Be kind, please rewind.

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I’ve been processing through some regrets lately.

Motherhood hasn’t come naturally for me, and the toddler stage has been the hardest of all to figure out – especially the first time around. Seeing the way I relate and bond with my youngest has had me thinking about what I missed with my oldest. As a toddler, I just didn’t treat her the same way I treat my current toddler.

Don’t get me wrong, I love them equally, it’s just that my goals were different. With my oldest, my goal was to aid her development. I wanted to do the best job I could at helping her advance.

My husband and I already knew we were going to homeschool, so I wanted to get my game on – “it’s never to early to start.” At least that’s what I thought. I was operating from the traditional school model and didn’t even know it.

I wanted her to perform for me – write her name, learn the alphabet, count to 20, know all the colors and shapes – all at the ripe old age of two. I wouldn’t have said out loud that I wanted a good performance from her to validate my hard work, but that’s what it was and I can see it clearly now. And thankfully for us both, she wasn’t designed to perform. I had to learn the hard way that I was the one who wasn’t developing correctly.

The time between my oldest and my youngest has taught me to relax, to be with them without wanting anything from them, and to learn them.

But sometimes I feel like I started to learn this too late. Like the window of innate bonding was thwarted during my daughter’s toddler years, and no matter how hard I try to love, understand, and support her it never seems to make up for the bonding we lost.

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It doesn’t seem fair, and I often want to make it right. I realized that the nagging feeling of regret has been working into my heart a good desire to make a change, to work harder at relating and bonding in ways I missed before, and to search for the grace in our relationship.

On regular days, I don’t know how to instantly reach her heart. She’s unique in so many ways, different from me in all the fundamentals, and our dance assumes an air of distance.

So it would make sense that our bonding, moments of understanding, would happen at unplanned and unexpected times.

Like when we stayed home from church on Sunday because she wasn’t feeling well.

I don’t remember the last time I had a sick day with just her. And honestly, I’m glad I was feeling ill myself because I sat still and stayed with her all day. (I’m working on the whole “with” thing. Not just being in the same building with my kids, but actually being side-by-side with them.)

I had a moment where I knew this time alone was special, mentally chiding myself to not mess it up. But when it comes to relating to her, my strength becomes a weakness: I like to plan but I can’t plan for a heart connection. I can’t make her bond with me. She can sense my intentions a mile away, and if she smells any sort of a “plan” then up goes the wall.

Again, my sickness was a blessing. We just sat together, all tangled up in one blanket, and watched TV like regular, old couch potatoes. It wasn’t normal for us at all, and we watched some really crazy old shows like the Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island. I told her about how I watched these shows when I was her age, and I just enjoyed being with her.

Then something special happened. I wanted so badly for her to bond with me, but I was the one who bonded with her. I felt like a kid right along side her. I came back in touch with what it felt like to be small and vulnerable, to not assume connection but to embrace the surprise of it, and to be lighthearted and free.

I read once (and I just spent a chunk of time scouring my bookshelf to find the source – to no avail) that we accept the quirkiness of adults as if they are somehow fixed or permanent and better to be reconciled with than to try to change them. But with children, we view their quirks as black marks that need to be removed, retrained, and replaced with something more socially acceptable (or in my case, something just less annoying).

On the couch with my daughter, I saw her relax in my presence. She knew I wasn’t going to jump up and correct her, train her, or try to change her. I was with her. I was accepting her, as is. I was lavishly spending time with her not only because we were both sick but also because I love her.

And that’s what I want to communicate to my kids the most through this thing called homeschooling. At the end of the day, I want my kids to know in the fiber of their being that the #1 reason we have chosen to educate them at home is because they are loved, they are known, and they have priceless value just because they exist.

Kid-ucation JoeAnna

If I could rewind the story of my daughter’s life, oh, I would do so many things differently, but then I would miss this grace right here. The grace that says, only through this struggle have you’ve grown as a mother, you now know better, and you’ve always loved her (even imperfectly).

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2 thoughts on “Be kind, please rewind.

  1. You have no idea how much this has touched my heart as it echos my own story with my eldest daughter. I especially resonated with the sentence “On regular days, I don’t know how to instantly reach her heart.”. I want to deeply connect with her. Thank you for such a beautifully written piece.

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    • The other day, while my daughter was watching a movie, I watched her. And that’s when I decided that I try to think of her as little. It didn’t immediately change our dynamic, but it helped. I realized one of my biggest hang ups is constantly thinking she’s older than she is and expecting more maturity than her age allows. I hope you are quickly rewarded for your desire to connect with your daughter! New mercies everyday. 🙂

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