Let me tell you about my oldest daughter. She is my ultimate power struggle. She is spirited and independent, stubborn and determined. She is always on the go and barely ever stops moving. As an infant, after finally getting her to sleep, Cory and I would have to hold down her arms and legs to keep her from wiggling and waking herself up. All while being tightly swaddled. After four years of battling bedtime, we finally paid for a sleep consultant this year to help us find a way to train her to go to sleep on her own. She fought every single intervention and still to this day wants one of us to stay with her until she falls asleep.
With each passing year, she has become more challenging. Two was full of tantrums, three was full of mood swings, and four has been both plus an extra dose of defiance. Two weeks after Emmie was born, while I was trying to close my eyes on the couch, she walked over to the corner of the living room, took off her pull-up, and pooped on the carpet. You guys, my kid POOPED ON THE CARPET.
For Ava, no is a suggestion. She wants what she wants when she wants it. She’s a master debater, a cunning compromiser (“how about four books because I’m four?”), and she is an expert at pushing every. single. boundary (her favorite tag line is “just one sec”). She has to pee, without fail, five minutes after we leave the house or enter a store. She wails–and I mean WAILS–when she gets hurt. And she asks really insightful questions like, “Mommy, why is your tummy so big?”
There are days I’m not sure I can last two minutes with her. When every little thing she does takes every last bit of my patience and self-control and even taking my own timeout in the closet/bathroom/corner doesn’t help. She can, quite honestly, bring out the worst in me.
And yet, as each year passes, I realize more and more how much of a gift she is. She pushes me to my limits, forces those dark parts to face the light, and reminds me daily that I cannot do this job on my own. She is my daily do-over. Another chance to get it right, for a few hours or minutes at least. She is where I get to practice vulnerability and humility, where I get to trade power for gentleness, and where, with every apology, I’m reminded that grace is infinite and unconditional.
So, on days like today, when my tank’s on empty before 9:30am, I remind myself that it’s only iron that can sharpen iron. As she breaks down the facade of control and helps me see the parts of myself that need refining, she is making me a better version of myself. And it’s that version–the more capable and loving, stronger and vulnerable version–she needs to bring out the best in her as well.