The other day, one daughter in particular was having what one could call, a typical teen angst hard day.
She had endured teasing and some criticism and it hurt. This particular daughter is something of a perfectionist who usually can execute at a fairly high level so she is unaccustomed to being on the receiving end of correction. Also, she has a natural ability to win peers over so hard teasing was something relatively new to her.
Now normally, she hops in the car and gives me a point by point recitation of what happened that day at school. Today, silence. Now I’m generally a bit of a talker so the long quiet agitated me. “Don’t you want to tell me about your day?” More silence. Now I’m concerned. I’m thinking bad grades. I’m thinking and reliving every horrid memory from my own experience of high school only it’s worse because I don’t know and it’s my daughter, not me. Finally, I steal a glance over and there are tears flowing as she keeps her head down.
“I know something happened and you’re hurting.” I managed to say, wanting to flood her with words of comfort but knowing that’s not what is needed. “We’re almost home. I’m going to fix dinner and when you feel up to it, I’d like to know.” It’s hard not to say, “Maybe I can make it better, we can fix it,” all the things that Moms want to do when their child is hurt, get the bandages, get the ice cream, whatever it takes crowd my brain.
We get home. I fix waffles. There are near universal cheers from her siblings but I’ve made them because I know they’re her favorite. She does not come up from her room. I leave my oldest to supervise dinner and go downstairs. She appreciates the individual summons, knowing it costs something in these last days of pregnancy for me to go up or down a floor and turns off the anime video she was watching on her computer notebook.
She starts to talk about what happened and then explains her plan for the next day. She generally helps these other girls with their homework when they are waiting for basketball practice. Tomorrow she resolves, she will not speak to them at all and she will not talk to them ever. This is a daughter who has a steel will and it’s quite possible she can hold to this promise for a time if she so chooses. I can feel the doors being slammed in her heart at the head bully who orchestrated her humiliation, and at all those who weakly followed. I can see the further pain this will cause her and them. I remember my own experiences of being bullied this way, with words and sneers that to this day can cause pain if I dwell in those past moments. How do I help her let those moments be just moments of “14ness” that should not be given more time or more service? How do I help her not make this decision? I point out that this is probably not the best or kindest action she could choose. She says, “I don’t care.” and means it as she walks up the stairs for dinner.
So I’m mentally fretting over this as she eats and searching my brain for a way to bring her back from being just steeped in the pain when I spy my copy of “The Magnificat.” For those who don’t subscribe, this is a magazine that comes once a month, has the daily readings and reflections, the saint of the day and more than once has been a means of restoring my heart, psyche and body with God’s word at a given moment. I’d read the day’s readings and remembered the words from the letter to the Hebrews. I flip quickly to reread, hoping I’m right and that God has already anticipated what would need to be read and provided. “Oh that today you would hear his voice, Harden not your hearts at the rebellion…Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God. Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,” so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin.”
I summon my daughter who has by this point returned to her room still uncharacteristically mute. “I have something for you to read.” I explain. She spies the book in my hand. “Is this one of those moments?”
I smile wryly, “Probably. That’s how God works.” She takes the book, half bemused, half annoyed because she knows already before she’s read the page that this is so and reads. Within moments, she hands it back to me, “God cheats Mom. God cheats!” The silent thunder of how the scripture leaps out and says to her heart what it needed to hear despite having been picked ages ago, written centuries ago, and still, it resonates now so perfectly. It’s not wrong, her assessment, but I can already tell she’s been won over. Infinite versus mere mortals, we can’t possibly win. God had her back at “Hello” so to speak in this reading.
“You’re right. But then God can’t help being the biggest and the strongest….He doesn’t even exercise.” I quip as she bounces back down the stairs to start her homework. I reread the final line of the day’s reading. “We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of reality firm until the end.” But Saint Paul knew even then, to do that, to be faithful unto death with all of our lives, we must encourage ourselves daily while it is still “today.” There will be other days like today, when the teeth of the world in poor decisions, hers and others, will tempt the shutting of her heart. I may have to get her a subscription so she can see God’s cheats more often.
P.S. I asked her if I could share this story and use her phrase. Obviously, she said “Yes.”
Copyright 2011 Sherry Antonetti