She was 3 years old, we had an argument about what she did wrong.
She maintained her punishment was not equal to the crime, but as the administrator of the punishment, I felt it was.
So, I said,” off to your bed right now!”.
In an act of unwilling obedience, my young lady stomped off to her room.
I had to stifle the laughter brewing within as I watched the little being stomp her tiny feet away in anger, it was almost cute. I say ‘almost’ because I had activated “tough mummy mode” – no smiling, no laughing nor any form of endearment were allowed while in this mode.
Phew! “finally, some peace” I thought as I slumped into the sofa, reminiscing on the best way to enjoy my precious one hour before mummy duties beckon again. Should I see a movie or try to catch up on work? I wondered silently.
My thoughts were momentarily interrupted with a sound coming from my daughter’s room, I paused with rapt attention.
It sounded like someone singing a soulful dirge.
With my rousing mummy curiosity, I stealthy tip toped to my daughter’s room only to find my little ‘madam’ sitting on the railings of her toddler bed, looking out of the window, and singing a made-up dirge expressing her unhappiness.
It took every ounce of self-control, not to bust out laughing because it was just too much drama seeing her squishing her face and singing the song with every seriousness.
With a feign stern mummy look, I said,
“Jola, did I not ask you to go to your bed?”
She turned and looked defiantly at me and said,
“Mummy, but I am in my bed.”
That was the obvious truth, she was in bed. I did not have the appropriate retort, so I withdrew.
“0-1”, I recorded mentally; I had just been defeated by a smart 3 year old.
Now, reminiscing on our conversation; I had assumed that telling her to go to her bed would be interpreted as going to lie on the bed and if I am lucky, she will sleep off.
Did she obey my instruction? Yes, she did.
Was it carried out the way I wanted?
No, it wasn’t.
I did not communicate how exactly I wanted the instruction to be carried out or what I wanted to achieve through the instruction given. I left that to her interpretation.
Yet, I thought I had the right to question how the instruction was carried out and why it was not done my way.
Sounds familiar? Well, it does to me.
I have come across managers, parents, leaders who assign tasks without guidance or share the goals of an assignment or even attempt to see if the person who would carry out the task understood what was required of them. Yet they have expectations that the assignment or task will be carried out exactly the way it plays out in their head.
I had viewed the part of the old testament that painstakingly gives instructions on how the ark of God should be built or how the priestly clothes should be made, as boring; but I have come to understand that God knew He could not leave those duties to interpretation of men – amongst other things, He is also the God of specificity when he needs to be.
If there is anything this engagement with my daughter has taught me, it is to become a better communicator not just with my children but with my husband, friends, colleagues, employees, and in summary everyone I meet.
I cannot boast nor say I do not still struggle with passing across my intentions when I communicate but I can say I am conscious of it.
I understand that communication is a two-way street and that sometimes I need to create a room for misunderstanding, I have learnt to be open-minded and see how I can work at getting the other party on the same page with me.
At the end of the day, people don’t live in my head, they live outside it, for me to let them in, I have to open the door through communication.
Image Credits – Google