I have a zillion fears as a mother of a daughter, but there is one in particular that stands out in my mind. It is the fear of my daughter losing her sweet spirit.
Because of this, I let this fear rule my life. It determines how I raise her, how I talk to her, how I let her act and talk, and who I let her talk and play with. Ever since I gave birth to Atley, I felt very strongly impressed to safeguard her heart. She was an extremely colicky baby....to the extreme. It drove me mad!! (not the angry mad-- the I'm-losing-my-cool-because-i-can't-help-my-sad-baby mad) it was like Groundhog Day every day. I would wake up just hoping that it would be the day she would stop crying, and every day my heart would break anew. She literally cried every second that her eyes were open, unless we went somewhere totally new, in which case she would be calm for a little bit. She also had bad reflux which scared me to death !!! I was a stressed maniac for 9 months, when Atley finally grew out of both symptoms. To my relief, she developed into a very gentle, kind hearted toddler. During this time of growth, I prayed desperately for inspiration and guidance on how I could be the best possible mother to her unique spirit. One of the distinct impressions I receive over and over is Keep Her Sweet.
Now, everyone has different opinions on raising kids, and every kid is different. So this is just my story, based on my kid and my personal revelation in raising that kid. I've never yelled at Atley, spoken harshly to her. I don't yell at anyone else in front of her. We don't use the word, No! As in a scolding form. I've never spanked her and have banned any kind of physically violent behavior from my home. I DO speak kindly and softly, in a way I would want to be spoken to, and in a way that I would approve of HER speaking to others. I use time-out as a form of discipline, but I hold her gently in my lap and speak softly to her about why we are in time-out. I also use the discipline at the second offense, instead of letting her get away with poor behavior multiple times, or getting away with it all together, so she has learned quickly that time-out means TIME-out! I Praise, PRAISE, PRAISE, the Heck out of her. I avoid criticizing as much as possible, and if I have to, I use words like, We don't do that because, or that isn't nice, instead of Don't! Or, that's bad! I tell her she is a good girl often, like ten times a day. I let her be involved in everything I do, if she is interested, even if it is messy or inconvenient, that way she is learning a skill and knows I will always make time for her. If I have to tend to her little brother, Travin, Which is often because he is only 2 months old, she has to learn to wait and be patient--- has to, being the keywords, because she still cries and gets jealous. If she can help, I let her help me with him, if not, she has to cry and wait until I am done, but I tell her calmly why she is waiting. I NEVER I repeat NEVER let her treat other children with mean words (in her case, mean toned gibberish) or mean actions. If she does something that isn't polite, I stop her at the FIRST offense, ALWAYS, so she learns right away that we cannot be mean to people. Sometimes she copies another child's behavior (arrrrggg.....my least favorite thing about being a parent) in Which case I pull Atley aside and explain to her why she cannot do it. Hopefully the other parent does the same--- but don't count on it. If that's the case, I try to keep Atley away from the meaner kids.
This has all worked out so far as a positive choice for both me and Atley. I have seen how sweet she is around other kids, exhibiting normal toddler behavior when trying to take a toy from another, but she does not yell or scream or hit to get the toy, and when I correct her for trying to steal, she generally responds well. Only at our house with her absolute favorite toys will she cry for a second, but I always remind her that we share with friends and we do not steal. Each play date she shows improvement, sharing better, and even giving toys to other kids before they ask. It melts my heart how kind Atley is, how excited she gets to be around other kids her age, and how well she interacts. On the other end, it breaks my heart when kids are mean to her. It is no secret that bullies target the nicest children. This was proven when I took Atley to a nearby Museum last month, when a 6 year old, yes a 6 year old, blatantly yelled at and stole from my 1 year old. You'd better believe I took the toy back and gave it to Atley and told that rotten boy not to steal, and he had the nerve to them sass me. I just removed Atley from the area, but I was shaken the rest of the day.
I am totally aghast with the attitudes of children these days. I cannot fathom why that little boy thought he would go up to a tiny girl and steal from her, yelling at her that she couldn't play with the museum's toys, and then proceed to say that to me with total teenager stank eye on his face...
I am horrified that there is very little respect and courtesy taught within the home. It hurts me to see Atley treated so poorly, especially when she is soooooo happy to play with other kids. When they pick on her, I feel a burning rage I have never felt before. Watching her submit Or surrender her toys makes my feel goods explode! At the same time, I know she is being more Christ like- yes, I compared my 1 year old to Christ, and yes we are commanded to become "even as a little child"-- which is why I know it is so important to help nurture Atley's sweet spirit, rather than let it turn bitter amidst a bitter, cruel world. I don't care who makes fun of me, and who tells me, That's just how kids are. Bull$h**. My butt would have been handed to me by my parents if I acted the way some kids do....and there's a reason we live in such a hateful society. Kids are not being raised to be kind and gentle. They are entitled to whatever they want, because that's how they are being raised. Its basically a free for all, with no discipline and no general right and wrong.
Okay, breathe. Can you hear the steam coming from my ears?
I won't claim to be the best parent because I'm not and I'm going to make mistakes, but I will still pray every night to be the best I can for my children and I know that I alone with receive the response. I know that I can't tell other people how to raise their kids, because they should be getting a response of their own. But it saddens me that so many people DONT put in much effort on raising their kids in decency, and that the general book of right and wrong has been discarded. It saddens me that Atley will mimic other kids bad behavior and I have to repeatedly correct it. It saddens me that she is taken advantage of, bullied, and picked on by other children. BUT, it makes my heart SOAR that she is doing so well as a toddler. It makes me smile when she said, Tees? (please) when she waves and says, Hi! To each and every person she sees....then, Bye! Even when they don't respond. I love how many hugs and kisses she gives me and her little brother. I adore the way she picks up toys and hands them all to the other kids she is playing with. She will run and jump in her bed at nighttime, give kisses, and then fall asleep without a hassle. In the morning, she walks in and runs up to me, so proud that she slept in her big girl bed. I love that she responds to compliments and praise, and feels bad for disappointing us. I know I've done something right, because she is such a good girl. It makes it totally bearable for when she decides to have a random toddler meltdown.
My fear is that the world will change her. She is only 19 months, and will grow and face this awful world of mean, mean people. She will have her heart broken. She will know failure and pain. But I want her to remain, ALWAYS, the sweet girl she was born and I hope she knows that being kind and courageous is far more important than being like everyone else. In my home, in these 4 walls, we use respect and love to communicate. We learn to treat others the way we want to be treated. We act like Christ.
My home is my temple, it is second only to the holy house of the Lord. It is my sanctuary and I will aggressively defend it and my values. It is my prayer that my baby girl never loses her gentle ways and that I will be able to do the right things in raising her to be fit for the wild journey she will take.