When our oldest was turning 7, Mike planned a trip to Chicago for her birthday. I took her to Old Navy before the trip and let her pick out a few much needed new clothes. She tried them on in the store and swore she loved them and would wear them. I can specifically remember her dancing around in that fitting room, owning those new skinny jeans! She LOVED them! I loved them! It was win-win!
A few days later, we woke up in our hotel room on a Saturday morning and it was time for everyone to get dressed for the day. We were in Chicago for the first time ever, going to the American Girl Store for the first time ever to celebrate HER birthday. It could have and should have been an awesome day full of joyful and happy memories. But for whatever reason, she decided that the new clothes she had chosen a few days before were NOT okay anymore. If my memory is correct, it was the jeans that she all of sudden didn't like. I've said this a thousand times before, but she, like ME, has some sensory issues with clothing.
I'll spare you all of the details, and I don't remember any of the exact conversations, but that morning in the hotel room was AWFUL! TERRIBLE! When I think back to it, I am flooded with nothing but negative feelings and bad memories. We fought and fought and fought trying to get her ready to leave for the day.
I was FURIOUS with her for refusing to wear the jeans that she claimed to love just days before.
A lot of time and money and travel was spent to make this day special for her and really a gift for our entire family to enjoy this new city and I let my Pride ruin the day. My - "You said you would wear them, now you will, or else" mentality got me in trouble a lot back in those days. My inability to see past my own expectations. My inability to let her change her mind, as I so often do! My inability to forgive. To problem solve. To be flexible. To be understanding of something that, ironically, I also struggle with. I've returned my fair share of clothes that I also thought I LOVED while shopping.
She cried. I cried. God love everyone around us for having to deal with the tantrums. Mine and hers! Lilly - I am so sorry. I swear I thought that a good mom had good control and if I didn't get you to see my way, I wasn't doing my job. And for the Love, I really just wanted to get this motherhood gig RIGHT! Not only for me, but for your sake too!
I can remember feeling so overwhelmed with frustration. So defeated. So - what in the heck do you do with a kid who changes her mind???? I can remember the sweating. If I give in to her, am I failing as a mom??? Don't good moms hold their ground??? It was mostly clothes that struck a nerve with her, but sometimes it would be food. Or hair. Or the coat. Or the carseat. Sometimes it would be all of those things, making going anywhere seem impossible. Even somewhere AMAZING like the American Girl Store.
I'm throwing myself under the bus ( and poor Lilly too!) but I don't think we aren't the only ones in this situation. I see it and hear about it daily. In all different forms. In all kinds of relationships. We all think we are entitled to be right, and to choose "Right" over "Kind." To hold things over people's head that sometimes, they can't even control. To give ourselves bucketloads of grace and forgiveness, but we forget to extend it to others, especially to the people we love the most.
I need to think long run. Big picture. I have to make a choice. Do I care more about the money that I spent on the clothes that she's changed her mind about, or her? Do I care more about myself and the people that I'm trying to impress with her looking cute, or about my girl and my relationship with her? Because truth be told, I used to care more about ME. (Sigh)
I had to let my dream of this perfectly dressed girl go in order to have a much better reality, which is a loving relationship with Lilly that says, "I respect your wishes about what you wear." Just the same as every day of my life, I get to choose what I wear. And that usually means the same 2 pairs of jeans and a couple of my favorite tops. Which is also EXACTLY what she chooses!
Some battles MUST be fought. No doubt, the parents must parent. Choosing battles wisely is what I failed at.
Certainly, there are times when we need to make the "right" decision. We should lead our kids towards "right" decisions too. The right thing in our house is now about loving others. And sometimes (No OFTEN times!) that is HARD!!! Loving is about putting others first and while it feels tough to not get our own way, the Joy of seeing someone else Happy far outweighs trying to please ourselves.
The right thing in our house used to be what "I" commanded. What "I" saw as fitting. What I thought other people saw as fitting. What I thought a good momma should do. I let other people's expectations for their children become my expectations for my own children and I didn't consider that I could and should be different!
Now I'm so grateful for the kids that God gave me. I now know that that strong-willed personality can eventually be used for so much good. Can I be honest and say I used to think things like....I wish she were a little more _____ or a little more ________. I really love how so and so's kids are _________. That was silly! That was me not realizing that my babies were "fearfully and wonderfully made."
Had I stayed on that path of fighting for "MY WAY" I am scared to think about what the relationships in our family would look like. I'd still be crying daily over getting my kids dressed and fed! I am so incredibly grateful that God took a hold of my heart and helped me to see which battles needed to be fought and which ones I needed to let go of. Basically, to get over myself and my reputations as a "good mom" for the sake of my relationships with my kids.
In hindsight, I wish I would have said, wear what you want to wear. It's YOUR day! Even if it was the day before's slightly worn pants. Mismatched clothes. Whatever. I wish I'd have considered her being comfortable as part of her happiness for the day.
I wish I'd have listened to the mom's who said to choose your battles wisely. In other words, You don't always get to have YOUR way!
She's in 5th grade now. And I ADORE her!!! Like me, she has her flaws, but she has become a Joy to raise. Not because I changed her, but because I've changed ME. Thankfully, those days of clothes wars and hair wars are mostly behind us. We still have some issues when the holidays roll around and I try to get her in a dress. But, most of our mornings are peaceful and calm. She gets herself dressed, helps me make breakfast for herself and sometimes her sister, she packs her own lunch and sometimes her sister's too. She does her own hair. Ocassionlly she'll ask for help with it, but she's content with letting it be wild and curly and I am too. We always laugh about something. I'll do anything to make them laugh before we load up. Usually there is some arguing with her sister, but I think if you are raising sisters, you can expect a little girl drama along the way! Our conversations are about what they are learning at school or what's going on that day. Not screaming and yelling and crying like maniacs over clothes and hair. I feel like I know her. I appreciate that (So FAR) she's not as obsessed over how she looks, as I used to be. I appreciate her love for $4.00 Wal-Mart shorts and T-shirts and hoodies. I know that will likely change soon!
My challenge to every momma is to think about this, what are you spending time fighting about? If it's nothing...I HATE you! HA! Kidding! But really, in 20 years, will what you are fighting about today really matter?
I always say it is my faith that has saved me. It is my faith that says, "others first, other people first, think of other people lady!" It has helped me see my own selfishness and helped me focus on others. And that has saved us. That FAITH has given us Joy in the Chaos.