We’ve been in a rough patch lately.
It’s no secret that you are my wild one, my second-born who loves to push limits and challenge authority and assert that stubborn little will of yours that’s been rearing its head since the day you came into this world, blue and beautiful.
That stubborn little will of yours is what makes you you, what sets you apart from your easygoing sister who is easy to please, easy to placate, and ultimately, easy to parent.
I love that stubborn little will because it’s yours.
But let’s be honest here: you are that kid.
You are the kid that tiptoes right up to my boundaries, the kid that teeters on the verge of invisible perimeters that whisper Don’t even think of crossing me, and slowly, ever so slowly, lifts one foot and places it firmly on the other side – all while watching me with a bold, resolute smile on your face.
Let me just say it one more time: you are THAT KID.
And up until a few weeks ago, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the situation.
We had had a particularly challenging day, one that found you bucking my authority at every chance, attempting to assume control without so much as a breather for the full 10 hours your dad was at work. When he finally stepped through the door that evening, I was drained but alive, a quality I no longer take for granted. (There are days I can easily convince myself that the ever-present whining, tantrum throwing, sibling squabbles, and streaks of unparalleled stubbornness are actually pushing me to the brink of anaphylactic shock.)
“Hey,” I said wearily as your dad brushed a kiss across my cheek. “You would not believe the day I’ve had with Crosbie.”
At that moment you came running into the kitchen, threw your arms around your dad’s legs, and murmured, “I wuv you, Daddy.”
He picked you up and nuzzled your neck, and I was suddenly sent reeling as one single, solitary realization came crashing into my senses:
I couldn’t remember the last time you told me you loved me.
I pushed the thought out of my mind and moved through the motions of getting dinner on the table and cleaning up the kitchen. When your dad graciously offered to give you and Laynie baths that night, I finished wiping out the sink and headed to the couch for a sweet five minutes of solitude. And once again, I heard your voice floating in from the bathroom, your words dripping with honey: “I wuv you, Daddy. I wuv you so much.”
This time tears sprang to my eyes and I sat on that couch and cried, crushed under the weight of defeat and failure and self-pity.
What am I doing wrong? I prayed bitterly. Why don’t I have her heart?
“Hey, I want to talk to you about Crosbie.”
I confess that the look your dad received in response to that statement was probably not one the Proverbs 31 wife would have given, but let’s be realistic. I had just stumbled out of bed, had just brought my first sip of coffee to my lips, and had just spent an entire night tossing and turning after pouring out my concerns to him the evening before:
“She doesn’t say she loves me,” I had whispered as you and Laynie read in the playroom, your freshly washed hair air-drying before bed. “Seriously, I’ve heard her tell you she loves you twice in the past hour. I can’t even remember the last time she said it to me.”
“I think you’re overreacting,” he had whispered back. “She obviously loves you. She’s just a lot more reserved with her affection than Laynie. She’s not the type to state those feelings very often.”
At that exact moment we heard the guttural sounds of your stuffed Chewbacca (thank you, Uncle Barrett) drifting from the playroom, followed by your syrupy sweet murmur: “I wuv you, Chewbacca.”
Your dad laughed hysterically. I sobbed.
Despite my annoyance at entering into such a raw topic so early in the morning, I sat down and waited patiently for what your dad had to say.
“I think we’ve both made the mistake of trying to make Crosbie be more like Laynie,” he began.
I sat up straighter. This was not what I was expecting.
“But she’s never going to be like Laynie,” he continued. “And she shouldn’t be. We have to stop getting on to her for being too loud, for playing too rough, for ultimately being the wild one. It’s who she is. And I think we need to try to relate to her on that level. We need to be willing to play with her the way she wants to play, to wrestle, to run, to chase, to be wild ourselves. I think that’s how she’s going to receive our affection.”
Shut. The. Front. Door.
I carried you for an excruciating 9 months, rocked you through sleepless nights, witnessed and cheered you on through every single “first.” I spend every moment of every day and many moments of every night with you. I helped to create you for crying out loud. And in this season of life, my entire existence is centered on meeting your every need.
So how is it even possible that I don’t know you at all?
I immediately thought of a paragraph from a parenting book we’ve been reading:
“No is a commanding word. It can be a denial, a rejection, an expression of fear, or an unintended statement of worth. But a thousand noes can be dwarfed by the power of one yes. We say yes to the stuff and people we value.
“Most of us said ‘Yes!’ when we discovered we were having children. The yes continues every time that baby needs feeding or changing or to be held. But that initial yes can be quickly dampened in a no world with all the challenges of raising small people.”
How many times a day do I tell her ‘no’? I wondered.
And suddenly it all became clear. Somewhere in the past year, as your personality and strong will have grown and developed and become even more glaringly obvious and challenging in the day-to-day rhythms of our relationship, I labeled you “the difficult one.”
I grew so accustomed to your big sister’s easygoing nature that I mistakenly set her up as the model of acceptable behavior and deemed your wild ways as childish bents that required correction.
It wasn’t that I wanted you to be like Laynie. I just naturally expected that you would be.
I became so spoiled by the fact that your sister’s energy level and interests match mine (sleepy afternoons with chapter books, musicals, coloring pages, and baking) that I lost my motivation to sacrifice, to step outside my comfort zone, to push myself to do things that don’t naturally appeal to my personal tastes (playing hopscotch on the driveway, setting up obstacle courses, racing you through the hallway, making messes, getting outside and being active and carefree and loud and wild).
Somewhere in the past year I stopped trying.
So after that conversation with your dad, I made a decision.
I decided to say “yes” as much as possible.
I committed to get down on your level, to play the way you want to play, to help you discover your gifts, to affirm your identity in Christ.
I committed to stop telling you “no” just because I’m tired, to stop scolding you for being too loud, to stop saying “just a minute” when you ask for my attention, to stop telling you to slow down and mellow out and act like a lady.
I stopped expecting you to be your sister. And I said “yes” to fearfully, wonderfully made Crosbie.
And you know what happened?
I re-discovered just how delightful you are.
You are hilarious and perceptive and smart and intuitive.
You are sweet and caring and tender and kind.
You are wild and free and the most beautiful example of God’s grace and fervor and love and fury coexisting together that I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing firsthand.
You are not your sister.
You are Crosbie Kayt. And I am so glad you are mine.
We’ve been in a rough patch lately.
Rough because we are different, rough because those differences most likely mean our relationship will require more effort and more self-sacrifice over the years, and rough because I’ve had to come face-to-face with an area of my parenting that had “Mom Fail” written all over it.
But then, the rough patches are what make the seasons of smooth sailing even sweeter, right?
And this morning, after a patch of such turmoil, of such shame and regret and painful repentance on my part, I felt the sweetness of a new season of peace and acceptance and hope as you wrapped your arms around my leg and murmured, “I wanna hode you.”
I lifted you up into my arms, and you nuzzled your head into my neck and sighed.
And then softly, ever so softly, you whispered… “I wuv you, Mama.”
Thank You, Jesus.
I said yes. And you said you loved me.
I love you every day,