Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Eighth Day: Power Through Service

"On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me
eight maids a-milking."

I know I am in a transition time, a time when the price for what I want is still being paid. As hard as that is sometimes, it is also a beautiful and glorious place to be.

Watching my very young daughters learn to process very advanced life lessons has been humbling. They both have amazing capacity to determine truth and error, to see through illusions and lies, and value the good and true, even when their friends and others try to direct them otherwise. Of all the roles I carry right now, the one that matters more than all others is that of mother.

Oh, I know there are a great many people who see motherhood differently. It is quite popular right now to talk about how hard it is, how thankless. It seems that half the world despises it for those things and the other half wallows in it for them. But I see the difficulty itself as fun, paradigm-shifting and therefore painful, yes, but also wondrous fun.

Take an typical example of trying to convince my two-year-old to eat her vegetables. She is at an age where surface pleasure is recognized and deeper value is not. So I hold back the "tasty" part of her meal until she finishes her vegetables. She cries, she complains, she refuses to eat her healthy food. Dinner time is an hour-long ordeal some days. Even my five-year-old tries to get in on the persuasion, telling her sister if she just eats the vegetables she can have the part of the meal she actually wants.

A few weeks ago, I finally caught the first glimmer of understanding in my little girl's eyes. Stuffing her mouth full of lettuce, she mumbled and pointed at her macaroni and cheese with the light of comprehension in her eyes.

As terribly frustrating as it has been to fight the Battle of the Veggies, as much as I have wanted to lock myself in my room or rant back at her, that success was worth it. Not only because she finally ate her veggies without complaint, but because I know that learning to do something unpleasant to get to something better will be an invaluable life lesson for both of my precious girls. And it's a lesson they aren't likely to get anywhere else.

It didn't really benefit me to persuade my daughter to eat healthy food. In fact, I'm convinced it sprouted some new grey hairs. But it benefitted her, and will benefit her in many ways throughout her life. This is service.

But where does the power come in? It is hard to see how sacrifice and service can gain power.

I have gained additional power over my own emotions and behavior. Learning to be patient and persuasive rather than angry and forceful makes me stronger. Also, though she may not appreciate what I am teaching her now, someday she will recognize that true love is not always giving someone what they want. I hope that she will love me for loving her that way.

And, if my five-year-old is any indication, she will be more willing to listen and obey when I ask her to do something, knowing that I am asking it for her benefit and eventual pleasure. It is power over others that makes no use of compulsion, yet it is a power that is far stronger than any power over others gendered by fear or ignorance.

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