Last Saturday, we stopped in at a local thrift store and Sienna found a treasure she had to have. She called it a “Russian doll” which may or may not have been totally accurate. It did look Eastern European, was about six inches tall, and priced at $5.00. She begged to get it and I reminded her that she was saving her money and didn’t have any with her anyway. The doll wasn’t our reason for visiting the thrift store, so she’d have to wait.
Her passion for the doll was clear on the drive home… she was devastated. Trying to be steady and consistent, I didn’t waiver. I kept reminding myself that I was trying to teach her delayed gratification and self-control, rather than focusing on keeping her “happy.”
The tears stopped as we ate lunch and vegged out in front of the television for awhile. Crises adverted, I thought, expecting that was the end of it. Instead, a few hours later Sienna came to me with a proposition: “What if I earn the money for the doll?”
“What will you do to earn it?” I asked.
“Chores! I’ll do the dishes tonight!” she enthusiastically replied.
“Okay, for starters. How about you also organize your room, help me pick up around the house, and do other chores this evening?”
“Yes! Then can we go get the doll tomorrow?” our persistent girl asked.
I should note that I owed her a few dollars that I borrowed for field trip money the previous week, so she was really only earning a couple bucks with these chores.
This arrangement was very gratifying. Although she had to deal with her feelings of frustration and disappointment initially, she ultimately came up with an option that allowed her to work for what she wanted. Win/win!
Unfortunately, the thrift store was closed on Sunday because it’s run by a local Catholic church. I was too busy on Monday to swing by during my work day and they’re only open for six hours in the middle of the day. So, yesterday I went to the store at lunchtime to make the purchase.
The doll was gone.
I searched high and low, solicited the help of the lovely store employees, and prayed to locate the little doll. Oh, how I didn’t want to see the look of disappointment on Sienna’s face when I gave her the news that afternoon!
At pick-up from the kids’ after school program, Sienna gave me a knowing look and I knew she was about to ask about the doll.
“It wasn’t there, Lovie,” I started… “I looked all over the store.”
“Can I get another doll?” she quickly asked.
“Yes, you can use that money for another doll.”
“Can we go now?”
“No, they’re closed. We can go on Saturday morning,” I replied.
It didn’t matter that the store is only open during school and work hours, Sienna wanted to go find another doll soon and I was standing in the way. She was quiet and withdrawn on the drive home. I fought my urge to cheer her up or continually try to engage her in conversation. “She’s entitled to her feelings of disappointment,” I kept reminding myself.
When we got home, Sienna went to her room and started pulling books off her bookshelf and flipping through them. After about ten minutes, she came out to find me with a book in her hands, “I never knew I had this,” she said. She held a gift book my mom had given me years ago and I had incorporated into her library when she was small. It’s called “Thoughts to Share with a Wonderful Daughter”.
“Oh yeah, Gaga gave me that book a long time ago and then I gave it to you,” I replied.
I opened the book and rediscovered that my mom had underlined, made comments, and drawn hearts next to the passages she loved best. My eyes were drawn to a poem by Susan Polis Schultz, that had particular emphasis from my mom. I read it aloud to Sienna:
I Am Always Here for You, Daughter
When you need someone to talk to I hope you will talk to me
When you need someone to laugh with I hope you will laugh with me
When you need someone to advise you I hope you will turn to me
When you need someone to help you I hope you will let me help you
I cherish and love everything about you – my beautiful daughter
And I will always support you as a mother, as a person and as a friend
She beamed at me with the sweetest smile after I finished the poem. Suddenly, the only thing that seemed urgent to me was to sit down and look at this book together. “Want to read some more of it outside?” I asked. She nodded eagerly and said, “Yes!”
For the next several minutes, we sat in the dwindling sunlight and read through more o the poems, quotes, and words of wisdom about daughters, and particularly the relationship between mothers and daughters. It was the kind of authentic moment of connection that is so pure and rare that you know you have to soak it all in and cherish it.
I was reminded of one of the truths I’ve come to know over the past few years: conflict and strong emotional responses lead to deeper connection between people, if they are addressed and expressed honestly. Sienna was upset with me and made that clearly known. The fact that I didn’t react and behave as if her feelings were wrong or bad, allowed her to work through them. And she did, pretty quickly. I don’t think it was a coincidence that she found this book about daughters, and asked me about it, just as her feelings of anger and frustration were melting away.
These are the sweet, precious moments that can easily be missed if you need life to feel under control and therefore don’t allow yourself to remain in the discomfort of conflict when it occurs.