when words break your 5-year-old’s heart

My normally exuberant, bouncy and easily-excitable 5-year-old sat crouched on her bed when it was time for preschool. When asked why, she said, “I don’t want to go to preschool!” before bursting into tears. It baffled me for about 2 seconds before I remembered what happened the day before.

Someone told my daughter, “I hate you!”

She is five. FIVE. And what stings more than hearing this from my child is feeling the weight of it with her, in reliving my own past experiences of social wounding and exclusion. No one prepares you for this part of parenting. It is one thing to deal with my own burdens of being socially excluded and rejected – the wounds now healed into scars by God’s grace (which included counseling and writing!). It is a totally different thing when those wounds are happening to your child’s heart.

It is one thing to hope for the gospel’s power to heal and restore and bring forgiveness for yourself; it is quite another thing to hope for the same gospel’s power to heal and restore and bring forgiveness to my heart as a mother aching with my child’s pain.

The shield I usually cling to is anger, first and foremost. It’s the easiest one to grasp, and I feel most powerful with it in my hands. Close behind this would be despair and pity for my child – to a point where I give way too much weight to this incident and allow her not to be brave and courageous and kind and resilient. Holding this shield close to my heart would make me hold my daughter too close for comfort and seek to protect her from all possible hurt things ever. (An impossible, and ultimately, fruitless task!) If I’d allowed this shield to win the morning, I would have coddled my daughter and told her she never had to go back to school ever again. But where would she be? That would have given too much power to the unkind words. It would have increased the shame that would linger and the fear ready in its wake. 

Instead my faith in a God who is just and loving calls me to put down my shields of anger and despair/pity, and to courageously guide my daughter through the shards of a broken world. A world where this is only the tip of the iceberg of what she’ll encounter throughout her life. A world where she, too, will say things and do actions that are unkind to others. A world where the line between “bully” and “victim” can be hours, minutes, or days apart.

To guide her through this world on that particular morning meant embracing her firmly and feeling deeply with her and for her the pain of these rejecting words. It meant telling her my own story of being hurt by others’ words, and answering her sweet question, “how many days did it hurt?” with an answer that is a prayer. “Oh, sweetie, it hurt for awhile, but Jesus healed my heart. And the best way to fight against these hurtful words is to be brave and kind to others, and to go back to school today. Otherwise, those words win. And we can’t have that! Remember you are loved and you are brave – and we are with you.”

What happens when words break your 5-year-old’s heart? You cry and protect – and ultimately choose to entrust her heart into the hands of the same God who’s loved and protected and guided you through your own journey. He is faithful, trustworthy, and the ever-present protector who takes wounds and turns them into compassion. Markers in a story that will shape who she is becoming: neither the bully who self-protects and retaliates nor the victim who is perpetually withdrawn, but the brave and kind girl who knows she’s loved more deeply than any words of hate and courageously moves into what she fears. 


Days 16 & 17: my favorite advice for twins, preschool stage

As my twin daughters are five-years-old, but not yet in kindergarten (birthdays were too close to the cut-off date), I consider myself an expert at the preschool stage. (Wink, wink … hardly!) They have been to preschool for three years now, the first year they were in a 2-day program; the second year they were in a 3-day program; and this year they’ve been in a 5-day program. Which brings me to my favorite advice for twins in the preschool stage:

1 –  Consider enrolling your twins in a Mom’s Day Out program or preschool. Even if you’re planning to homeschool later on, I think preschool could be a “sanity saver” for you as a twin mama. It is quite exhausting to chase preschoolers around and to try to keep their days planned and active. The emotional toll on me was steep, and so knowing the twins were going to a few mornings of preschool allowed me built-in time to breathe, step back, and be more engaged with them the other several hours of each day.

2 –   Let them wear what they want (princess dress to see Santa, costumes to Home Depot, mismatched clothes to school, sparkly red Dorothy shoes everyday) because they are only little once. [And might I add – and it’s not worth the feat of resistance it’ll take to oppose them every.single.time.] – Rebecca B., mom to a 9-year-old son and 4-year-old fraternal twin daughters

messy kids

photo from emmaschildcare.com

3. Embrace the messiness that comes with creativity. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you have witnessed my journey to nurture my own creativity and to allow the creativity of my kids. I don’t like to clean up messes, and art is usually messy (to some degree). So do what you need to do to be able to lean into the creative activities they (and you) will love. Creativity for us meant that I have looked for non-paint activities for them to do and/or we did the artistic project outside. It also meant that I banished glitter after an experience where glitter ended up everywhere in our house, even in our coffee. Enough said.

4. Odd/Even Days.  First born gets odd days.  Second born gets even days.  You go first on everything whether that is a flu shot, a bath, getting to choose the TV show/movie or even getting to sit in the front seat.  The 31st, when it occurs, is mom’s day.  She gets to decide who goes first and no one gets to argue.  This is so the first born doesn’t get the 31st AND the 1st as their day. [I observed Heather doing this early on with her twins, and I’ve done this ever since my twins were about 2-years-old. It makes things so easy, and caregivers can also follow suit.] – Heather B., mom to 10-year-old identical twin daughters

5. Give yourself lots of grace. Having two babies at once means experience the first-child anxiety of doing everything right AND the second-child worry about how to care for and love on two children at once. It’s a lot on you physically and emotionally, and a lot on your marriage too. Give grace to your husband too — I’m not quick to do that, and I regret some judgmental remarks that have given David, my husband, pause about his parenting skills. I have to remind myself, none of us get it right all the time! – Stacy L., mom of 2-year-old identical twin daughters

This is a beautiful, hopeful note to end on, and so we will conclude there.

If you’re also a #mama2twins, add your two cents to the comments. (And note that only positive and encouraging/helpful comments will be approved – no adding to the all-too-common online “mom wars.” We are all warriors doing hard things and so let’s support each other in every way we can.)

If you want to continue to follow along, subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page “Hidden Glory” to get updates. For the month of October, I’m participating in “Write31Days” and my series is “31 Days of Parenting Twins.”