Disobedience

Two more days of quarantine. Two more days until we can be reunited with our youngest daughter. Two more days until we begin a new chapter, transitioning from an “emergency state” to an “alert state”, whatever that means, since our ministers haven’t published clear guidelines for most institutions.

We are busier than ever, and frankly we don’t long to go to town daily. Instead, we long to go up in the mountains, if anything. We long to change the scenery and the routine.

We don’t over do it with parenting. We give our daughter ample unstructured play time, biking, hiking, but we’ve also been distracted more this past week. Working a lot more. And Jackie has demanded her connection time with us, however she saw fit.

Even with the best laid parenting plans, and expectations, boundaries, known consequences, calm voice, firm voice… no mater how simple the instructions, Jackie would be contrary. It baffled us. What is going on?

I’m sure that objectively, her behavior makes sense, but the daily grind of disobedience, made it increasingly difficult to meet her demands, to be more and more flexible, while staying calm and collected. It occurred to me that, as we adapted and adjusted our parenting, the more freedom we gave her, per her request, the more she demanded. So it wasn’t about her need for freedom. On the contrary… it was the subconscious testing of boundaries of safety – to know that we are in control. But she tests the limits in a counterintuitive way.

When she plays with an older boy in the neighborhood, she follows him blindly, and he loves to go and do all the off-limits things. He has quite the following. There’s the clash with us. If J. doesn’t do what he says, he “playfully” gets verbally abusive. J. told him firmly: “you can’t talk to me like that” but we’ve noticed a trend. After she plays with him, she is so negatively charged, angry, rude. She is completely different on the days she doesn’t hang out with him. It’s really hard for me to admit this, but the solution we’ve reached was to keep the distance.

I don’t like to nag. I loose ground when I nag. It’s not an effective parenting technique. But my Achille’s heel is raising my voice. It’s only effective if I don’t do it often. Otherwise my loud voice falls in the nagging category.

Restating the boundaries, the consequences, like taking away the tablet for two days (she likes to play a fun game called Sky, with Daddy) or taking away the bike for two days, calmly and firmly, even as she pleads to change our mind, we stay put. And that has been effective. Our perseverance. Keeping our word. Staying calm and firm…

Yesterday was unusually cold outside. A chilly strong wind has been sweeping across the valley. We stayed indoors. We made puzzles, we played Barricade boardgames, we watched a penguin documentary, I read her stories, and the most fun: we baked lava cakes. She still complained that she is bored, and that I don’t do stuff with her. I had to remind her what we did together all day. She sat there blinking and then admitting: “ah, yeah…” All in all, we had a much better day. Obeying is still a terrible struggle. I’m thinking not to give her any direction one day. No warnings. No nothing. We asked her a few weeks ago how she wants to learn: from our experience, or learn things the hard way. She decisively chose “the hard way”. Whatever is not permanently damaging, we let her experience natural consequences, spills can be washed, clothes can be mended. But for example: wearing a helmet riding fast down the hill is non-negotiable. Or using the large kitchen knife is still dangerous.

I wonder if parenting is hard for everyone these days, the last days of quarantine.

I’m not worried that we won’t prevail. Every morning starts again with a positive attitude and a hopeful heart. We are all a little more anxious after months of quarantine, waiting for the adoption to be fulfilled, and adapting to the new schooling system. We extend grace, to ourselves and to each other.

These challenging times feel like an opportunity to strengthen our relationship and work out intense emotions. We are building something great together. And this season is a messy season of the construction. I have an inkling that we’ll have many messy seasons ahead, I’m sure. By God’s grace, we will prevail.