February 26, 2012

From middle class to masterpiece

My middle gal is in a phase.

I don't know for certain because my oldest sailed through these years with yes mama's and a lot of tenderness. But lately, when the middle one most needs a hug, she is more likely to throw an elbow. And I haven't read the book on elbow throwing yet ... though I recently picked up 'The Young Peacemaker."

She doesn't feel heard and she has trouble with patience. She takes what she wants by force: hitting, wrecking, grabbing ... then crying popcorn tears right on cue. Life has been a bit dramatic lately. She needs to make her presence known and she is a middle child. I could be mistaken, but I think I am watching textbook play out in real time.

We remind her to use her words, tell us what she needs. Maybe it's my job to know so that she doesn't have to ask? No one reacts as quickly as she wants when her heart has been hurt: her middle voice unheard and her middle height overlooked.

There is a blue-eyed boy who still needs a mama to pick up and hold. There is a tall, firstborn who needs help to piece letters into words, decipher b's from d's. The littlest needs my help and the oldest  is the helper and the middle one with fair skin and full cheeks ... she is known to wander a bit.

Todd and I stay up late and ask question over handfuls of peanuts, black coffee.

"How do we make her feel special?"

"How do we encourage her heart, how do we 'fill her love tank?'" 

"How do we teach her right behavior, not crush her little spirit?"

We have guesses, inklings. But who really knows? We land on the way of extravagant love.
"We just need to love her well," he says.

I think on my kids from work, how their most desperate attempts to separate were often the loudest cries for closeness. I think on my own life and how the anger and the pushing-away can grow right out of the heart-hurt.

A soul cry can look a lot like throwing an elbow. 

It's late in the evening and dad should be walking through the door any minute. The glass storm door usually creeks first and this is the hint that he is just seconds away ... bigger door separating father and the waiting few. Sometimes the wind pulls the glass door open just a bit and then lets go again. The kids are tricked every time, running for dad who isn't really there.

On this day, my middle one is aimless and she has ostracized herself from the two, no longer welcome. It is six o'clock and I have to choose: damage control or dinner. 

I see her in limbo and four year old shoulders can slump low like my own. I stop the doing and sit on the kitchen floor. At the foot of the fridge I scoop her into my lap, ask if she wants to read a book, play a round of Connect Four. Really, she just likes how the red and black pieces spill loud with one slide of the lever. She will fill and spill, fill and spill, laughing each time. She shakes her head no and she doesn't know what she wants.

I think about Peter. He was a semi-disaster and Jesus loved him well: called him a rock until he became one. Peter had to learn who he was, had to be told before he could grow into his name.

Truth spoken right into his skin. Words entering marrow.  
Someone did this for me once and who says four years old is too young to start knowing?

So I tell her she is wonderful company even though she just pulled hair. I tell her she is so fun to be with even though she just wrecked block cities. I tell her she is a wonderful big sister even though she runs with toys overhead while the smallest screams wild.

The  moment shifts and her face softens and she settles sideways into my chest. The words begin to come easy and suddenly I have a lot more to say. I tell her Truth. She listens while taco meet sizzles and the glass door creeks. The other two yell for dad and four little feet sprint.

My middle child doesn't budge and and this is how I learn it.
This is how we have to love this girl.

We have to call her loved until she knows it deep; we have to call her loving until she acts it out. I pray into her sandy strands right there on wood planks and we, just for a moment, ignore dad.
She hugs my neck and she kisses my cheek soft, doesn't bulldoze.

I think how I, too, have been loved this way for years and years ... Someone calling me lovely even though lovely is but a vision.

I hold this middle child in my lap and I let go of middle-child fears. I cling, instead, to the hope of  what and who she will be, who she really is ... because He is speaking it into her already.

He is speaking it over her today.  

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