Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Eden's Operating Manual

We were driving home last night after a lively dinner at my sister’s (lively = kids go wild while sisters chat, oblivious to kids’ water dumping shenanigans until it’s too late), when Eden announced, “I don’t like our house.  I wish I could live all by myself in my own house and decide everything for myself.” 

We’ve been hearing a lot of the “I want to decide things for myself” refrain around here lately.  It occurred to me as we were driving that this was probably about more than just not being allowed to flood the inside of her auntie’s house.  It’s about more than just wanting to eat as many treats as she wants because “it’s my body and I can decide for myself!”  She’s growing, stretching, and leaning into her independence, sometimes straining against me in the process. 

So we talked in the van (don’t the best conversations happen when you’re driving?) about some areas where she could decide more things and have more responsibility.  We decided that she’d add some items of her choice to our grocery list and have free rein of a self-serve snack basket in the cupboard.  She assured me that she would still only eat one granola bar a day, because she still wants to eat healthy foods.  She will brush her own hair.  I asked, “what should I do if your hair is all tangly and I ask you to brush it and you say ‘no, I don’t want to brush it’?”  She looked genuinely confused and said, “I won’t do that.  I’ll brush it.” 
I think God knew that I am a little slow to catch on sometimes, so he gave me a firstborn daughter with her own articulate, insightful operating manual.  She’s basically all but telling me, “excuse me Mama, but I’m desiring more autonomy and would enjoy more opportunities to express my independence, please.”  Thankfully I heard her this time. 

Sometimes I feel like she is five going on fifteen.  I see a tall, beautiful teenage girl, yelling, “It’s my body and I can decide for myself!” in reference to something much more important than eating a second cookie.  But really, she is five going on six.  We’re practicing, figuring out how to negotiate more independence for us both.  Expanding what it means to respect each other.  And if we practice this now about issues like treats and hair brushing, hopefully we’ll be okay when the teenage years come.  

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