Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mabel (A Lesson in Boldness)

 I've described each of my girls a bit here, but in an effort to more fully bore and possibly horrify you with my parenting skills, I'm doing a two part series on what it's like parenting each girl individually (you can read part 1 here). 

Look at this kid. The sparkling eyes. The mischievous smile.
The temporary arm tattoo I forgot to scrub off before family pictures...

When Mabel is being disobedient and I have to use the age old parenting Hail Mary tactic of counting to three, she almost always responds the same way.

"What happens if you get to three?"

Mabel needs to know how bad the consequence is before she decides to stop doing something. And even then she usually has to experience the consequence first hand at least once to really believe what you're telling her (which is how she learned that I wasn't joking when I told her not to put pennies into electrical outlets).

She's not generally concerned with the opinions of other people, and she is unapologetic when it comes to her own. Mabel is independent.

 She is goofy and bold and full of loud, bright life. She's physical. She stomps and jumps and crashes into things. She's resilient.

These are all wonderful qualities. Beautiful, strong, invaluable characteristics that make me hopeful when I think about all the ways the world will try to turn her heart and mind against her. When I think ahead to Mabel at twenty years old, I look at Mabel at three years old and can see all the ways she's already ahead of the game. 

But let's be honest. Those beautiful, strong, invaluable qualities only become that way with careful guidance and thoughtful nurturing. Because not caring about what others think of her could quickly become not caring what others think, period. At all, about anything.  Being confident in her opinions and her ability to voice them is wonderful--unless she can't learn to filter her thoughts and speak to those around her with truth and love.

When I see Mabel purposefully acting in a way that she knows will cause her sister to burst into tears, "careful guidance" isn't my go-to tactic (or my six year old's, I've found out). And when I ask her to do something and she looks at me with her round, blue eyes and calmly says "NO" as she walks away, my brain sort of melts. "Thoughtful nurturing" is the furthest thing from my mind.

Some days it feels like slow, wearisome work. I repeat, repeat, repeat. And then she does what she wants to anyway. So then I repeat some more. Her "What happens if you get to three?" question is a pretty good picture of how she likes to learn, so I try to answer all of the "what happens if...?" as truthfully and plainly as I can.

I'm working on explaining to Mabel. Explaining why other people's feelings matter, even if they aren't how you feel. Why it hurts to be ignored. Why we sometimes do things for people not because we want to or feel like it, but because not every decision in life should be based on what we will get out of it. Her whip-smart brain and daring, brave heart are a stunning combination that could inspire the timidest of spirits. Independent souls have a knack for that, if wielded correctly.  So I'm working on explaining to Mabel the beautiful boldness in looking outward instead of inward.

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