For most of us, our children are our second chance. And I don’t mean in a Joe Jackson, Kris Jenner kind of way either. We don’t, or at least shouldn’t, give birth to children in order to somehow fulfill dreams we have not been able to accomplish on our own for whatever reason. Their purpose in our lives is so much greater than that and frankly, there are much easier ways of going about pursuing long lost dreams. However, our children do give us incredible insight into ourselves and that insight can, if we allow it, make us better. Better parents, yes, but maybe more importantly, better people.
This seems to be a theme in my writing lately: Our children are our reflections. And when they are little, the obvious way we see this is physically. As the picture up top shows, I can’t deny that my sweet girl looks like me, even if I wanted to. But now, at two years, I see that her ability to mirror me—to show me myself—goes way beyond us having the same exact face. She shows me who I am (and who I am not) emotionally; who I am (and who I am not) spiritually. So sure, I can rock my super-mommy cape and tout my long list of lessons I want to teach my daughter, but at the end of the day, the education goes both ways. My mini-me is teaching me a thing or two or twenty.
Case in point:
“This chick has officially lost her mind!” I said to myself.
My sweet baby, the joy of my life was screaming like a banshee because… wait for it …she didn’t want my help. Yep, that’s it. She did not want me helping her.
See, while she’s big enough to climb into her high chair to eat her dinner, she takes entirely too long to do it because she gets distracted by the crumb in the seat, that ole’ whiny knucklehead Calliou on the television, the dog barking outside, or anything else that attracts her attention. So on this particular day, my patience was about as thin as the latest Hollywood starlet, and I really didn’t have time for her to pit pat her way into her seat. As soon as she turned around, I snapped the belt in place and prepared to put the tray on.
That’s when the world and everything in it screeched to a halt.
You know that moment when your child is so worked up by his or her pint-sized frustration that they can’t stop themselves from screaming even if they want to? Yeah, that was her. And given my own level of anxiety, all I could think of was the various ways I could make her stop, ways I would never actually employ but hey… (Be honest, Mommies. You feel me.)
It’s not that this is a new phenomenon in our house. The same thing happens when she does her thing on the potty and I flush the toilet for her. Or, when I snap the velcro on her shoes for her. Or when I try to hold her hand as she’s going up the stairs. The response is always the same, “I DO IT!”
And yeah, I get it. She’s two. She’s discovering the world around her. Blah, blah, Dr. Spock, blah. This last fit was just too much. I guess, in her two-year old way, she was saying, “I’m tired of you doing stuff for me; I’m a big girl now,” and so she screamed and hollered for much longer than usual. She continued to moan and cry all through eating her mac and cheese and even after getting out of the seat and allegedly playing with her blocks.
By then, I was like, “For real?”
I told my husband I needed a minute and went upstairs to cool down. When I got to my bedroom, I decided to pray. I needed God, Jesus and all the angels to tell me what to do about this fiercely independent child of mine.
Why did I do that?
Way down deep in my spirit, I heard it. Actually, I think I felt it more than anything.
“She’s just like you.”
No, I’m not crying and screaming for an hour when I don’t get my way (Hush, Hubby!) but I do have an aversion to being helped. So many times in my life, I’ve figuratively screamed out “I DO IT!” through my resistance to anyone who tried to reach out and guide me. I’ve solely trusted in my own strength, my own intellectual understanding and relied on my own ambition so much and to a fault that even when God, the One who sees all potential outcomes down the road, tried to direct me another way, I pushed against His direction and the people He sent to give me good counsel, in order to say, “I’m a big girl. I don’t need help!”
And it always backfired. Every. Single. Time.
As it does for MaKayla.
So as much as I wanted to chastise my daughter for her behavior, I couldn’t. All I could do was go back downstairs and extend to her the grace that I know without a doubt has been extended to me nearly every day of my life. God used her as my mirror that day and when your reflection starts talking back, you have no choice but to listen.
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.