Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Broken rules, mended relationships

I worry about my children...A LOT. In these days of 24 hour news channels, hundreds of parenting books, and sensational tabloid magazines informing us constantly of all the dangers the world has to offer, it is hard not to worry. Parents are so much more aware of child predators, chemicals in our environment, and rare but deadly diseases than ever before. Being the informed mother I am, I do everything I can to keep my children safe. My baby sleeps on her back, my older children wear helmets when riding their bikes, we all wear sunscreen when spending time outside, we filter all our water before drinking it . The list goes on...
I am usually overly cautious and careful as can be, but recently I knowingly broke an important safety rule. It was one of those days, the kind that starts with bickering children and spilled cereal. After breaking up fights and crunching through my kitchen my patience was waning when the children and I set off on a few errands. The kids were continuing their earlier disagreement as they buckled themselves into our packed minivan like a bunch of little sardines. The van, which seats 7, left no spare space for our family of 7 and the children were sitting shoulder to shoulder without even an inch between them. In a moment of weakness, impatience, and perhaps incredible irresponsibility, I invited my 11 year old daughter into the, previously forbidden, front seat. I know the guidelines say that children under 12 are safest in the backseat but I needed a bit of peace in my car and I knew I wasn't going to get it as long as the kids were sitting practically on top of each other.
A most unexpected thing came out of this chaotic spur of the moment decision. My oldest child, who tends to be a lot like her father and keeps to herself much of the time, started to talk to me. She was not asking for a snack or complaining about her math work. She was chatting with me about her thoughts. In my busy, sometimes crazy household of 5 children, I struggle to find an uninterrupted minute to spend time alone with each of them to just talk and hang out. I am, many times, distracted and preoccupied at home. My oldest daughter is quiet. She does not always want to share her thoughts and feelings with others and I have found the more I push her, the more she withdraws. At times, I have worried about our relationship, wishing she was more comfortable coming to me and talking to me about anything. I have prayed, in the past, that God would show me a way to grow closer to her.
I never would have thought the answer to my prayer would be to break the rules but sometimes God does work in mysterious ways. It was a few weeks ago when I first invited my daughter into the front but ever since, she has remained my talkative travel companion as she rides shot gun. In this time, she has shared with me many stories, ideas, and opinions. I have had the opportunity to listen, relatively undistracted, and to see her get excited about sharing things with me. I have enjoyed the chance to spend more time with my daughter who, for the first two and a half years of her life was my only child, my constant companion, and my favorite little buddy. I am so impressed with the young lady she is growing up to be and I am so grateful she is willing to share her thoughts with me. Though the experts may not say it is safe, our new travel arrangement is working wonderfully. My daughter and I are once again growing close and our van is now a more peaceful place to travel...except, of course, for the younger children whining from the backseat, "why does she get to sit in the front?!?!?!?"

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