I picked up my four-year-old from preschool one day and noticed an unusual mark underneath her thumb.
“What happened to your hand?” I asked her as I looked closer. It was a bad burn, one noticeable enough to get my attention. One that would leave a scar.
“I burned it.” “How did you burn it?” “When we were making pancakes.”
When Your Daughter Is Afraid to Tell You Something
In the chaos of other parents picking up their kids I hurried out the door without hearing any more, but in the car I asked more questions.
“Did you tell your teacher?” I asked, shocked there was no tears to bring it to light.
“No,” my daughter replied back.
“Well, why not? That’s a pretty bad burn. That will leave a scar.”
Then her words hit me in the face like I was being slapped—slapped to wake up to what she was trying to tell me.
“I was afraid you’d get mad at me.”
Those words stung me worse than any other in my short motherhood journey thus far.
But it wasn’t the last time I’d hear those words. A few weeks later it was Sunday afternoon. My daughter and I went to take a Sunday afternoon nap, and I noticed her sheets were wet.
At four-years-old she’s still learning to get up to go the bathroom in the middle of the night.
“Did you wet your bed last night?” I asked her since it was now mid-afternoon and it was the first I knew about it.
“Yes, I did,” she answered.
“Well, why didn’t you tell me this morning? Why are you just telling me now? It’s not good for the sheets to stay on the mattress with pee on them.”
And then the words came again.
“I thought you’d be mad at me.”
The first time I heard those words my heart stung in a way it’s never stung as a mama. This time I knew there was something bigger going on. In some way I was not connecting with my girl in the way I should. Her four-year-old self was trying to tell me that I wasn’t approachable.
I talked to my girl over and over again about how she never has to be afraid of me, ever. I told her that she can tell me anything and that I’m always on her side.
Then I tried to explain to her that even when she does something wrong she doesn’t have to be afraid to tell me. I tried to tell her that I might not be happy with what she did but that I will always love her. I tried to tell her that there may even be consequences but that she still needs to tell me.
It’s these dichotomies in motherhood that trip me up daily.
Eat healthy, but don’t be obsessed with eating healthy.
Don’t talk to strangers, but don’t be rude to strangers.
Be careful, but you won’t have done anything wrong if you burn yourself.
Get up at night to go the bathroom, but if you don’t that’s okay too.
I’m on your side, but I may have to discipline you.
Of course in both of the instances above my daughter didn’t do anything wrong. They were both age-appropriate accidents. But they made me reevaluate how I talk to her on a day-in and day-out basis.
- Do I speak too sternly to her after age-appropriate accidents?
- Do I expect too much out of her at her age?
- Do I sigh or act exasperated when she does something on accident or even something wrong?
- Do I rush to act before rushing to listen?
I imagined my girl as a teenager. I imagined what it will be like if she hides things from me because she’s scared of me. My heart broke. I want to be her safe place no matter how stupid the mistake or life-changing the sin. I want to be the one who holds her and shows her that even in the midst of regret and consequences, she is loved the same.
Now is the time for me to build a trusting relationship with her—not when she’s thirteen.
I apologized to my daughter for ever making her feel scared of me. I told her that I’m going to work on building trust between us. Then I prayed. I asked God to forgive me. I asked Him to fill in the gaps where I am weak. I asked Him to protect my daughter from my own sinful nature. And I asked Him to help me.
We will never be perfect moms knowing the perfect answer to all of the dichotomous questions, but we have a perfect Savior and a perfect Helper who is always there to fill in the gaps if we ask Him.
A Prayer for Wisdom and Grace
Lord Jesus, you tell us that your power is made perfect in our weakness. Please show us your power as we raise and disciple our daughters. Help us to not be complacent with building trust with our girls now. Give us wisdom. Bless us with a strong mother-daughter connection. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your grace. Amen.