Sobbing, four year old Daughter stared defiantly back at me.
“Yogurt,” she choked.
“No!” I said for the third time.
Exactly why I chose to dig in my heels over her third yogurt is one of the great Mommy Mysteries. Sometimes, we aren’t capable of choosing our battles. They choose us.
Daughter, however, inherited not only the color of my eyes and my odd penchant for launching into one of a few alternate characters at any moment, but also my own particular strain of stubbornness. She can dig in her heels with equal gusto. The result? At times I resort to childish behavior to break the cycle.
Hence, when she wouldn’t budge and hand over the yogurt, I grabbed it from her tightly clenched fingers and pulled it away.
(You can decide who was acting more like a four year old at this point.)
We both stared at the streaks of strawberry yogurt spilled across the hardwood floor.
“You may not have a third yogurt! It will give you a tummy ache,” I said again with as much conviction as I could muster to justify my actions.
She just stared at me and sobbed.
Then, without another word, she turned around and sat down at the kids’ art table and started drawing. I cleaned up the floor and went about my business preparing dinner. I heard lots of hardy scribbling from the corner but she didn’t make a peep.
After awhile she walked over to me and held out a piece of a paper.
“Here, Mommy, I made a picture of you.”
I looked at her questioningly.
“Am I angry in it?”
She handed it to me and there I was, a stick figure with a triangle skirt and – a happy face. “MOM” was written at the top.
She reached out and gave me a hug.
“I’m sorry I was angry. Thank you for my picture,” I said into her hair. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
We were at peace again.
I put the drawing in the recipe stand on the kitchen counter and glanced at it over the next few days, thinking about her ability to draw through her feelings and process what had happened between us. And come out in a good place. It seemed that for all my mommy screw ups she had at least one healthy approach of resolving them.
And then one day I remembered all her ferocious scribbling in the corner that afternoon and I got to wondering…. So, I went over to the art table and picked through the sheets of old drawings. Sure enough, a few pages in I found the preliminary drawings. There I was, a stick figure with a triangle skirt. But instead of a happy smile, I had a circle for a mouth. Angry Mommy. She’d expressed me. And herself. And in the happy face that sat on my counter, found a way to move on.