All that’s visible over the countertop are her bright eyes and a captivated expression. Oh, and her little hands lifted high, thrumming something fine and feathery between her finger and thumb.
She looks as if she’s playing a tiny harp of silken reeds, and I lean against the dryer to watch quietly in the adoring way that mamas do. And then it dawns on me: She is stroking Micah’s hair, and it is no longer attached to his head. Uh, WHAT?!?!? What came next will probably not surprise you, but it did my Katie.
KATHRYN TAYLOR!!! DID YOU JUST CUT YOUR BROTHERS HAIR?!?!?!
“It’s so pretty, mommy!” She looks up at me through her long lashes and for just an instant the absolute wonder and adoration for her brother almost melt me. **Almost**
I check Micah’s hair, and yay! – it’s not too bad. Yet another reason to proceed calmly. Is that what I do? No. It has been one of those days, and I am feeling D-O-N-E.
Then about halfway through my rough lecture, an inner dialogue begins:
Are you scolding her for the severity of what might have been, instead of holding her accountable for what actually is?
But she was wrong! AND I need to make a big impression so my son doesn’t end up bald somewhere down the road.
Really, you NEED to make a big impression using condemnation and/or shaming to keep her from doing it again? You can’t just put the scissors out of reach??
You know, overreacting has now cost you the opportunity to instruct your daughter. YOUR actions have stolen the show, and she will now learn one of two things: how to justify her behavior even when it is wrong (as you are doing), or how to admit fault and make things right.
Two years ago, the next words you’d hear from me would be about what an inadequate mother you are: failing constantly in this way and that. But I am not going to say that, because you need grace as much as she does.
A few seconds later I was asking Katie for forgiveness, inquiring if her heart was hurt in any way. No, she told me, but she really would like her (children’s) scissors back!
Later on, when I told Daniel about all this, he said something that cast things in a whole new light. “Don’t you remember trimming Micah’s mullet the other night right in front of her? You held each lock like it was sooo precious before you put it into a keepsake envelope. She learned it from watching you, Heather.”
UGH! Stab me through the heart why don’t you?
Suddenly the whole event looked completely different. This was not a simple repeat offense from the girl who had hacked her own hair with plastic safety scissors three months before. Sure, the method may have been the same, but the motive was totally different. Katie had picked up on how important that little act was to me and sought to write it into her own soul . . . and my anger interrupted it.
Was she wrong to cut her brother’s dirty blonde locks with scissors I had already asked her to put away? Yes, definitely. Have I ever done something I knew I was not **supposed** to go but had a very strong urge to? Like, eat a whole box of Julie’s Ice Cream Sandwiches in one sitting? Um, yep.
My point in saying that is not to lower the standard for my daughter (or myself). It’s to remind myself that we all allow our impulses and desires to rule us sometimes, and that parenting is about helping her find appropriate ways to work through that.
“This is how a mother _________.”
Isn’t it funny how versatile that phrase is? How a mother loves? Scolds? Comforts? Teaches, maybe? Or yells? In every interaction with her dolls – and sometimes her brother – Katie seems to be trying to answer this question.
And actually, so am I. So a few days later we pulled the scissors down from their new home and took a little snip together. Placing the golden strands into Katie’s very own keepsake envelope I whispered, “This is how a mother cherishes.”
What lessons have YOUR kids taught you about parenting?