One of our family rules is “no talking back.”
I’m the worst offender.
“No! I had it first!” My daughter, age five at the time, shouted from the hallway, angry fists clamped to her sides. She and her sister had been fighting over a toy, so I yanked it from their huddle and set it on top of the refrigerator.
“The toy is mine until you can learn to share.”
“No! Naughty mom! Give it back to me!” Her cheeks glowed red, and she scrunched her lips tight. I pointed calmly down the hall.
“Go to your room. Talk to Jesus until you have a happy heart.”
“I don’t want to!” Her scowl dissolved to tears. I grabbed her hand and ushered my thrashing daughter to her fluffy, doll-stacked bed.
“Lay on your pillow until I come get you for supper.” Sobs rang in my ears as I retreated from her room and latched the door.
Kindergarten. That was the culprit. At that point we’d logged half a school year behind us, and I had learned to recognize the signs. Tired. Overstimulated. Sugared up from a classmate’s birthday treat. She was plumb worn out from listening and thinking and socializing hard all day. When these factors pile, it doesn’t take much to trigger a meltdown.
“What’s going on with her?” My husband stepped into the kitchen, greeted home by our daughter’s outburst.
“She had a long day. . . again.” I sighed, then pulled placemats from a drawer and started setting the table. “She’s overwhelmed, I think. She doesn’t always know how to process her emotions. So she gets sassy. Just give her a minute to decompress.”
“I see.” My husband cocked an eyebrow toward me. “Where does she get that from?”
My hand stalled, suspended above a pile of forks. I lifted my chin, met my husband’s stare, and blinked.
Darn. She gets it from me.
Hey, I’m tired, too. Overstimulated? Bugger, yes—by the chatter of little voices asking for more apple slices and can you please braid my dolly’s hair and Mommy-Mommy-Mommy read me this story and Mom, guess what Quinn did in school today you have to hear this it was SO funny—and for a woman who thrives on introspection, the constant input can prep my brain for implode. By dinner time I’m, well, plumb worn out from listening and thinking and socializing hard all day.
Then my wonderful husband comes home and kisses a grouchy woman on the cheek.
Will you please pick up your shoes?!
No, I didn’t buy ketchup. Did you put it on the list? I can’t read your mind!
What do you mean, the van is on empty? You couldn’t have told me this earlier? I don’t have time to stop for gas tomorrow!
He jokes that I roar like a dinosaur. Oh how I wish I would crack a smile. But his good humor just makes me grouchier, so I stomp around the house in true T-Rex fashion.
And this is how I model restraint for my children? Lovely. No wonder my kindergartener talks back.
“Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. . . . Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness; let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers,” (Psalm 141:3, 5).
When my husband suggested maybe I have a tiny little something to do with our daughter’s attitude, I had to admit he’s right—and I appreciated the blow. Of course the blame isn’t all mine. A five-year-old carries childish emotions and childish whims. Some tantrums are natural. But as the grown-up in charge, I ought to demonstrate how to process those emotions—properly. Speak kindly. Show love. Take a time out before you snap. Instead, Momma T-Rex teaches the kiddos how to tear down the house with her jaws.
Yes. This is why I need the Lord—and a righteous man to
pick up his shoes rebuke me.
“May I come in?” I tapped on my daughter’s door and poked my head through. She lay sprawled on a crumpled bedspread, still crying. I perched on the edge of her mattress and pressed my hand to her back.
“Sweetheart, why are you so sassy lately?” Locks of tangled hair hid her face and she sniffled, offering no answer. I took a deep breath and swept a damp strand from her cheek. “Do you hear me sass Dad sometimes?”
She sat up and wiped her nose with her shirt sleeve. “Yes! You do it all the time!”
“Alright, let’s make a deal. I’ll stop talking back, and you can, too. We’ll be partners. You can help me.”
“Tell me when you hear me being sassy. When I’m grumpy to Dad, I’m giving you permission to remind me of our deal.”
“So I can call you Naughty Mom?” She grinned.
“Well, not exactly. Be nice about it, eh?”
“Deal.” And just like that, her cheerful disposition returned. I wrapped my arms around her, and she squeezed my neck.
Momma T-Rex, your time here is done. Sorry, old gal, but dinosaurs are extinct, don’t you know. They were wiped out in the flood—for the good of all mankind.
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