Lately, Josie has been giving me a run for my money.
Testing my patience, my ears, my ability answer 743 questions asked in a voice that is pure whine. Nails on a chalkboard.
She's still a good girl. But it's delayed. She will obey, but not until a voice is raised. Not until she senses the distance between her bottom and the palm of my hand is getting short.
She whines and has taken to making a face that I'm fully aware she learned from me (dubbed The Mom Face - furrowed eyebrows, big eyes, lips poked out. It's as cute as it sounds.)
I'm trying my darnedest to remember that she isn't being bad, she's just working out being 6.
And 6 ain't easy, folks.
In her previous years, before breaking through 5 to the much sought after 6, I was her center. Life was simple. Mom was handling the details. She was free at all times. She had a brother, but he was more like a doll than a human. Her days all ran together with no real thought to passing time.
And now she's 6.
I can actually see her teetering between baby child and woman child. It's amazing and totally frightening. The words I say to her are being etched on her heart, on her personality. Her teen year issues? They are being formed now. And that baby doll brother? He went and got his own set of opinions.
I'm trying hard to be consistent. I want to help her work through all these big life changes, but I also don't want people to think she's a sassy child. It's hard to parent in public when you're worried about what other people are thinking. I desperately want to hold a sign over her head that says, "Good Girl, Just Learning To Be 6." But I think that might cause more teenage issues than I'm prepared for.
I wish the world had more grace.
More forgiving eyes. More nods of "I'm with you sister. Be strong. You'll both survive."
But it's not.
There are people everywhere judging your child, judging your mothering. And can't you just hear my own insecurities screaming?
Recently I read a post on yet another favorite blog (6512 And Growing) about her daughter. Two sentences in, I was convinced she was talking about Josie.
Her words inspired me.
She wrote about how she knows the external is mirroring the internal. That she realized her daughter was struggling with some big thoughts and battles that she wasn't sure how to manage. Outward wants trying to fill inward needs.
And instead of dismissing her constant requests for more mac & cheese and endless Polly Pockets, she started trying to love her daughter through it. Acknowledging the words without losing ground. Constant reminders of, "I will love you through this, but you won't change my mind."
More hugs, less brushing off. More affirmation, less yelling.
Raising daughters is tough.
They are us, all of us, squished into little bodies. They have our emotions and fears and, good night, she's only six but trying to fit in with her peers. (seriously, who told her ruffle capris aren't cool?)
And don't I still struggle with those same things?
All the fears of not belonging that I'm harboring deep inside? She's putting them on display for the world.
And maybe that's what God's trying to teach me. To look at her and see me. To help her by helping myself. Finding where our real value comes from.
This parenting gig? Who stole my manual?
So I'm shifting my approach with her.
When the storm clouds roll over her eyes and I see the thunder looming in the distance, I grab her hand, I acknowledge her feelings, and than I tackle her with tickles and challenge her to a race around the driveway.
We circle back around to the bad attitude. How it's ok to feel angry, but not ok to be disrespectful. She practices nice ways to air her complaints and let's me know if I hurt her feelings. And, Lord help me, I'm trying to quit caring what people might think and just parent the heck out of my kids the way I think they need to be parented.
Because it's not just about her.
I'm growing up right with her.