Ellia was born at 12:50am. She was an emergency C-section and I couldn’t see her when she was delivered. And I couldn’t hear her, either. She was so laid back and ok being in the world that she didn’t cry. She waited till we got home from the hospital to test those lungs.
And today, that same baby got a makeover as part of her seven-year-old birthday present. A lady decorated her face with glitter and horrible blue eye shadow. Her face made any 80’s makeup look normal. Her lips were purple and her eyes looked like someone had dumped a blob of blue tempera paint right below her eyebrows.
She looked old while she sat getting her hair braided.
She felt grown up when she chose flashy red for her nail color. But then she came home and colored in her coloring book. There are days she can’t wait till she’s 8. Other days, she wishes she could stay 6 forever.
Today, I watched her eating a snow cone then diving to the bottom of the pool for water toys, and finally getting her hair sprayed with Rave—a hair product I was convinced was no longer being sold.
Ellia vacillates between wanting to be 16 and wanting to ride in the stroller.
Our kids are always on the fence of moving toward independence and resisting change.
The reality is, it’s a very brave thing for kids to grow up.
Adults often take it for granted because we’re past that stage in life—the one where you grew up because you were in a different grade with a different teacher year after year. But it is not an easy thing to be a kid.
Scientists say that the emotional part of our brain doesn’t fully mature until around age 25. This means we are consistently on the fence facing the choice to grow up or resist personal or circumstantial change.
And often, we’re unsympathetic regarding our kids’ uphill struggles toward maturity.
So, we become impatient or we take personally the responses of our children.
Maybe it helps to know that our kids are fighting a huge battle. They are trying to keep up with their own emotions—emotions they often don’t understand. They are trying to navigate the tricky waters of learning and living and socializing and being. No wonder they roll their eyes and don’t always do what we ask.
It’s tough to grow up.
And maybe our kids need our compassion. Maybe they need us to walk in their tiny, overpriced shoes.
Maybe before we grit our teeth or roll our own eyes we should consider the unbridled and confusing emotions of our tiny humans.
Tonight, Olive had a complete breakdown because she didn’t get a yellow plate for dinner. She responded to the pink plate as if she’d been simultaneously sucker punched and informed that Disney World had burned to the ground.
And yesterday Ellia began to cry because Olive got to pretend drive a pretend car before she could.
Both times, I won the mom of the year award by saying in full-on exasperation, “Who cares??!?!?!?!”
And then it hit me—they care. This little person cares. Today it’s a big deal. Today, the internal and external battles are small and mostly insignificant. But they matter right now. And they probably even build some lasting character.
We can be so judgmental of our kids—we criticize what makes them cry and what makes them angry and what devastates their little hearts.
And our criticism pushes us to be dismissive or condescending. Don’t kids know we have far more important things to worry about in the world??
But we can be just as petty. And we need validation and love and understanding because it IS hard to grow up. It IS hard to share. It’s hard not to want what others have.
We know this because it’s still hard for fully-grown adults.
Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t let kids get away with anything they want just because they’re fighting torrential emotions left and right. Of course we should deal with the whining, but perhaps we also need to be willing to look beyond it.
When there’s an outburst right in front of your face, there’s also a little person who needs you to love and teach them. And it’s hard to teach from a position of eye-rolling or yelling or dismissing their concerns.
Teach your kids how to be conscious of others by listening to them. Now. And help them become people who grow up—people who feel valued and learn to respect the opinions of others.
And remember—sometimes your concerns are just as stupid. But God gives us compassion for our real concerns and our petty ones. Give love as those who are loved. Parent out of grace as you yourself are being parented.