I am longing for Gracie to have a sense of security in our family. She seems happy. She is generally just a ball of bubbly, giggly enthusiasm. She wants to try everything and is sure she can do it "by myself." She is cuddly and affectionate, and just can't get enough kisses and hugs. But I still just have a sense that she does not have a sense of permanency here. She has a strong drive to perform well. She constantly asks if she's doing a good job, whether she's eating her dinner, coloring a picture, making her bed, or doing a silly dance. If any of her siblings have displeased us, she needs to know if they have done a "bad job," and then needs to hear that she, indeed, is doing a "good job." For several weeks the language she used was "good girl/bad girl" and "good boy/bad boy." She wanted everyone labeled this way, and frequently wanted to know that she was a "good girl." We were finally able to discourage this labelling (she would even label inanimate objects as good or bad: a book was a "bad boy" if it fell on my foot!), but we still haven't diminished the approval seeking. Honestly, there's very little she ever says or does that would be categorized as a "bad job" even if we wanted to do so, but sometimes I wish there was. I wonder if she feels safe enough to scream or rage or tantrum. If I'd been through all that she has in the last two years, I think I would throw a tantrum or two. I love her so much. And we just keep telling her we love her. And she just keeps working and working to earn the love that she already has. (Sound familiar?) This might sound crazy, but lately I've taken to finding opportunities to let her know that she's not doing a very good job. For instance, she's a horribly messy eater. She's very aware of it, and makes sure I notice that she cleans up after herself if she makes a mess. So I take the opportunity to tell her that she's not doing a very good job eating neatly. I say it with a smile and a wink. Sometimes she smiles back and asks if she's eating like a little piggy, and I laugh and say yes. I tell her that she's not doing a very good job eating neatly, and that I love her. I point out all of the crumbs on the table, chair, floor (and sometime on the dog who has taken to sitting under her seat), and I tell her she's really messy. And that I love her. I almost wish sometimes that she would completely let loose and scream and cry and bite and hit and kick. So that I could gather her up in my arms and tell her that I love her, and that I will always love her, and that it doesn't matter what she ever does, she is going to be my little girl forever. Then maybe she would know and trust in her heart that it's true. That she doesn't need to earn her place in this family, and that she will never lose it.
Isn't that what we all need to hear? And isn't it what God wants us to hear? I hesitate to draw this parallel, because I am so far from a perfect mother. Let's just be honest; I'm going to fail her. I'm going to get annoyed and impatient and...well...I'm going to sin against her (I already have). But she and I both have a Father who will love us perfectly. We don't have to earn it. In fact, there's absolutely no way we ever could. She and I are going to do a "bad job" on some level every single day, and He's going to just love us. I want her to know that love. I'm longing for her to know it from me; to feel safe in my arms. But ultimately I want her to know it from Him. So I'll keep letting her know...very gently...that sometimes she does a bad job. But I love her. And I'll keep trying to soak up that same lesson for myself while I'm at it.