A change of perspective

I’ve spent most of my life keeping company with children—from my teenage summers as a camp counselor, to my years as a day-care provider and pre-school teacher, to raising my own three children. Working with children, either professionally or as a parent, is the most wonderful (and the most challenging) occupation imaginable.

Over the years, as I’ve met with trying circumstances in the classroom or within the family, I’ve often found it helpful to look at a situation from a new perspective. Let me offer an example. When our third child was born, our second child was not at all thrilled to be presented with a baby sister. She had insisted that we have another brother in the family, and when a sister came along instead, she was pretty disappointed. By the time baby sister was three years old, big sister was having a hard time in her third grade class and an even harder time at home. As a mom who had tried to preach and practice love in our family, I was mystified when our daughter would stalk up to me and snarl, “I hate you, Mommy,” for no apparent reason. I was also stymied by her behavior in school, where her teacher told me that she had been taking items from the classroom without permission. Anyone who knows my dear daughter would be amazed to hear that she had ever been unpleasant at any point in her life, but at the time, I began to despair that I was a bad mother who was raising a bad child.

One evening, after all three children had been put to bed, I was tidying up in the bathroom when I happened to glance at a bottle of shampoo on the edge of the tub. It had the word protein printed on it, and I noticed that half of the letters of the word were printed in gold and half were printed in brown. Finding this odd, I leaned closer to take a second look and immediately saw that all the letters were now gold. Because of the point of view from which I’d looked at the bottle, the light caught the letters differently. It suddenly occurred to me that I needed to look at the situation with my daughter from a different perspective as well. Rather than seeing myself as the bad mother of a bad child, I needed to see that my daughter and I were both the beloved, wholly good children of our mutual Mother, God.

When listening replaced lists
April 8, 2013

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