R is for…


Every time I give Amy a haircut — other than trimming her bangs — I regret it. I think I’m getting a little better, but — her hair has just enough wave to be challenging, in addition to the usual wiggly toddler challenge. That, and this time, there’s the real bangs, the former overly-full bangs grown-out to ear length, and then what to do — trim an inch off the back, or try to curve the back toward the grown-out old bangs, or even try to extinguish the distinction between new bangs, old bangs, and the rest?

I just tried taking off two inches straight across the back. I clipped up the hair in sections, letting down just a little at a time, trimming oh-so-carefully. But still — that wave, and the problem of angle and trying to get the new section really lined up with the section underneath. And then, looking at the sides — dare I? I dared — I cut a bit of a curve toward those old bangs.

I’m not really sure if it’s even. I want to see what it looks like after a shampoo. And I’m rather mortified to realize that the new cut looks a lot like her beloved Ms. Shaina’s style. I hope she won’t think we did that on purpose.


I was just thinking this afternoon, while doing the dishes, how somewhat awkward it is when the people I’m friends with are not friends with each other, or how people I’m friends with are friends with people who are not friends with me. I know, I know, it’s normal and fine and typical and all that, and everyone can’t be friends with everyone else. And yet sometimes I wonder — why is it that someone I’m friends with is also friends with someone I wouldn’t get along with at all, or why is it that someone is friends with my friend, but not with me, even though I think I’m a lot like my friend. It would be interesting to see God’s Venn diagrams for the personalities and see where the overlaps are and are not.


Rhetoric is, among other things, about the art of persuasion.

I want to persuade Amy to become the kind of person who can consider another’s point of view, take turns, stand up for herself, stand up for others, sacrifice lovingly, receive love comfortably, know what she wants and pursue it, take “no” graciously, and many other such things.

I also want to persuade her to obey me immediately without argument, yelling, or whining.

And I want her to develop emotional literacy — to be able to feel her feelings, not avoiding or stuffing or trying to go around them; to be able to choose and execute appropriate expressions of those feelings; to use wisdom to know how and when and if to take action because of those feelings.

These last two goals sometimes seem to be in conflict, or at least it seems challenging to go about one without causing problems for the other.

For example, by emphasizing that it’s okay to be angry but not okay to yell, okay to not want to but not okay to argue about it, okay to be sad but not okay to whine — am I trying to remove something essential from those emotions? There are times when it is important to be able to have your emotion show in the way you talk — not all talk should be antiseptically calm and passionless.

(We do try to allow for appropriate expression other than calm words — you can go whine or cry in your room, you can punch your mattress or pillow…)

Likewise, by that emphasis, am I trying to remove something essential from obedience? It is better to obey cheerfully, with love of righteousness, than to obey grudgingly.

At this point, I don’t think this second potential error is as important at this age. It seems more important to me that she understands her feelings are hers and are okay no matter what they are. I think it takes a LOT of maturity to know when one’s feelings are not appropriate to the situation, to feel sorry about that without hopeless despair or resentful anger, but with confidence and gratitude that grace covers our falling short and promises to finish our sanctification.

I don’t want to raise a robot — unquestioning obedience is not the ultimate or only goal. And when I require obedience, I want to be sure I remain respectful.


6 thoughts on “R is for…

  1. Wow. I deal with many of the issues you examined in “rhetoric” as well. I too often catch myself yelling at my little boy to stop yelling. I struggle too with how to expect obedience but allow expression of feelings. Sometimes I think I think way too much. Just know you are definitely not alone in those questions.

    As for regrets, you are braver than I to try to cut a little girl’s hair. I won’t touch my own hair, though I did trim bangs a bit when I had those. I won’t touch Andrew’s either, but my husband will buzz it in the aummer and we just do haircuts every once in a while during the winter months.

  2. My husband and I did not insist that our girls obey us immediately without argument or whining. They had many little fits and were not reprimanded. And it was our job to let them argue and to listen and talk with them respectfully if they did not want to obey. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with a parent explaining the reason for something to a child so long as it is done in an honest and age-appropriate manner. Treating them this way taught them they are respected and deserve to be listened to have a right to negotiate some things. They also learned the basics of how and when to compromise with others because it was modeled for them with them as the recipients of this respect. Respecting a child teaches them how to respect themselves and others. Now I see how that has turned out. They are kind and well-behaved honor students. They have no interest in make-up, trashy clothing or other things that their father and I would worry over. And the friends they choose are nice, well-mannered girls. I think allowing them to question us and taking the time to explain our reasoning instead of just insisting on immediate obedience has helped foster health for our girls. So far, so good. Best of luck with Amy. She sounds like a lovely child and it’s good that you consider your parenting so deeply. It’s shows that you really, really care.

    (Obviously, I agree with your thinking when you wrote that insisting on immediate obedience without arguing, yelling or whining seems in conflict with your wish that your daughter develop deep emotional health. Put yourself in the child’s place – a big, powerful grown-up is telling her she is not allowed to express her emotions in the way is very natural for someone of her age or else she will be sent to her room. The take away there for a child is – They don’t want me around if I have these feelings. I must ignore them in order to be acceptable to the powerful people who feed me and say they love me.)

  3. Anon,

    That sounds wonderful, but it doesn’t seem very practical. It doesn’t seem to take into account the fact that fifteen arguments, whines, and yells before breakfast is exhausting for the parent.

    I want to figure out a way to balance — to take good care of and respect myself and my husband as well as Amy.

    I think there are times when immediate obedience without argument, whining, or yelling would be appropriate — like for things that happen every day such as using the potty before meals or getting ready for naptime.

    As for sending her to her room when she needs to cry or hit something, I don’t think there’s anything wrong or disrespectful about that — not necessarily. I think it can be done in a way that’s compassionate and respectful and not punitive. We’ve talked to Amy about how whining, for example, grates on the ears and is hard to listen to for very long. It’s nicer to be allowed the privacy and space of your own room for extended crying than to be forbidden to cry at all. And we only ask her to use her room when we’ve reached the end of our ability — it’s not like she’s sent there immediately every time there’s a whisper of discontent.

    But you’re right that unless the obedience is founded on respect and trust, it’s not worth much.

  4. Melody,

    Yeah, the yelling to stop yelling is incongruous. It’s like the time when I was just out of my first year of college and working at my first camp, and the camp stupidly had a no running rule, and I found myself chasing a little girl yelling “stop running!” as she ran away from me. I have actually come a long way in patience, flexibility, and understanding what’s appropriate for different ages.

    Mark thinks that it’s an important part of the deal for feelings to show in the way we talk, and so he doesn’t make as much of an effort to keep anger out of his voice when he’s telling her about something that’s frustrating him. I see his point, but still lean towards trying to keep my voice calm even when I’m seething. I think it’s possible to have an angry tone without yelling… but I wonder if an angry tone comes across like yelling or not.

  5. I think it depends on the person how it comes across. It has taken A LOT of time for me to realize that an angry tone of voice comes across to my husband as yelling (except when he’s the one doing it). Still… I’d rather do that than the ignore feelings route that he grew up with. I’m learning that so much parenting advice is tough to work out in practicality… either that or my child is the one that is the exception (but, Mommy, I want another choice!) and I also know that I am setting the foundation now for my relationship with my child(ren?) in the future. Doing decent so far I think… though there is always room for improvement. I do completely agree to look at things from the child’s perspective — that has made a huge impact on how I parent.

  6. One of the things I’ve learned in marriage is that it’s okay for someone to be angry with / at me. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s my fault or my responsibility. It’s still hard for me even to get an eye roll, but I think tolerance for other people’s feelings (without taking responsibility for them) is just as important to pursue as tolerance for my own.

    And yes — I’d rather have things out in the open, communicated, however messily, than kept in, denied, taboo.

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