From a young age, Alix has enjoyed writing down the events of her days. Like most people, she often wrote in spurts, and then got busy with life and forgot about the journals for periods of time.
A few months ago, she picked up one of the journals she had kept as a girl. This particular journal covered an entire year, with gaps of time here and there throughout.
She brought the journal to me that day and suggested I read it, saying she thought I would enjoy it.
That night, after climbing into bed, I opened the journal and began to read.
The pages were filled with stories of her days. Stories about games she played with the other kids, gifts she had given them and that they gave to her, and details of a typical day in her life. On some of the pages, she drew pictures. Pictures of beautiful ladies, mermaids brushing their hair, and a pony named Samwise, which she sometimes rode at that time.
And as I read her words, something surprising began to dawn on me. She talked about the events and happenings in her days, including things about her interactions with her sisters and brothers, with Glenn and me. Things we all did together, like school and trips and church and friends over for meals. And most of those things I remembered, too.
But she also wrote about books she read, conversations with Kate or Luke, games she played with the little girls or books she read to them, and playing with her cousins or friends. Things I hadn’t done with her.
And I realized that although she was living life in the same house as me, at the same time as me, often she was doing one thing and I was doing something else. And even when we were doing things together, one thing we weren’t sharing was perspective.
We were living life together, yet with different eyes. With a different perspective.
This may sound obvious and unexciting to you. But to me, it was like an epiphany.
It made me realize that for the most part, I have seen our family life so subjectively that often, I have not remembered that although the kids were children, they had their own, equally subjective, viewpoint. Which means that although as their mom, I have been the Director of their days, ordering most of their time – like school and meals and naps and play – they have not been without their own individual and unique thoughts about those events. Their own individual perspectives. Even when they were very young.
And I suppose the most significant impact of realizing this, was realizing that the way I asked them, or told them, to do things they needed to do, wasn’t being received by someone who felt the same way I did about those things. That my tone, my facial expressions, my emotions about things were being received by them, and they had their own inner response to all of it, even if they gave no outward indication.
Does that make sense?
They weren’t just my children – who needed to be taught so many things, who needed to be disciplined when they disobeyed, to whom I read books, hugged throughout a day, became impatient with, laughed with or talked with, fed meals to…they were people. Growing, learning, changing, wanting to please, needing love and encouragement, as well as discipline and correction, and thinking. About all sorts of things. Things they shared with me and things they thought to themselves.
And I thought about the times I didn’t remember their frames. When I didn’t remember that they are little people. Times I was harsh or demanding or I didn’t consider how my words and actions affected them in ways they weren’t able to express back to me.
And I felt incredibly thankful for Alix’s journal. Thankful for the Lord reminding me, through her eyes, that in addition to all the things they really do need to learn in school and in relationships and at church and in society, that they need to be listened to. And that even when they are very young, they need me to remember they also have a perspective. That my words – encouraging and discouraging are being heard by little people who love me and want to please me. And that remembering their perspective, whether they can voice it nor not, would help me be a better mother, and as they grow older – a better friend to them.
Suddenly the passage from Colossians 3:21 became a lot more clear to me
“Fathers (and mothers), do not provoke your children lest they become discouraged.”
Maybe you have already realized this and are wondering what took me so long.