Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Doll

There are some stories that are hard to tell.
They are heart stories.
Parenthood involves many situations
that wrap us up in confusion, frustration,
and a general state of
"What do we do?"

The following story is one of these.
It was painful: a situation that our six year old developed
of lying and stealing.
It was getting to be a bad habit.
She had everything she needed and more.
Nothing seemed to be getting to her heart.
So we looked into books, asked advice, prayed,
and did what we thought best.
I'm sharing this with the hope that those who read
will understand we don't think we are perfect.
Each child and their personality has to be considered
and prayed over.
I've had this written and gone over it so many times:
and I'm hoping that by sharing this,
I am preserving for our daughter
our desire to do right for her
because we love her
as well as sharing with my friends a very special Christmas.

Along with the story,
I'll be throwing in paint sequences for the picture I made for Violet
for Christmas.

  I was eager.  This Christmas was special.  It had been a long time coming... three years.  It seems much longer than that, like a lifetime.  And on Christmas day, it all came to pass...

The Doll.

"Did you eat them all?"  My eyes were brimming with hot tears and the frustration in my voice made my throat feel tight and dry.  "Daddy told you if you stole again what would happen...all of them.  He said he'd throw them all away.  He gave you a chance when he threw the first toy away, and then when it went to three toys.  Don't your things mean anything to you?"

"I wanted them.  They tasted so good and I wanted to eat them."

I looked out the window as I saw my husband's arms laden with her dolls, probably ten or so of them; her assortment of rag, plastic, material, big and small.  I watched as he stuffed them into the trash bag.  The memories disappeared into the darkness.  Tears spattered uncontrollably down my cheeks.  They were my memories as much as they were hers.

  There was one I'd bought her when she was two with the long blond braids.  The Victorian skirted dark haired doll, the ones from Grandma and the one that had been my little sister's.

  They had cost money, yes, but more than that, they were treasured.  We didn't seem to be able to get through to her and the problem seemed to be getting worse.
  I flew out to the shed where I'd seen him disappear.  "Please," I begged, "Please, let me keep some of them for her."

  "No.  We can't.  We made a deal with her.  We both agreed to it, she and I.  I looked her in the eyes and said, 'If you steal again, I will get rid of all of your dolls.'  And we agreed.  As it is, I let her keep one, and that's more than we agreed to."
  Yes, it was true.  She had agreed with him.  She'd looked into his eyes and said, "Yes, Daddy."

  And not a week later I'd found the empty package.  When she admitted to it and I'd asked her why, she'd just shrugged her shoulders.  She could have made herself sick. 

  "Please," I continued to my determined husband,  "Just let me keep those three.  That was my sister's and I'll give it back to her if you want.  But I can't let those other two go; those are my memories that I gave to her.  Please."

  "We have to do this.  She made the choice.  This is a matter of her character or things.  What is more important?  She can get more dolls someday.  If she grows up stealing and lying, are those dolls worth it?"
  I knew he was right.  I knew that truth be told, they were just things, just material and stuffing and thread; I knew that to have a child that lies and steals and thinks there is nothing that will happen for it is to create problems for her.  A good parent sees beyond the stuff, the insignificant things that don't matter.

  She knew we loved her.  And this would show her even more clearly that we loved her enough to do something that broke all of our hearts.

  Then he looked at me:
  "You can put them in the attic, but just those three, and don't you dare let her know you have them.  I want her to think they're all gone; that this is serious.  She is not to have them til I say she's ready; til I've seen a real change.  And if you tell her they are there, I will throw them away."

  He left them there in a certain place for me to carry away to the attic when she couldn't see.  I felt some relief, but still the heavy weight in my heart was hard.  Were we doing what is right?  Parenting was hard.  It hurt.
  He went up and talked to her after that.  He hugged her, she cried.  I cried.  I talked to her later and asked her what I could do to help her.  I got rid of any candy I had, hid the children's vitamins so I knew she couldn't get to them, and made a snack drawer for her with good stuff in it so that if she was ever feeling tempted, she could go there.  I told her she could have so many snacks from that drawer each day and that I would trust her to it because there would only be enough for a week in that drawer.  It was work for me to have to be so precise, to keep better track of everything.  But I knew it was what we had to do.
A year went by.  Things seemed better, so I asked my Farmer if we might give her the dolls back. No, he'd not sensed the improvement he wanted to see.  I had to trust him; it was hard.  I'd see people we'd meet ask her about her dolls, if she had a favorite, and she'd whisper to me later, "I felt funny when she said that.  I only have one doll now and I didn't know what to say."  

  I think mothers have a harder time letting our kids grow up.  We love our babies, how they depend on us, how they look up to us with their big innocent eyes and say, "I love you, Mommy."  Men tend to see things more distinctly, without all the emotions.  They see that their children are little people, needing to be trained and furnished for their future.  Little people need that.  I've seen little children who have never grown up; they still need their mothers to care for them, provide for them, nurture them.  I know it makes the mother feel needed and important.  I am a mother so I know that feeling.  I have to fight it at times because I know that at a certain point, it's no longer good or helpful to a child to be coddled and rescued from everything.  They need to learn the independence necessary to live a happy life. They need to learn that they can conquer problems and how to do so.

 When it had neared the second year after the dismissal of the dolls, Violet looked at me one day and said,
"I did it." 

 "You did what?"  I asked looking up from my work in curiosity.

 "I threw the rock at Levi when he was little. I made him have to get stitches."

  Just like that.
  I looked up at her and felt like I was peering into her soul. 
"You did?  Why didn't you admit to it then?  
Didn't it drive you crazy all these years keeping that a secret?"  
 "Yes, it did.  I didn't want to get in trouble.  I lied."  I hugged her as I realized how many times I had retold the story of my wild son who had thrown the rock in the air and hit himself in the head when they were out playing by the shed one day.  She was always there.  Every time I retold it, she'd had to carry the guilt.  She'd had to watch him scream as the doctor wrapped him in the blanket so he couldn't move or fight; and then I, in my very pregnant state for Lillie, had to help hold him down and try to comfort him as they'd stitched above his eye.  She'd watched and never said a word.

  I felt even more sorry for her now, that she'd had to feel that guilt for those years.  But I was glad she'd confessed.  Glad she now had peace.
  Other lies came out after that.  Other confessions of little things she'd done.  She was beginning to look inward and dealing with the more important matters: the issues of her soul.

For Christmas last year, my husband decided it was time to take a step.  She'd become such a sensitive person; not perfect, as none of us are, but definitely learned her lesson.  He wanted to buy her her first "new" doll again.

  I knew what she wanted.  She'd wanted her for years: the American Girl doll: Josefina.  $100.  My husband's eyebrows shot up.  A doll was a doll, after all.  He decided  he'd take her to a store that had dolls that were very similar, but a third of the price, and let her pick out the one she liked.  So they made a date of it, and she excitedly picked out the doll she fell in love with.  She never complained that it wasn't Josefina.  She was just so thankful for her new doll.

  It's hard to describe the joy of seeing your child mature and gain character.  There has been a lot this year that has shown not only how much she wants to do right and has become a hard worker, but also that she loves God and wants to please Him.  Doing right can seem like the hard thing to do: admitting wrong can seem fearful, but apologies and forgiveness are well-worth the courage they take to muster.  That is a gift that is worth more than a thousand dolls.

  Not long into the new year, she had the three dolls back that were spared from the drama.

 She learned what grace was.

  I've never forgotten her love for her favorite doll: Josefina.  After all, almost all the dolls that she has ever had have been second hand and chosen for her.  I wanted so much to see her get the one she always wanted.  I've scanned Craig's List every so often for about a year and a half now, always coming up with the same message, "No results have been found."   We don't feel comfortable buying a new one; it's not an issue of not being able to afford it, but an issue of such a high price for a doll when so many people are struggling to afford much more important things.

  A week before Christmas, more out of habit than really expecting anything,
  I typed it in,

and this came up:

I couldn't believe my eyes.

 My fingers flew as I wrote up the email,
  I pushed the send key, and sat back in my seat. 
When I heard back and we'd compromised on a price,
I whispered in my Farmer's ear:
he nodded approval.  

 I don't know that life is meant to always be happy.
  I think the greatest happiness comes when there has been some sorrow,
some lessons learned, some expectations missed, and dreams dashed.
  I've seen a little girl open a gift of a doll and then numbly toss it to the side.
  That was my little girl, four years ago.

But this Christmas was different.
  When the presents were being unwrapped,
as the last of the presents had been opened,
I snuck away and brought out the secret bag.

I don't think there are words to express that moment,
the tears in her eyes,
followed by the tears in mine,
her squeezing hug so tight I didn't know if I could breathe,
and her repeated "thank you."
And I know that when she looked into her father's eyes,

the doll she held in her arms didn't compare 
to the love she felt from a father 
who chose to see beyond immediate pain 
to the little person he knew she could be.
  And hopefully, she'll see that God's love is very much like this kind of love.

  He gives, He takes, not always like we'd want.
  Not always the way we can understand.
  But He does it, really, because He loves us and wants to make us the people He wants us to be.
  And then when the time comes that He can give us what we think we want,
our gratitude and love for Him 
will have reached a different plane
than if He'd just given it when we weren't ready.  


  1. Your story is so moving. Thank you for having the courage to share it. I cried when you wrote how happy she was to get her doll. As mothers we feel their joy, pain and emotions sometimes more than they do. You did the right thing and I am so happy for you that it worked. God bless you and your family.

  2. this was really wonderful to read - the pain, the anxiety, the struggle, and the result. thank you for sharing it - i know it could not have been easy on you this whole time...

  3. Thank you for sharing, all of us young and old can take this lesson to heart.

  4. It was difficult to finish reading your story because of the tears in my eyes. It is hard teaching them the "NO'S" in life but the rewards are worth it. I cried a lot over raising my three, but they are awesome adults now. So stick with it!

  5. Such a lovely story! Being a parent is so hard sometimes, but so rewarding. Blessings to your family.

  6. Well, you made me cry again.lol Such a beautiful story!

  7. Thank you for a special Christmas gift. His finger print upon her soul. How that excites me. How I've prayed for that. Thank you Tonya, Shawn, and dear Lord. Dad

  8. You, my friend, truly must compile these post stories of yours into a book of short stories. They are truly amazing. The story of a child's struggles with honesty and confession and the pain of parenting - with the larger lesson of God's gifts to all his children - have never been related so eloquently....you are gifted - and blessed my friend. So very glad you all had one of the best Christmases ever.....Smiles & Hugs ~ Robin

  9. Tears in my eyes as I type this.

    Parenting is the very most difficult job of all.

    I think back of when our our were small - - - and I wonder how we "did" as parents. I know we loved them. I know we tried and we did our best.

    But was it enough??

    And then I think of how God cares even more than that about how we are growing and maturing with Him and I get just a glimpse into His heart.

    Bless you for this story.

  10. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!


  11. What a wonderful story! I too have tears in my eyes. Your drawings are beautiful.

  12. Truly a WONDERFUL read! We had similar experiences with our daughter. Taking away precious things of hers brought her to understand better. I could have NEVER put it into words as you did and the painting is just so perfect with it. So happy for you and your family that it turned out so well!

  13. So Inspiring...thanks for sharing.

  14. That was beautiful! Your story and the painting... It brought tears to my eyes :-)

    God bless!

  15. what a great story of love and constancy. so inspiring, thank you for sharing


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