Thursday, September 18, 2014

Parenting is Hard

Kenly started first grade at Mills River this year. She landed the teacher of the universe. The teacher that wins the award and writes the blogs. The teacher you pray with every fiber of your being your child gets.  I felt like doing back flips when I heard the news.  I still feel that way.

Kindergarten  flew by and Kenly excelled.  Her teacher and assistant raved over what a smart, sweet little girl she was.

Enter first grade.  Enter a new world.  Enter a season of parenting that is H-A-R-D!

This is a story that I don't want to tell.  I don't want to share failures or struggles.  They aren't pretty, but they are REAL.  So here we go...

Kenly came home from school on Friday with about 12 band-aids in her backpack pocket.  She said her teacher gave them to her to help with monkey bar blisters.  I thought nothing of it.  She came home on Monday with a small bottle of hand sanitizer.  She said her teacher gave it to her because she lost the bottle I gave her.  I was mildly suspicious.  On Tuesday she gets in the car and declares that her backpack might be a little heavier because her teacher gave her a pack of wipes to keep in her backpack.  I was wildly suspicious.  I was a teacher.  I know how teachers function.  

When we arrived at home, I sent her to her room to play.  When she walked away, I started digging through her backpack.  I found a travel pack of Wet Ones.  I also found a travel size tissue packet in a different pocket.  Alarm bells are blaring by this point.  I called her in and explained that I wanted to believe that Mrs. F would be nice enough to give her all of these things, but I was having a hard time believing it.  I asked Kenly to be honest with me.  I wanted the truth.  I asked her where these items really came from.

Cue tears.  Cue Kenly saying, "I don't want to tell you. You'll be mad at me."

I calmly explained that I would only be angry if she didn't tell me the truth...if she forced me to get it from Mrs. F.

And then she said it.  She said, "I took the wipes, tissue, and band-aids from Mrs. F's cabinets.  But, she really did give me the hand sanitizer, Mama."

Enter heartbreak--for Kenly and for me.

We talked about how stealing was wrong.  We talked about how taking things that don't belong to us can have serious consequences.  We talked about how it would be hard for people to trust her.  I explained that now the consequences are small, but if she continues the behavior it could become much more serious.

I explained that she would return Mrs. F's items in the morning and she would apologize for the behavior.  We talked about how she needed to ask for forgiveness.  She begged--complete with wailing and screaming.  I explained that because I love her, she had to face the consequences even if it meant that Mrs. F would move her clip or punish her.  I also told Kenly that she would be paying to replace the items she stole from Mrs.F with her own money.

The evening was awful.  I emailed Mrs. F to give her a heads up about Kenly's misbehavior and to ask for a meeting in the morning.  These are some of the excerpts from her reply...

* I did give her the little bottle of hand sanitizer on Monday. She found it and asked if she could have it because she lost hers. The bottle was half empty from last year so I didn't see the harm in it. Then later Mr. Justice told me that she was getting up and getting globs of hand sanitizer from the bottle on his desk. It dripped in the floor and she wiped some of it on her clothes. We were hoping that it wouldn't stain. She did this several times. I'm not sure what she was doing with it or why she kept getting up to get so much of one point her hair was wet too. I took her aside and told her that she only needed to get a very small amount and only if she needed it, like before she eats or if she wiped or nose. I told her that if I caught her doing it again that I was going to call you and talk about it. She said she understood and gave me a hug and she hasn't done it again.

*  She is a very bright and smart girl. As you can probably see from some of the work that is coming home, at times she rushes through her work and doesn't pay attention to the quality. At a math tub last week she had to count items in a bag. I had to send her back 3 and 4 times to recount a bag that only contained 11 or 12 items. Once I sat right next to her and made her slow down and do her best, she got it easy. Some of her coloring and handwriting seems to be rushed too. I'm still learning the kids, so this may be typical for her but like you, I only want her to do her best. If you feel that I can push her a little more to be neater and more thorough with her work let me I said, I'm still learning them so I'm not sure how much to push yet.

She said TONS of nice things about Kenly as well.  But these were the ones that I heard over and over in my mind.  These are traits we already know about Kenly.  This is nothing new, but it was the first time that another adult has said anything negative about my child.   It was hard to hear.  It was hard "to rat" on my child, but I knew it was the right thing to do.  By morning I was sick to my stomach.

Kenly was nervous, and I was trying not to let her see how scared I was.  We marched into Mrs. F's classroom.  Kenly was calm until she saw her teacher and then she hit the floor like a rag doll and started weeping.  After a ton of coaxing, Kenly finally got out her apology. And the whole thing was over....

Mrs. F didn't move her clip because Kenly did the hard thing and said she was sorry.  She did move her seat to the front of the room, and we are both talking to her about doing her BEST work on every assignment.  She's too smart to get into bad habits now.  Since most of what they are doing now is review, Mrs. F and I think that she is getting bored and acting on some of the wild things she imagines.  Mrs. F was so gracious, and she sent me this in an email was a healing balm and the reassurance that I needed.  I did not want Kenly's reputation to be stained.

*And I absolutely meant what I said...I do not get mad at these kids. Of course they get in trouble and have consequences but after I have to get on to them to follow the rules or directions, I go right back to loving them and making them feel special. What happened stays between us and does not put a single negative thought about Kenly in my mind at all. I want to tell you this because I worry about that with my own son and his teachers at school.

I know that my children are not perfect.  I know they are going to make tons of mistakes--BIG and small.  I know that is how they learn, but it killed me inside to make Kenly face the music.  God was gracious and I felt no responsibility for her actions.  I know that she is her own person with her own sin nature to deal with.  I can't carry the weight of her failures and mine.  It would crush me.  But, I did struggle with making her face the pain of her consequences.  Everything in me wanted to protect her, but that would have been doing her a MAJOR disservice.  

Through this all, God was so gracious.  In the middle of a hellish Tuesday afternoon, an angel named Judy brought a beautiful potted Chrysanthemum to my door.  Kenly helped with a raffle at our neighborhood picnic on Saturday and she kept telling Judy that she wanted to give some pretty flowers to her Mama.  Judy made that wish come true.  Her timing was perfect.  Only God could have planned that beauty.  Those flowers were a perfect reminder that the love between a mother and daughter transcends all the battles and the discipline.  It grows stronger and over time and it will flower into something truly beautiful one day.

On Wednesday morning, Kenly's devotion was perfect.  The scripture for the day was Psalm 103:12 (ICB)--"He has taken our sins away from us as far as the east is from the west."

I was able to once again share the beauty of God's grace and forgiveness.  It is my prayer that one day she will grab on to that grace with both hands and refuse to let go.  I was also able to talk to her about forgiving herself.  I struggle with this on a regular basis.  I beat myself up over and over again.  I told her to let it go.  She asked for forgiveness and she has been forgiven.  Mommy, Daddy, God, and Mrs. F all forgive her.  She doesn't need to pick it back up or ask for forgiveness again.  The price has been paid.  Now she simply needs to make the right choice when faced with the temptation to steal again.  

I felt emotionally beaten by the time night fell last night.  I have cried more in the past two days than I have in two years.  
But, as I told Kenly, it is over.

Time to move on.  

  I had lunch with Kenly on the day she confessed to Mrs. F.  As you can see, she's moved on.  

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