Practice Makes Progress

"I can't do it!!!" 

If you have children or have even just been around them, I'm sure this familiar phrase is one you've heard before.

It's a whining phrase I hear a lot from my daughter, and if I'm honest I've somehow managed to become insensitive to it. It's become such a source of annoyance that I easily lose sight of the opportunity to understand, teach and love my child.

My daughter wants to do the monkey bars on our playground outside...SO badly, but she gets frustrated instantly when she can't do it. She is a smart and determined little girl, but she pretty much thinks things should just come easily and instantly because she wants it.

Sound familiar?

She has been practicing so much and gets so excited when she makes it across with little help--but when she comes crashing down it's the end of the world. Well, to her.

It is quite an emotional reaction...let me tell you. You would definitely think the world was ending if you witnessed it.

In all honesty, I have a difficult time having patience with intense and emotional overreactions...drama. Without trying, I've put a block up every time that phrase comes up: "I can't do it!!!"

See, this monkey-bar issue is plain to me because I see the big picture. She has to keep doing it over and over to build muscle, get the coordination and gain confidence. When she falls, I see how she's improving and know she can actually do it. When she falls, she believes she won't ever be able to, and that's all she sees.

The monkey bars might seem simple to me; to her, it's a big deal. A big mountain to climb in her life.

In another attempt to guide her across the jungle-gym obstacle, she fell again (in the safety of my arms) and with a gigantic whine complained about how I wasn't helping her. I about lost my mind. I understood her frustration, I understood her expressing it, but the intense overreactions were not necessary. They grated my nerves for too long and I couldn't handle them anymore. I wanted to heave a huge sigh and scold her for her outburst.

But, that's when I saw me. I recognized myself in her reaction.

I've been there too. I've done that very thing. Maybe not about monkey bars, but about other mountains I've had to climb in my life. Consumed with the feeling of failure, frustration, I've thrown adult-sized temper-tantrums myself; maybe not always externally, but definitely on the inside. I've whined because I couldn't have something I wanted. I've believed life isn't fair as I've watched other people swing from wrung to wrung, knowing I couldn't make it past the first one. I too have blamed everyone else for not helping me when I wasn't even helping myself.

Like her, I really only knew a small part of life. So even though my mountains were bigger to climb, hers were no less significant than mine. And we were both trying to climb at the same time.

In that instant, I recognized how God is towards me and this mountain I'm climbing. I recognized his patience and gentleness; his firm and faithful guiding hand.

Thankfully, the dreadful and exasperated sigh didn't escape my lips. The desire to let it out vanished. Instead, I was filled with understanding for my daughter's outcry and had compassion, because I too had received understanding and compassion myself. I bent down and gathered her in my arms and let her cry hysterically

"It's hard, isn't it, honey?"

She nodded with another cry and sank into my arms.

"It's so frustrating to slip when you're trying so hard..."

She nodded again--her whining quieting.

I looked her in the eye. "You CAN do it, honey. Sometimes you will fall and that's okay. That's part of the process."

She looked at me with wide-eyes and sniffled away her tears. She knew that I understood her and believed in her, and that's all she needed. It's amazing how great a soul can be impacted by so few words when the heart of the word giver is genuine.

It wasn't me. It was the Holy Spirit in me, taking my exasperation and turning it into exhortation.

My daughter can physically do the monkey bars. She has the strength, the coordination--I barely have to touch her in order for her to make it across the length of the gym. But my sweet, cautious girl doesn't quite have the confidence to do it alone. That characteristic is being built as she practices and falls, over and over again.

She doesn't understand that is what's happening, a refinement of her character; but I understand. I can see the big picture and as her mother, I can empower her, treat her intense feelings with respect, and lovingly guide her steps as she struggles to climb this mountain in her life. Or I can stand there and sigh in overwhelm of my own feelings and scold her reactions, which only opens the door for shame to invade her heart and crush the confidence she is working so hard at.

I won't get it perfect every time, just like she's not getting the monkey bars yet. But I can keep practicing too.

So maybe it's just the monkey bars, but it's a big deal--a big mountain...for both of us.

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@ kristina.m.ward


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