The story this week was Jesus in the Desert. I was not well prepared this week. That combined with some recent bad parenting, and today was a disaster.
I wasn't completely sure how I wanted to approach today's story. When I opened our story Bible and saw that they had titled the story "Tempted" I had a feeling that this was not the best approach for us. Alessia knows how to read though and will correct me if I try to change or omit anything in a story. So I read the story which ends with the sentence "Jesus was happy that God was always with him, especially when he was tempted to do wrong." Aha, I thought. God is always with us. That is the message my kids need to hear at this age. I should have just closed the book. In this story Bible though there is a bit of a wondering question at the end of each story. Even if I try to skip it, Alessia generally insists that I read it. No printed word goes unread now that she knows how to read. So I read, "Practice saying 'No!' with someone. Have them tempt you to do something you know is wrong. Then say, 'No!'" I panicked. Alessia is very sensitive to the idea that she is bad. Rather than just closing the book or saying that was for older kids. I tried doing it in a light hearted way. "Alessia... Write on the wall with a marker... Noooo." Alessia ran away with her hands over her ears hysterically crying, and Olivia started sobbing. When I tried to calm Alessia down she tried to hit me and run away from me. Eventually I managed to pick her up and bring her onto the couch for a group snuggle with Olivia who was still crying. For several minutes Alessia kicked and cried in my arms. I shushed her and told her I loved her and I told her God loved her. Eventually everyone calmed down. I wanted to save the story, to tell them what I really thought of it. That God is always with us. I decided that we needed a break from the story instead though, and we just sat.
Alessia asked to watch a show, which was going to be our next activity anyway. She stayed snuggled in my arms and Olivia snuggled up against my side and we watch an episode of Peg + Cat. Afterwards, They ran off to play, and I went in the kitchen to make dinner, feeling pretty miserable. Olivia came in and told me that we hadn't put anything on the Lenten table. I didn't have anything planned. So I took two pieces of paper and wrote them each a note. I apologized for upsetting them and told them I loved them and God loved them. I told Olivia that if she wanted to put the note on the lenten table she could. She took Alessia's note and gave it to her as well.
Adam and I had a long chat while making dinner. Alessia is very hard on herself and even sees herself as bad. Adam and I were both raised by parents who were firm, and we parent that way, and with Alessia it isn't working. It doesn't matter how much we tell her we love her, she is internalizing the nagging and the stern words as indications that she is bad. So we are going to try a much gentler approach. I may think that a five-year-old shouldn't need to be told more than once to put on her shoes (and my three-year-old generally doesn't need to be told more than once), but telling Alessia over and over to put on her shoes because she gets distracted very easily and then finally getting frustrated is just leading to her feeling bad about herself. So if what I need to do is take her hand and walk over to the shoes with her and talk to her while she puts them on, then that is what I'll do. I have to say we tried this a few months ago, and it was working really well, and then we fell back into nagging and getting frustrated.
Tonight at dinner we ate in the dining room. We lit candles. One for dad. One for mom. One for Alessia. One for Oliva. One for Thomas, our cat. And One for God, because what Jesus really learned in the desert is that God is always with us.