While I won’t go as far as to say I’m living in Bleak House, we’re a long way from Happy Days. After a few weeks of smiling cooperation, my niece decided it was time to assert her authority and start challenging all the rules.
Every opportunity she could find, she pushed back. She’d come downstairs in the morning, claiming she’d taken a shower. When I pointed out her hair was dry, she went back upstairs and wet the ends of her hair in the sink.
She whined and complained about everything that was going on, from the pain in her teeth to doing her daily 30 minutes on the treadmill.
Friday morning she stole something from my closet. My husband and I had to spend quite a bit of time and energy dealing with her temper tantrum after we caught her and retrieved the stolen goods. Not the best time for that, as we were on our way out the door to go to the hospital for his outpatient surgery.
The weekend was more of the same: testing the limits, pushing back, alternating with lovey-dovey behavior that was clearly meant to manipulate us into giving her whatever she wanted.
By Monday I was exhausted. Since she was behaving much better, I took her with me to the bank, thinking after the two of us would go somewhere fun. As I was in line, I saw her walk over to a display, glance furtively over her shoulder, and put something in her jacket pocket.
When I finished my transaction, I asked her what was in her pocket. She claimed all she had was Kleenex. I finally got my hand into her pocket, and found a roll of mints, the candy she’d purloined from the Lions’ Club display selling candy to raise money for the blind.
I put the mints back and took her home, giving her a lecture about stealing and lying. From there it all went downhill. She refused to get on the treadmill, screaming that she hated it and the machine scared her. I told her no treadmill, no shopping.
She sobbed as though I’d stabbed her, she screamed and shrieked, told me she didn’t love me and all the typical things that come out in a temper tantrum. After an hour I could take no more.
I started screaming in return, even using some words I should never say, completely losing any sense of control. When we were both screamed out, we sat in silence. She went upstairs to her room and stayed there for 45 minutes.
When we returned, a more mature version of her came down. She meekly said she’d do the treadmill, and cheerfully did her time. She was cooperative and quiet, which has continued into today.
This is what I don’t understand. Why do all my careful, calm times of rewards and consequences have only limited success, and why is it when I completely fail, do things turn around?
Maybe God is trying to tell me something. Like I need to stop going in my own strength and relying on my own power, get out of His way, and let Him do His work. Now if I just had the wisdom and whatever else it takes to know when to act and when to stand aside.
Still not sure I understand, but maybe that’s where faith comes in.