One thing I have learned as the parent of 3 girls is that every child is so very entirely unique. Now, that concept is not hard to come by, everyone knows that right? But when you are the mother and you are so very aware that these kids all came from you and daddy, the same parents, the same dna and yet they are so entirely their own person it makes you stand a bit in awe.
Taylor is my Anne, she is emotional and wants so very much to please, but tends to un-wittingly get caught up in whims that turn disastrous all too easily. Ayla is not like Anne, she is not emotional, she could care less if she displeases you. After all, adventure is far more important to her then any parental approval.
Taylor is like Anne. Ayla? is like Tom Sawyer.
See? She even looks like him!
The girls and I have been reading Tom Sawyer together lately. I never noticed before just how BAD he is! Funny how something can be just an endearing story, until you read it with your children and all of a sudden you notice all the little evils that you barely brushed past before. Rather like watching a movie with a parent, you remember it as simply being a good movie, until you watch it again in their presence and realize it is riddled with sexual jokes and bad language that you had not even noticed the first time around.
Tom? Well, as we know: "He was not the Model Boy of the village. He knew the model boy very well though--and loathed him." And that about sums up Toms personality! He lives on a whim, he will commit a crime and although punished, he will look on triumphantly through the lashings because he completed his crime, it was well worth it and no punishment can take that away! I have no doubt he was constantly dirty and covered in bruises as is Ayla despite my best efforts.
No tree or rock (or dresser or bookcase) left un-climbed. No dirt left un-touched, no noise left un-made. Shoes? Who needs them! Mud? Pure heaven. Sticks can be anything you put your mind to and bugs can be the best friend you never knew you were missing. She can and will beat up her big sister, especially if she tattles (which she often does) and yet once cleaned up she has the face of an angle. Who would suspect such a lovely creature of such mischief, it can't be. She looks so sweet!
Last night Ayla and I had a battle of wills. She came into the livingroom, her face covered in make-up. My make-up. There was no question, she got into my make-up and put it onto herself. But when asked, "what did you do Ayla?" Her answer was an innocent "nothing."
Why do parents always have to ask that question? They KNOW the answer so they are just baiting. Daring the offender to add further offense to their crime.
But like most parents I wanted to hear the true confession from her and not just inform her of her offense and resulting consequences. So I asked, "where did you get that make-up?" She looked me square in the face and said "it is Matthew's (her imaginary friend) make-up and he let me use it."
Now as the parent I am faced with a dilemma. I have asked her a question, she has lied to my face. What now? Do I punish the deed and the lie now? Or do I continue to pursue the truth? I chose to find the truth (and felt as I did the wonderful stubbornness God has graciously given me rising up in response to My Tom's challenge). "No, that is not Matthew's make-up. Ayla is not telling me the truth. I want the truth NOW or you will receive a spanking."
Now, spankings are few and far between in this house. Usually reserved for the biggest offenses with the intent that they NEVER happen again. Usually the threat of one is enough. Not this time. Ayla was insistent that it was Matthews make-up (to the point I started wondering if she could be telling the truth...) and received several spankings while bravely standing her ground. After going in circles for a while, I knew I had to change my tactics. I WILL win this, but this method is not working. All I want is for her to tell me where she got the make-up from. All I want is the truth that I already know. But I want to hear her say it, I want a confession.
At this point, it is no longer about the offense. That is long gone. Now it has become a pure battle of wills. I want her to tell me the truth, she wants to get away with her lie no matter now outrageous it has become.
Battles like this must really be comical to the on-looker. Especially as I am trying to keep from laughing myself. I do not want to spank my child again, in this case it is obviously not effective so I stand and look around the room; pausing to plan my next course of action. I am trying to find the correct currency as Ayla stands, hands on her hips in defiance.
Let us try stuffed animals, "if you do not tell Mama the truth your big tiger (her "Nini") will go in time-out." she glares at me, "I want Nini to go in time out!" So away he goes. "Ayla, I need you to obey now and tell me the truth. Where did you get the make-up?" "Matthew gave it to me!" she again insists. "That is not the truth. I do not like it when Ayla lies to me. Lying is not acceptable." (looks around) if you do not tell me the truth ALL your stuffed animals will go in time-out." "I want them to go in time out!"
Alright, I need to change tactics again. Think....think....yes! "Ayla, I will count to three. And if you are not on your feet showing me where you got the make-up from, all your dresses will go away." (Howling) "BUT I NEED THOSE TO BE PRETTY!" Yes! Success, I made my child cry louder, I have found her currency!
How terrible is that? The louder she howls, the more successful I feel. I now feel terrible for feeling so good. But I started this and I WILL end it victorious.
I take down all of the dresses and put them into a basket so she can see her empty closet. "Ayla, do you want me to take these away or do you want me to put them back? All you have to do is obey and tell me the truth and they will go right back into the closet. Are you ready to tell me the truth?" She stands, sniffs and nods. "I took your make-up mama."
Oh thank God, the ordeal is over.
She takes my hand, walks me to my room where she points out her folly. She is completely calm now, just the occasional sniff. "I'm sorry for lying Mama." I forgive her, she gives me a hug, we talk about how we need to tell the truth. We are both exhausted. The tiger and other stuffed animals will remain in time-out until tomorrow. Other then that I think we have both suffered punishment enough. Let us now celebrate telling the truth with hurrays and cheerfully return the dresses to their proper place!
I won. That is all that matters.
Lucky for Tom he didn't have me for a mother, or the stories would have been different!
I am glad I have my Ayla. She certainly keeps me on my toes! Life would just be boring without her right? And I have learned many lessons from her. She is very much like me, and we learn some of the best lessons while looking into our child mirrors. I stubbornly hold onto my stories sometimes as God tries to teach me. How foolish must some of my stories sound to him? About as foolish as obtaining make-up from an imaginary friend? And yet I stick to my guns no matter the consequences.
I have never been a huge fan of Anne. I cannot identify with that character. Tom on the other hand? I laugh so hard while reading those books, because I understand! I know the pain of sitting still, the pleasure of manipulation, the joy of being free to run around and get skinned knees and covered in dirt. That was me as a kid. Perhaps that is why I am hard on Ayla, I know she can take it. Because I needed it myself at 3 years old, I got it, I survived and I am a better person for it.
Ayla will be ok. She has lots of adventures ahead, some painfun and some exciting. I am only glad I get the privilege of watching her grow. But for now? I have no doubt that the adventures and therefore, the stories will keep on going!
As the author wrote about Tom:
"When one writes a novel about grown people, he knows exactly where to stop--that is, with a marriage; but when he writes of juveniles, he must stop where he best can."
- Mark Twain