Madeline was saying, “NO!” and “NOW!” the other morning. My patience was short-fused after getting a total of about eight hours of sleep over the past two days. I was trying to keep my cool, but I finally told this tiny tyrant that “Mommy’s the boss” and this simple fact means she cannot (and will not!) order me around. She let these words sink in for a brief moment and then countered, “No!” (Big surprise, right?)
“Maddy’s the boss,” she added.
“I think you need to put yourself in Time Out until you can settle down,” I told her. We don’t often use the traditional Time Out, but this offshoot of the popular discipline strategy seems to work for us. It gives Madeline some autonomy (something every 2-going-on-3-year-old needs a little more of in her life) while helping her learn to better control her feelings. (I need Time Outs throughout the day as well.)
Amazingly, Madeline immediately retreated to the bottom stair (our Time Out site) and remained there until she could compose herself, which ended up being less than a minute. When she returned to me in the kitchen, she looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said with surprising sureness, “Mommy’s the boss.”
Right you are, Little One.
Parenting isn’t a competition. There are no scoreboards or report cards and I certainly don’t get a raise for a job well done – or even a pat on the back, although I do get some great job perks like spontaneous hugs and kisses. But it’s small victories like these – when I spot a smidgen of emotional maturity in a toddler and when she recognizes that I’m the one in charge – that are enough to keep me going even when I feel defeated and exhausted.
Madeline and my occasional power struggles also prove to be a wake-up call for me in terms of my faith life. I’m afraid that in my relationship with God I sometimes resort to toddler tactics. Too often I want to be the boss. I want complete control over everything. When my prayers aren’t answered the way I expect or hope them to be, I occasionally exhibit tantrum-like behavior. Why me? It’s not fair. God, are you listening to me?
He’s there just like I am as Madeline and Rae’s mommy, but he sometimes does things I don’t understand. He says, “No,” when I want him to say yes. He tells me I have to do something – pray more, practice more self-discipline, be more patient – and I want to respond by borrowing some of Madeline’s comebacks to my motherly requests, “No!” I beg. Or, “Now!” I’ll demand, and he replies, “Not yet.”
I yearn to be the boss, but he keeps telling me he’s in charge and like any loving parent, sometimes he knows what I need more than I do.
I could learn a lot from Madeline. I need to take more Time Outs when it seems like I have absolutely no control and my infant is spewing breastmilk from her nose and mouth onto my newly washed hair and Madeline is throwing a fit because I won’t let her wear her Cubs T-shirt for the seventh day in the row, and just take a deep breath and say, “God’s the boss.”
Lord, help me to trust in you and to let you counsel me and work not only through me but beside me as I go about my day. Amen.
“I bless the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart exhorts me. I keep the Lord always before me; with the Lord at my right, I shall never be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure.” (Psalm 16:7-9)