There comes a point in every child’s life where a line must be drawn. A bridge must be crossed. A question must be answered… Am I going to move on from toddlerhood toward maturity? Am I going to remain satisfied with my complete dependence on Mom and Dad or am I going to endeavor to achieve new levels of freedom in my life? More specifically, am I going to keep pooping in my pants? This is the line that we are currently trying to urge our daughter, Kate, to cross. We have been working on it for a while now, but the urgency of her success just kicked up a few notches with the recent knowledge that we have two more siblings on the way in a matter of months.
She has been doing quite well for a while but has kind of stalled out lately. It seems the newness and excitement of it all has worn off. She has always been a little more driven towards independence than her brother was and it seems she’s become increasingly impatient with the forced trips to the potty. She doesn’t like having to stop what she’s doing, even if what she is doing is nothing at all. Occasionally, in an apparent display of protest, she will let her whole body go limp and fall to the floor whenever I take her hand to got to the bathroom. This is usually accompanied by a moaning “nooo-ooooo-ooooo. no potty daddyyyyy.”
I know her well enough to know that what’s frustrating her is that she has no control over the decision of when to go to the bathroom, it’s about freedom. But, I also know that the only way for her to gain that freedom is by learning to go by herself, which involves a lot of trial and error and this entire process that she seems to hate so much. We have the same goal (her joy and freedom) but different vantage points. I can see the joy and freedom she will have on the other side of this and all she can see is the pain and frustrations of the current moment. And she wants it to stop. She wants to retreat. She wants to go back to where she was and not worry about moving forward. And what makes it so difficult as a parent is that there is no way I could explain this to her that she would possibly be able to understand. She just can’t see the situation from my vantage point.
I imagine that’s how it must feel for God, at times, with us. We tend to assume that if we can’t see or understand the purpose or positive outcome of our circumstances that there must not be one and that God is just cruel. Or He’s punishing us for something. It’s the same lie that we have believed since the beginning, with Adam and Eve in the garden – God is punishing and restrictive and can’t be trusted. But the truth is, God delights in our joy. If we are His children, than He is actively seeking our joy at all times. This can be really easy to believe at some points in our lives and much more difficult at others. It’s not a lesson that you can just learn once and then you have it. Because it’s not a purely intellectual lesson, it is experiential. It’s faith. It’s actively trusting, not only in God’s control, but, also in God’s kindness when all signs seem to point in the opposite direction.
I can’t wait until Kate’s done with potty training. Primarily because I hate cleaning up poop, but also because I know she’s going to be so much happier when she reaches that next stage of her journey from infancy to adulthood. Now, I’m not naïve enough to think that this is the only battle of wills like this that I will engage in with my daughter. There will be tons of opportunities throughout her life for her to make short-sighted decisions and get angry at me for trying to intervene. There will be punishments and restrictions for sure, but it won’t be because I hate her and I’m cruel. It will be because I love her and I can see the bigger picture clearer than she can.
My hope as Kate’s dad is not that our relationship will be easy and conflict-free, it’s that one day, when she reaches a point of maturity, she’ll be able to look back and see that everything I did, even the stuff she didn’t understand or agree with, I did out of love. I did them with her best interest at heart. I did them because I wanted her to have a greater and more sustaining joy and not settle for short-term, circumstantial happiness.
In the meantime I’ll just ask her to trust me (and give her gummy butterflies as rewards, that helps too).