to learn from her – how to lay down in the grass and watch the leaves blow, how to ask for help when I need it most, how to twirl with my eyes closed. How to pay attention. When to pay attention. To whom to pay attention to.
Bee has gumption. She’s unafraid of anything, except when pretending there’s a monster in the bathtub, which makes her do a shake-dance back and forth until she laughs, breaking character, saying ‘I not scared, Mom. Just pretend scared. Just pretend kidding, Mom. No worries, Mom.’
She’s entering the phase of toddlerhood where she gets it. She gets that her actions affect others, that she’s responsible for her own happiness and that sometimes her happiness bumps into someone else’s and steals a bit of theirs. And when that happens, she knows.
Our days are filled with apologies, from both of us.
I’m sorry, lady, I was distracted. Tell me again.
I’m sorry I pulled your hair, Mama.
I’m sorry I wasn’t listening.
I forgive you.
I forgive you, too.
I forgive you, too, too.
It’s a tricky balance – attempting to discipline without attaching guilt. Shaming and controlling – no matter how unintentional – is easier. It’s the card that works (on the outside) – the one that will produce external results our immediate culture will appreciate. The one that makes people in the grocery store smile at how well-behaved that little girl with the blonde wavy locks is, and oh goodness, look at how cute her shoes are?
I don’t want it. I don’t want the approval or the compliance or the perfection.
I want to gift her with the understanding. The understanding that we’re imperfect creatures who make wrong decisions, often and always. That this is why we need something – someone – larger than us to fall into. That we forgive others because we’ve been forgiven. That we apologize – not to release guilt from our hearts but to welcome grace into it.
These seem like big concepts, more layered and nuanced than the guilt card. More delicate than negative consequences or quick threats or obedience claims. They take some explaining, some knees-down-eyes-locked-hands-in-mine kind of conversations. They take some burnt toast, some “running late!” messages, some exhaustive reiterations. They take some modeling. More doing, less talking. More showing, less telling. Endless encouragement; unconditional acceptance.
And they take gumption, I think.
But one of us happens to have that in spades.
And other other one is taking notes.