3 a (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
I had a small epiphany today - apt, during this season of Epiphany. My realization didn't hit me with a bolt of lightning. It was more like a seed that planted itself in my mind, burrowed in, was watered and fed over the course of a drive home and bloomed before my very eyes.
The day started much like any other. After getting K to her classroom, I headed home and found A and B already at work on their daily plan. Thankfully, this is not an uncommon occurrence. We consistently get more work done in the morning hours, when we're fresh. If the work is done in our pajamas, no one minds. It's still good work.
Before 9:00, A and B had wrapped up their independent work and we moved into our math lesson (prime factorization, for those of you who are curious about such things). By 11:00, a Psalm had been read, numbers had been factored, anatomy had been started, a folk tale analyzed. All that remained was for literature to be read. I encouraged A to hop into the shower and told the girls I would take them to the library and then to Chick-Fil-A for lunch. That's a treat around here. Most weekdays, we eat lunch right here at home. So A showered, I laundered clothes and B factored a bit more via Khan Academy.
After our lunch outing, they accompanied me to a dentist appointment. They split their time there between playing on J's iPad and reading their books. I set a timer for A, who got the iPad on the first shift. When it went off, she was to hand it over to B. The appointment took a bit longer than I'd anticipated, so B ended up playing for 12 minutes longer than A had. (Don't you love how precise children are? It was exactly 12 minutes longer, they both assured me.) I had expected this since I didn't set a second timer. And as a mom, I'd already planned a solution - A could play during the drive home. What I hadn't planned on was to be greeted by their fierce discussion when I came into the waiting room.
As we walked to the van, B muttered in frustration, "A is mad at me." "I'm not mad at you. I just don't want to play without asking," A nearly spat back. As it turned out, B realized she had played for longer than A, so she tried to give A the iPad back to equalize things. But my rule-following firstborn didn't want to play an extra 12 minutes without checking first. We had a short discussion about it before the drive home. I don't really remember what I said, just that A ended up playing on the drive home.
As we drove home, it occurred to me how typical this was of each of my daughters. B hadn't really done anything wrong. She's a ten year old girl who has limited screen time. Who could blame her for losing track of time and playing a little longer than her allotted 20 minutes? A likes clear expectations - and fulfilling those expectations. I told her she could play for 20 minutes and she wasn't going to play for one minute more without asking first. Yet they could each learn so much from the other.
So as we pulled into the driveway, I turned off the van and faced them. "Let's talk for a minute before we go inside," I said. Both girls looked a bit wary. "B, did you do anything wrong when you played for a few extra minutes on the iPad?" "No," she immediately replied, "I didn't do it on purpose, so it wasn't wrong. It was an accident." I turned to A. "Did B do anything wrong?" Slight hesitation, then "No."
We then talked about how B knew whether she had done anything wrong. She is a strong child - inside and out - and she has a very clear sense of right and wrong, regardless of whether she's been told to do or not do something. She didn't need me to tell her it was OK. She knew where her heart had been in the moment and that was enough for her.
A, on the other hand, wants things set out very clearly before her. Give her a rule and she will do her best to follow it. This is a lovely trait in a two year old and a terrifying one in a twelve year old. As I explained to her, she must begin to decide for herself between right and wrong - without asking someone else. She can watch her younger sister to see this in action and hopefully learn from her.
And what can B learn from A? I asked her this and she replied with a bit of a smile, "To sometimes follow the rules?" Well, yes. And to realize that not everyone has such a strong barometer - or the same barometer of right and wrong - as her own. There is far more gray in the world than B sees with her black and white vision. A is more moderate, more accepting of others who see and do things differently - B can learn from this.
I'm not a parent who revels in confronting my children with their weaknesses. I hate conflict. Even conflict with my children. While this could have turned me into a terrible, permissive, weak parent, God has spared me that. Today, I was able to take one minor incident and show them how the way they reacted was a reflection of who they are and how God made them. They listened. They heard me. I think they even knew, acknowledged and agreed with the areas where I suggested they should grow. It won't happen overnight. Or maybe ever. But I am thankful to have seen for a moment a glimpse of the source of their behaviors and to have offered some words to help them see themselves more clearly.