If there’s one thing I know about parenting, it’s that I don’t know much at all. We hope as parents (or teachers or anyone who works with kids, really) that we can teach our kids valuable life lessons, good morals, character, etc. I’ve sometimes felt as if I had suddenly woken from a dream to find the whole thing standing on its head: I’m now the one who needs to learn something and it’s one of my kids who is administering the lesson. This has definitely been the case as I’ve watched my two daughters interact with each other.
Lydia was our baby, until at the ripe old age of 18 months she assumed the title of Big Sister. With that title came both affection and the typical annoyance, annoyance at her little sister for taking her toys, Mommy and Daddy’s attention, not to mention the cardinal sin: looking at her and smiling. She really is sweet to her sister most of the time, but that doesn’t illustrate my point. Then there’s Abigail who couldn’t adore her big sister more. She loves watching her, and smiles and laughs at her quite a bit.
With this in mind, allow me to paint a scene that happens often, at dinner or in the car. Abigail is smiling at her big sister, waving or reaching out her hand. Lydia is not in the mood for that, so she shakes her head, closes her eyes, covers her face with her hands and says emphatically, “No thank you! No thank you! NO THANK YOU!” We then remind Lydia to be kind to her sister. Meanwhile, Abigail keeps smiling at Lydia, hanging on her every word. Before long, both girls are smiling and laughing, maybe even holding hands. Lydia has even been known to say, “Love you,” on occasion.
You’ve probably guessed my point by now, even if you are in the habit of reading blog posts without reading the title. The way I respond to others when they are unkind to me can completely flip the script. It wasn’t being scolded that changed Lydia’s attitude. It was the fact that Abby kept smiling and being “kind” (okay, maybe more because of her age than some kind of moral superiority) in the face of unkindness. A wise man named Solomon once wrote, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1) Even though Abby isn’t really talking yet, her “soft” actions and facial expressions “turned away wrath”.
I think there’s a lot of truth in that proverb that I needed to hear. My first instinct is often to respond in kind when I think I’ve been wronged, and that serves only to make things worse. Can you relate? Lydia is a great picture of how “killing with kindness” can redeem a relationship or a situation. If there’s hope for her, there’s hope for me and you.