The Gem

I’ve had a productive weekend.  One balanced with things I needed to get done and things that I wanted to be open to do with the girls.  The kitchen is clean, the laundry almost done, the floors mopped, the playroom’s picked up … we’ve gone swimming, we’ve been to the park, we painted an old birdhouse that was left behind by the previous owners. 

The girls are old enough now where I am able to find some peace at the park, too.  Aside from needing to push Hadley on the swing, I find that I’m able to just take in the outdoors while they expend some energy.  

I pushed Hadley a bit, they performed tricks on the swings, they ran to the slides and the curvy yellow ladder.  

I sat down, carefully choosing a spot where the ant march was not taking place, and saw it right away: a tiny ball in the bark dust.  Bright neon green amongst the browns and greys. It made me smile.  

It is one of many that we find here at our backyard community park.  We’ve been collecting them for over a year now, but we only recently realized they come from a toy gun that some neighborhood boys shoot -- kindly, never when the girls are around.  

They used to be harder to find, like little treasures.  The girls would shriek and demand that I look at their find, captivating me as they ran toward me, so carefully keeping it safe in their hand, so amused when they watched my face as they released their grip, revealing their magical little sphere.   

I was the only one who noticed this one today.

You see, Hadley is particularly fond of these round plastic gems.  She usually collects them in her hand, brings them to me to keep stashed in a safe place while she plays some more … until she finds herself distracted by another one … etc.   Mayson is really only interested in them because her younger sister is, which has not always been the order of things in their relationship.

So not only have I learned to spot these plastic pellets, but I’ve learned to view them as gems, as well.  And they have become a bit of a symbol to me, of how Hadley’s little mind and spirit works differently than Maycee’s.  


We had gotten home from the park, lunch and jellybeans eaten, it was time for naps.  Hadley hadn’t taken one in the past 2 days, which is unusual for her.  It was time to tuck her in, but her arms crossed as she said, “No”.  Okay, I thought, she’ll see me tuck her sister in, and as I leave she’ll want her kiss and hug too.  I said “goodnight” (we’ve never said differently for nap vs bedtime, kinda lazy, I know), and walked down the hallway. No protest was voiced.

I came down to catch up on emails, etc, and heard May getting frustrated at Hadley because she was getting out of bed.

I went up to get more stern with Hadz.  She finally laid down, after May pointed out how she was listening better than Hadley was.  ‘Flopped' is a better word.  No, it was somewhere between a flop and a head whip.

I started some laundry downstairs and heard Hadley yelling from upstairs.  “Mommy come TUCK ME IN!”  I felt validated by the sound of the running water and churning dryer to ignore her, I could barely hear her anyway.  

Until she got louder.  

“Hadley, you know how to tuck yourself in.”  I hollered from downstairs.

That didn’t seem to calm her down.

Then Maycee started to get upset.

I knew in that moment, starting the next load of laundry, that I had two choices.  I could listen to the voices in my head, saying “She’s a Mamma’s girl, she’s playing you, don’t give in”, and the “she can’t act this way and expect you to come lovingly tuck her in”, and the “she knows better”, and the “you’ll go backwards if you don’t stick to your guns”, and the “you already told her to tuck herself in, you can’t go back on your word”.  The voice of the stickler, the voice of that person standing up tall and stamping her foot down, fists clenched toward the ground.  

Sure this is useful and often very necessary.  

But how do you know when it’s not?  What about the other choice?

How do you know when you’ve allowed yourself to cross that line and be guided by your own inner need to be “right”, to have the final say, to “win”.   When do our methods of discipline and guidance cross into the realm of perpetual power-struggles — where the adult and child are playing tug-o-war, no one is winning and no one is stepping outside the sand box to formulate a different way to handle the situation?  

I don’t have the answers to these questions and have not always navigated this playground well.  

But earlier today I chose to let the power struggle go.  I stepped outside of the sandbox.  I chose to go upstairs and calmly tuck her in.  I chose to give her a smile, a kiss and a hug, and said “Goodnight, I love you Hadley”.

Her face softened, the corners of her eyes headed southward on her face, her lips pursed in preparation for a different emotion than the steadfast and brow furrowed defiance of yestermoment. 

She started to cry.

“I’m sowwy, Mommy”, she said.


I smiled to see that neon green gem today knowing that it represented how my daughters are their own person.  How one might delight in something the other is indifferent to. 

Sometimes all it takes is a pause, and a simple inquisition as to what the purpose is — of what you’re about to do next.  The laundry allowed me that pause today.  And I chose peace.  In doing so, she did too.    

 © Houseman 2013