When the Child Becomes the Teacher

My daughter has had a playful and stubborn personality since she was in the womb. When people ask me about my pregnancy with her, I often tell two stories that both show how even in pregnancy God was trying to prepare me for her personality.
Johanna's Mama(4)When I was about 8 months pregnant I was lying in bed being the exhausted human being I had come to be while watching my husband play Call of Duty. Suddenly the baby began to move and I brought it to his attention so that he could watch my belly and be in awe. As soon as he turned around she, of course, stopped moving, so he decided to tap my belly. Oddly enough, after 2 breaths Johanna tapped back . Thinking it was just a fluke he did it again and again, Johanna tapped back. This went on for the next minute until he decided to jump back into his game. When he left the game he was playing with her she continued to tap for a few seconds longer wondering where he had gone because she wasn’t done playing yet. I tried tapping in his absence and didn’t get a response.

The second story I tell is of how painful my pregnancy become. By the time I gave birth to her at 37 weeks I was measuring 51 weeks. My body was stretched out and utterly exhausted. I had a anterior placenta, and this made Johanna like to hang out facing my back. I also had a very roomy uterus. The doctor said “wow! you can fit 3 or 4 babies in there!” Yeah, that wasn’t happening. Thank God for only one. With all of this extra room Johanna had space and freedom to flip around all day, and she did just that. One of her favorite things to do was to lie down so that her right heel would dig into me right below my right breast. It was a sharp pain that would not go away. I did everything I could to get her to move her foot. I pushed it. I tried shifting positions. I tried to reason with her like a mad woman. Nothing worked! I knew right then that she was stubborn as a mule and that I had my work cut out for me. She actually didn’t stop digging into me until I gave birth. So rude.
2yrsToday Johanna’s favorite thing to do is play. Nothing is better to her than playing, especially not eating, or sleeping. If she could she would play all day everyday for the rest of her life. And as you may have guessed, her daddy is her favorite person to play with. When he’s tired and wants to get ready for bed, she dissolves into tears, not understanding why playtime can’t go on forever, although clearly she too is sleepy as her big eyes begin drooping and her speech becomes confusing. And then she fights with everything she has in her against us. Not just at bedtime, but pretty much anytime she is playing and doesn’t want to stop to do something we deem important. Then we have a standoff, the battle of the wills.

There comes moments when I find myself disappointed in Johanna, usually followed by confusion. When she doesn’t really try in an area that I find important, or when she’s disobedient and ends up dropping the plate of food on the carpet just like I told her she would if she didn’t sit down while eating. It makes me frustrated and curious as to why she feels like my instructions are mere suggestions. When I speak to her about it, she continues on playing, dancing around the living as if she doesn’t have a care in the world, all while answering me. Stubbornly she has decided that playing is way more important than anything I am talking about and since she wants to play, that’s just what she’ll do. She’s usually pretty aloof and in her own world, causing me to raise my voice and verbally shake her, so that she can calm down, stand still, and give me an answer. Then as she snaps out of her world and comes to the realization that mommy isn’t playing, and this is serious, she dissolves into tears, and my confusion deepens.

Clearly kids need discipline. I keep trying to train up my child in the way that she should go, but I think my manual is broken. I think I need one that tells me how to deal with a hippie kid. I’m still trying to get this discipline thing just right with her (I’ll probably perfect it by the time she goes to college),but in the meantime, I’ve realized that I can learn a lot from Johanna.

Whenever I run into a problem it stops me in my tracks. Sometimes it ruins my day for a couple of hours, other times it takes all of my attention and it’s all I can focus on. I’m a naturally happy person, and I usually just deal with issues head on, but more often than not these days they leave their scar on me. It’s taking more and more energy to just get up and keep it moving, like Johanna does. When I look at her in those moments, I realize that it really is up to me how I decide to deal with things in life. I can continue to let the joy of the Lord drive me through it, carrying me high like i don’t have a care in the world, or I can let it stop me cold and welcome in fear, anger, doubt, and slowly spin out of control. I never was the kind to cry about spilt milk, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t grumble while cleaning it up. Johanna doesn’t grumble. She just cleans it and sings a song she made up while doing it. Then she goes right back to that happy place I snatched her out of in my frustration, seeming as if she didn’t care that the milk was spilt. She cared, but it didn’t stop her happiness. She cared, but she knew it wasn’t the end of the world and all she had to do was clean it and move on. She cared, but she chose to not let it change who she was. Just about everytime that she cleans up the proverbial spilt milk, she dances away only to come back moments later hugging my neck tight and planting a kiss on my cheek. Every once in a while she even comes back and says “you’re a great mommy” and then dances off again. It’s at those times that I whisper to Jesus my thanks that I have not ruined her.

Yes, I want Johanna to learn that there is a time for playing, and there is a time for taking things seriously, but I don’t want to change her personality. I just want her to find a balance. I want her not to push so hard against us, without her losing that inner-joy that she has. I don’t want to change the essence of her because truth be told, I learn a lot from her. I feel like everyday God is dropping little nuggets of wisdom off of Johanna in my presence and it’s up to me to pick them up. I just want to say hey God, I see you, and I’m picking up every single piece I can get.

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