Ellia is Big Brother. She has super-sonic hearing. She can see through walls. She’s always, always watching you. And listening.
You never really know what she’s thinking. Be careful if you look her straight in the eyes. She can see through you. And she can expose insecurity in even the most self-assured person.
Not only does Ellia always pay attention, but she remembers. And she is a learner, constantly assimilating millions of pieces of new information into her current way of thinking.
Because of this, she picks up on any tension, any emotion, and any hanging crisis.
“What’s wrong?” she’ll ask.
“Nothing,” I’ll reply.
“Then why did you shut the door hard?”
She’s as observant as Sherlock Holmes. And she’s not afraid to call you out on your actions or words. Or even thoughts.
I’m always faced with an ethical dilemma in answering Ellia.
I’d often like to lie to her, to tell her that she was mistaken; that I didn’t respond poorly, that she misunderstood my harsh tone with her dad. I’d like to tell her I wasn’t complaining, per se, as much as being realistic. I wasn’t being impatient, I was just in a hurry—if they would just put on their shoes, I wouldn’t have to yell.
I mean, does it ultimately matter that I’m being dishonest about my feelings and emotional responses? Maybe I can tell her she misunderstood and then I’ll try harder next time.
But could it be that our own emotional dishonesty teaches emotional dishonesty?
What if my unwillingness to confront my ugly responses means I condone them, in myself and in my kids?
Let’s be clear—for heaven’s sake, I don’t think we tell our kids everything or treat them like our journal. We don’t gossip with our kids or spill unnecessary information that would burden them or harm someone else. This isn’t about creating codependency in our family.
But what if we were more emotionally honest?
What if we realized how much of an impact our own maturity made on who our kids learn to be?
We’re always teaching. I’m afraid I often teach my kids to defend themselves instead of taking responsibility for their actions or emotional expressions. I’m afraid I’ve taught my girls to hide what they are really experiencing and instead rely on passivity to communicate how they feel.
I think we forget that we’re not teaching kids simply how to brush their teeth or wipe front to back. We’re teaching our kids how to be humans. How to be who they were made to be. We’re teaching them how to interact with God and people. And how well they love God and people will depend on their own emotional health.
“You’re right, Ellia. I was mad at Daddy. I should have used kind words instead of yelling. I was wrong.”
Honestly, I’m glad I have kids who call my sin to the carpet. They won’t stand for me mistreating other people. They are little mirrors that reflect back to me when I’m not living out of my full identity as one who belongs to God. They remind me of my need to love with God’s heart instead of relying on my natural affection for others.
I want to be different. I don’t want to yell or be passive aggressive. I don’t want to be threatening or controlling or manipulative.
I want to love.
And even more, I want my kids to love. I want my kids to take responsibility for their feelings and their actions. I don’t want them to blame the world for their reactions. I don’t want to teach them to pretend they didn’t mess up—I want them to learn to admit when they are wrong or weak or frustrated.
We create so much emotional confusion when we aren’t honest about our own inappropriate actions and reactions. Our kids know that there is a disconnect—even if they can’t put their finger on it. We are at great risk of reinforcing a pattern of shame and hiding, blaming and projecting if we can’t own up to our own crap.
Show your kids what it is to love God. This includes showing them what to do when they are wrong. Show your kids the proper way to respond to their failure and grave sin. Show them how to face the pain of missing the mark, and then show them how to walk in grace and forgiveness.
And the more we know they’re watching, the more we’ll want to be people who choose maturity.