A few weeks ago, my then almost-nine-year-old daughter woke up with emotions running high. Within ten minutes of her being awake, she was in tears. This was very unusual for her, and I just let it go. She and her brothers solved whatever issue was going on and the morning went on. Less than an hour later, she was in tears again as she started her school work and her tone of voice to someone (I don’t remember who,) wasn’t acceptable. In that moment, I needed to make a decision.
I could have spoken sternly to her, disciplined her in some way, talked to her about using kind words. But I knew that this wasn’t the time. The tears and frustration were out of character for her and my mothering instincts told me that on this day, in this moment, she needed something more that a reminder about kind words and actions. I suggested that she stop working on math and go to her bed and do her reading time. She didn’t want to. The tears rolled faster. I hugged her and held her and yet she couldn’t gain control emotionally. I told her, “I’m sorry honey, but you are not in control of your emotions right now. Spend some time on your bed and calm down, and please join us when you are ready.” She’s heard this many times before—this was nothing new.
One part of raising girls that I take seriously is teaching them to deal with their emotions. As women, our hormones run wild and our tears run fast. We don’t always know why we are upset, nor do we always know what to do about it. The men in our lives usually want to know what is wrong so they can fix it. But sometimes, as women, we just don’t know and we need time. Sometimes, we are just having a bad day. From the time they are little, when our kids are not in control of their emotions, we have asked them to please go sit on their beds. We make sure that they know that they are not being punished and that sometimes, people just need time alone in order to calm down. I want to teach my girls that when the emotions are intense, one of the best things they can do is stop, think, breathe, and calm down. Let their senses be at rest and the peace will come. They always know that when they have regained control and are ready to be part of the family again—complete with kind words and gentleness—that they are more than welcome to join us. In fact, what we usually say is, “When you are ready, we will be excited to have you join us again!”
And two notes for the record: 1) We do this with our boys, too, but in all the years I think they have each gone to their bed once or twice for breaking down emotionally whereas our girls visit their beds on a fairly regular basis. 2) Mama has times outs on her bed, too!
All of this to say, on this particular day, my spirit was prompted that my little girl needed more. She needed to feel loved, not lectured. She needed to feel valued, not disappointed in. And so as I talked with her and asked her to sit on her bed, my heart was already in motion for a little surprise.
I got out our favorite Indian tray, made her favorite milky coffee, opened a pack of Oreos (at 7:30 in the morning!), picked a flower from the backyard, wrote a little note, and got my Kindle so she could continue reading Heidi. I then carried her tray into her, told her how much I loved her, and that I would see her when she was ready.
About 30 minutes later I heard the door open slowly. My sweet girl had replaced her tears with smiles and the rest of the day went on as if nothing had happened.
Sometimes parenting is letting our spirit be prompted to do the little things that will make our children feel loved. Little surprises. Little acts of grace. Little extra bits of love thrown in where we would rather throw criticism. We all have bad days, and a little bit of love goes a long way.