Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What We Teach

Sylvie has many rough days. Partly, it's her, but sometimes I'm very aware that she actually occupies a difficult place in our family.

She's the youngest, but my own biases against "babying" mean I probably often ask more of her than I should. Add to that a faltering awareness, "Oops! I just asked Sylvie to do a chore the other two did two or three years older," and you can see a girl might be confused.

Also, her brother and sister watch her every move and comment on everything she does. Sometimes it's loving and sometimes it's not, but I imagine it's tiring all the time. At breakfast this morning, she explained some childish misinterpretation of the world that as her mother, I knew she would figure out for herself. I knew that these things actually mean she's working it out and she'll get to a better understanding later. I knew to just listen and maybe ask a question or two, then let it go. But her brother and sister jumped on her for thinking something so OBVIOUSLY wrong. I felt a little sad that they yanked away her slow dawning of understanding, and I also knew that it probably happens more often than I realize.

The list of sleights goes on and on, and truly, she gives as good as she gets, just in different ways. So when I got home from an outing this afternoon, and I heard just how AWFUL Sylvie had been and I looked at her kicked-dog expression, I just ignored it. I told her she WOULD have to go with me to take Phaedra to dance, but she could bring a book along for me to read to her. Then, we dropped Phaedra off, and I took my animal loving bit of sunshine to the animal shelter. We looked at puppies and talked about all the things they do at the shelter to try to make the dogs' lives better. We fed treats to a few of the dogs who seemed eager to greet us. We looked at the cats and moved very quietly to disturb them as little as possible.

Afterward, Sylvie was her bubbly self, but calm in the middle. All her frazzled ends had been smoothed, and that was more important than reviewing again the list of all the little things she does that drive her siblings crazy. She felt loved which meant she could give back a little to the rest of us. Now, if I can just remember this lesson tomorrow.

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