There are days when Ruthie teaches me many things. Like the days when she pretends to mother her purple teddy bear – feeding it, wrapping it in a blanket to sleep… and disciplining it. I often find her setting the bear in a nearby chair, cheerfully explaining to it the reasons for a time out, and when the whole thing is over she gives the bear hugs and kisses and moves on to the next thing.
I am in awe of this. And usually quite relieved.
I am in awe that, despite all my dysfunction, it is the healthy forms of correction that she imitates in her play. It is something I had always attributed to luck, relieved that she did not point an angry finger or spew swear words or speak harshly.
But the other day Ruthie taught me something else.
Bryan was out one night at a business dinner, so I was on my own with the kids at bedtime. I tend to rush the process, as by that time I’m emotionally spent and need to retreat into my introvertedness. Shortly after I came down to the kitchen, Ruthie peered through the door and asked me to do something. I was rude. She started crying. She asked for it again. I was rude again. She cried more and begged. And like a bratty twelve-year-old, I said “FINE!” and stomped upstairs to do what she had asked, and stomped back downstairs, saying something completely ridiculous like, “ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?”
Yeah. I did that.
After a few minutes I, of course, realized how ridiculous I had behaved, and how rude. Love is not rude. So I hung my head, and quietly went upstairs to apologize. When I snuggled onto her bed and came nose to nose with her, she popped her thumb out of her mouth and said sweetly, ‘Did you come to say you’re sorry?’
In that moment I knew luck had nothing to do with the way she interprets her mother. It is about grace.
I have often lamented over why God would give a control freak like me a daughter who is equally stubborn. It seemed to make better sense to give me someone more willing to comply with my shortcomings, who doesn’t do things that naturally draw out the ugliest parts of me. But it is becoming clearer to me how God is connecting me to my daughter through the connection of our personal journeys. She is teaching me as much as I am teaching her. She is part of my journey, and I am part of hers, and we are learning together. One without the other would leave nothing with which to challenge, and we would remain as we are – selfish and depraved.
As I am prompted by God to apologize to Ruthie, he is teaching me humbleness, and she is learning the process of reconciliation. She gets it. She is understanding, as seen in her pretend scenarios, the graceful way to correct. And she is understanding, as seen in her prediction of my apology, that mommy is not always graceful. She is understanding sin and redemption, even if she doesn’t know the language.
I find comfort in this, in knowing that I am not alone in this journey of motherhood because God is with me, in knowing that God takes even the broken parts of me and uses them to make something beautiful.