I woke up to the sound of my daughter screaming at her little brother. "Why did you do that?" she repeated. "Tell me! Why did you do that?" Then the door slammed, and I could hear him banging from inside the closed room. This sounded serious. She had actually put him in time out. It certainly didn't sound like anything that I could pull the covers over my head and ignore.

The evidence was clearly visible I stumbled groggily from bed and gingerly approached the scene, trying to wake myself up enough to respond appropriately to whatever awaited me."Look," my daughter proclaimed when she saw me. "Look what he did." The evidence was clearly visible. Someone had scribbled over her almost finished picture, the picture that she had labored over for a whole hour in art class. Now reckless streaks of deep purple marred the immaculate pastel landscape she had created.

I stared at the picture, hoping there would be some way to fix it. "Let's scratch it off," I suggested. "But Mommy, I already tried that," she pointed out, showing me the scratches that signified her efforts. "I can't get it off. It just keeps smearing."

I hugged her, as her brother continued to screech indignantly. His pride had been wounded by his enforced time out, but other than that he was fine. "Maybe your teacher can help you fix it, because it is such a beautiful picture." I commiserated. I did not remind her that we don't scream at others, or lecture her about the importance of talking softly. I did not question her decision to put him in a time-out without consulting me.

Instead, I shared with her pain over the defaced picture, and admired her self-control for responding without hitting, as siblings often do. However much I would have preferred that she had been able to handle the situation without raising her voice, I recognized the extent of her loss, and acknowledged honestly that had someone defaced something as precious to me as this labor-intensive picture had been to her, I, too, would most likely have raised my voice.

It was a very real moment It was a very real moment between us, a moment when I understood so clearly that I could not expect more of my child than I myself am capable of. I recognized honestly that I, too, function on a level than is somewhat less than perfect, and at that moment I understood that she had the right to claim that same liberty.

I made my son clean up the mess. In addition to scribbling on her picture, he had also scribbled on the floor. I reminded her of the importance of keeping beloved possessions out of his reach, and examined the consequences of her decision to remove this picture from her portfolio and lay it out on the floor.

Yet mostly I just commiserated. Some situations just hurt, and we handle them as best we can. All things considered, I think she did pretty well and that that is the message I gave her.