These words were thrown at me with vitriol this particular morning, along with a strongly implied foot stamp.
Goldilocks is having a hard time at the moment. A lot of it, I am sure, is the result of puberty showing it’s nasty (and far too early) head. Some of it, though, is probably the result of chocolate at last night’s Missions Conference. Unfortunately, dairy and sugar are both trouble spots for young Goldilocks, and far more so when combined.
The consequences of our actions
On the one hand, I was proud of my daughter. She clearly articulated her grievances in a bulleted (albeit verbal) list.
- Doing work she hates is boring to the point of physical pain. (The work, in this case, is Maths).
- Not being allowed to choose what she learns frustrates and angers her.
- She wishes she had more opportunities to do things her own way, and live life on her own terms.
- She never chose this.
I did what I always do: I explained that I believe that sometimes doing what you don’t enjoy is character-building. Having to learn things we don’t prefer makes us wise, patient and learned. She has all day, from 9:30 to 4:30, to learn about anything that interests her, and focus on doing the things she wants to do in ways that make sense to her. As long as n one is hurt and no rules are broken.
But, I explained, she did choose this. Unhappy at school, she begged me for many months to home school her. Perhaps the way it has played out is not entirely what she envisioned. Honestly, it’s not what I had in mind, either. It just goes to show: we need to be careful what we wish for. Sometimes, we might get it. Getting what you want is rarely the same as getting what you expect.
Speak the truth in love – and have the courage to face the consequences
While I thought I’d been very kind and supportive and clear about the motivations for my decisions and rules, it wasn’t well-received. The impression I managed to give was that I was defending my decisions and deriding her opinions. Not so; but our impression is the reality we create for ourselves. That’s why it’s so important to wait and see if our first impressions are correct before we leap to any hasty, emotional responses. Certainly. Goldilocks’ impression was very real to her. She felt unheard. She felt as if she didn’t matter to me.
Once again, I explained my perspective: I see our interactions as a dialogue. She presents her case, I explain my motivation. Now we have each gained something new: an understanding of the other person’s perspective. We’ve grown.
In tears, my darling daughter said the one thing a time-strapped homeschooling mom never wants to hear:
“I miss my friends”.
There’s nothing I can do about that. For one thing, none of her friends still attends her old school. And for another, I really try very hard to schedule regular play dates, but there seems to be a collusion of circumstances in the way. Then I left. I know I’m the grown up in this relationship, but some days are harder than others, and this particular Friday was already particularly hard. No doubt that had some bearing on Goldilocks’ stress, as well.
Perhaps we just needed some space. And some silence.
I went back to work, and decided not to finish her day’s lessons. I seriously contemplated quitting. So seriously, in fact, that I Skyped my frazzled, stressed-out husband with a blow-by-blow account of the morning’s events, and even discussed the possibility of sending her back to school.
Let me be clear: I don’t believe – in any way – that this would be in Goldilocks’ best interests. Not at all. Frankly, I think it would be one of the most selfish things I’ve ever done. But I really had no idea what to do or how to meet her needs.
In that moment, I was laid bare, and found myself without recourse.
Some time later, a relaxed, composed Goldilocks came and sat next to me and happily, calmly and neatly finished her Maths. And her copy work. And art. Then she spent the rest of the day playing sweetly and gently with Dexter. She was a good big sister to her semi-adopted little brother, and kind to Red Riding Hood and Dee Dee, too.
She brought me a beautiful picture, with a story describing that day as one of her best ever. She spoke about how she’d needed some perspective. All we needed was some space, and a little understanding.
Conflict takes courage
That evening Goldilocks looked at me with a gentle, vulnerable look in her eyes. “Mom, do I ever disappoint you? I feel so bad when we fight and I get angry.”
My darling, gentle girl.
I took her in my arms and, for the last time (that day), explained my perspective. When we disagree with one another, that shows we’re thinking. When we voice our opinions, that shows we have the courage of our convictions and strong, working minds. Not having the occasionally disagreement means that one of us isn’t thinking. It takes courage. It took remarkable courage for Goldilocks to share her concerns and fears. It showed strength of character for her to stand by her grievances and seek an effective solution.
I’d rather have those fights every single day than have her quiet acquiescence – fear, even. I am growing strong, confident, courageous young women fear and feebleness have no place in their lives, and I certainly have no intention of being the source of those things in their lives.
No, my darling Goldilocks. You most certainly do not disappoint me. Especially not when you stand up for yourself.