I was blissfully unaware until she appeared next to me, covered from head to toe in a thick, white substance and smelling like a blend of almond and up-to-no-good. It took me a moment to realize what had happened and then I casually noticed the trail she'd brought down the stairwell and tile with her.
I picked her up and carried her upstairs to survey the damage and frustratingly asked "Why did you do this?" (we've had the talk about this particular bottle of lotion before--the only one in the house within her reach--and she always knew it was to be given by mommy only) She simply looked at me blankly and said "I dunno." She sat there quietly and watched as I cleaned the mess up and obediently followed me to her bathroom for a bath, pajamas and early bedtime with no story. I received a meek apology and no arguments or contention about being put to bed an hour early.
Last week a friend of ours posted a picture on FB of her 3 year old child next to a "reward chart" and stickers for certain tasks she did around the house. I actually laughed out loud as I read the chart, snickering to myself that most of those things are tasks I've simply expected Little L to do without question or reward since she was old enough to walk. And then I checked myself for being judgmental of another parent and asked myself "Am I too hard on my daughter?" My husband, who is also friends with this person on FB, also happened to see that picture a few days later and of his own will mentioned it to me. I asked him if he thought I was too hard on Little L and he paused and answered "sometimes."
It was a moment of awareness for me. One that has been building and coming for a matter of weeks. I'm not necessarily a mean, bossy slave driver or expect this child to be performing quadratic equations at the ripe old age of 3, but rather I do NOT expect her to do some of the frustrating 3 year old things that often come out of her. And then I get REALLY frustrated and bothered when she does act like she, by nature, should. She's slow and incredibly picky about everything being "just so" and I am always in a hurry to get everywhere. I DETEST being late. In fact, it is one of life's greatest stresses for me. And I am constantly stressing to her how much we are running late or how difficult she is making the process of getting out the door by insisting that SHE put her shoes on herself when I can do it 4 times faster.
I was recently doing a bible study in 1 Corinthians and came across a footnote in my bible regarding love "being patient." The gist was basically that often times we get irritated by others and that irritable treatment of other people is always wrong, even if the feeling isn't necessarily sinful. Most irritability in our lives stems from a love of perfection; a desire that we have to make sure everything in our lives runs perfectly or in accordance with our own, individual preferences. I cannot summarize the next part, it was too poignant for me....
"Those who are easily irritated need to remember that perfection exists only in God. We need to love Him and our fellow Christians, not the visions we have for perfection here on earth."This was simply a footnote in my bible and it REALLY hit me. HARD. I've been really convicted by this lately, in SO MANY areas of my life. Especially with my children and my husband. Also with my friends, family and even strangers. People in traffic driving slow in the fast lane or people who ask me too many questions in the elevator or people who don't think the way I think. I am often SO quick to be irritated by others and I really need to work on this part of my spirit.
Instead of getting extremely angry over the lotion thing tonight I apologized to her for leaving a bottle of lotion within her reach. I explained to her that I set boundaries for her in order to keep her from getting herself in to trouble. I told her she was being punished with an early bedtime and no story for breaking my rules but that I loved her very much and I hope tomorrow will be a day without her getting in to any trouble.
Do I think there's any chance of that? Nah, not really. But I am going to work really hard on not getting so irritated with her for doing the things a 3 year old will do and I will give her more credit for the wonderfully obedient things she does of her own accord without receiving reward or praise. Because I know the coming year is going to be a real challenge for us both.