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Friday, April 14, 2017

"Out of Control:" Chapter 8

For the explanation of my current series, go to the first installment: http://bit.ly/2nnCvFx

Out of Control:
A Christian Parent’s Victorious Struggle with Child Abuse

A Memoir by Kathy Collard Miller

Chapter 8
Big Difference

May 20th

"Darcy, I really need to clean the bathroom right now. Mommy is having a Tupperware party tonight, and I have to clean the house. I know I promised last week to play with you more often but today I must concentrate on the house."

Darcy's pout wrenched my heart. Even though I had meant what I said the previous week, each day's busy schedule had pushed aside my good intentions.

"Okay, how about after I finish the bathrooms? I'll stop for a few minutes and we'll play one game of Candyland."

"Okay, Mommy. I get it ready." Her disappointed pout instantly turned into a radiantly happy smile as she skipped off to her room.

By the time I put out fresh towels, I realized how fast the morning was vanishing. I knew I should bake the cake so it would have time to cool before I frosted it. I wondered if I could start it before playing Candyland.

It is such a simple game. Why do I dread playing it? I knew why. It seemed like every time we almost reached the winning candy house and the end of the game, one of us would draw the lollipop card or the gumdrop card and would be sent back almost to the beginning. Sometimes the game would continue for hours. And the fact that Darcy inevitably folded the cards or threw them around the room also irritated me. I would be glad when she was older and we could play more sophisticated games. 

But if I don't want to play with her now, she probably won't want to play with me then. I feared the consequences of not spending enough time with Darcy in these early years and felt  guilty about my selfishness. Oh, Father, will I ever be the mother I want to be?

"Well, enough of this," I scolded myself. "I've got to get busy."

I tiptoed near the door of Darcy's bedroom and peeked around the corner. She was carefully laying out the colored cards around the Candyland board.

Oh, good. She's busy so I'll go start the cake.

But I had not even finished combining the ingredients when Darcy ran into the kitchen carrying a handful of Candyland cards. "Mommy, ready to play?" she asked.

"Oh, honey, I'm sorry. I decided to mix this cake first. Can you wait a few more minutes, then we'll play?" I tried to sound cheerful, hoping to ward off a temper tantrum. At first, as her lower lip started to quiver it seemed I was going to be unsuccessful. But then she wandered off with drooping shoulders, folding several of the cards.

I knew I should give her some attention but the thought of not being ready for the party made my neck muscles tighten. "I'll get everything ready for tonight, then I'll have time to play with you," I called out after her.

For the rest of the day, I cleaned the house and prepared the refreshments. Mark woke up early from his nap, was fussy from teething, and needed to be held, so I didn't get everything done as quickly as I'd hoped. It was five o'clock when I finally finished. With a sigh of relief, I plopped Darcy on the floor in front of the television to watch a cartoon while fixing dinner.

When only eight women arrived for the Tupperware party, I realized there had been no reason to get uptight or angry and regretted I had spent so much time cleaning the house instead of playing with Darcy.

The week progressed and Darcy seemed more and more disobedient. She even seemed to look for ways to disobey, including pinching her brother when she thought I couldn't see her. I was convinced my anger was at the root of her temper tantrums  (Tweet that!) but I felt powerless to do something different. When she disobeyed me, it felt as if she wanted to tell me what a horrible mother I was. 

"Oh, Lord, is there no hope? I want to be a perfect mother but I'm so horrible. She's right. And why does cleaning the house seem more important than giving her attention?" 

As I surveyed the house, I realized a neat house gave me tangible proof I had accomplished something. When I gave Darcy attention, I didn't have any concrete evidence I had done anything worthwhile. She still disobeyed me. 

Several weeks later at Bible study, one of the women raved about a book on disciplining children she had read and I borrowed it. It talked about the importance of consistently giving consequences. I recognized sometimes I reacted patiently and gave Darcy a consequence but other times I ignored her disobedience or got furious, spanking her out of control.

"Oh, Lord, please help me to be consistent."

A thought suddenly popped into my mind and I grabbed a piece of paper. I drew a line down the middle and on the left side titled "misbehavior." On the other side, I wrote, "consequence." After filling it out with several ideas, I taped it to the refrigerator. Now I had some concrete way to remind myself of what to do, rather than being so uncertain and confused. 

"I'm actually doing something right, God. Thank you for leading me. Please help this to make a difference."

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