This morning M, my middle boy, sat at the table for 15 minutes howling and carrying on enough to rival that of a werewolf on a full moon night. All because I refused to cut up his waffles until he could ask me nicely. I had the fork in my hand. It would have taken two seconds. But I was so fed up with the whining I decided to put my foot down and show some tough love. When I was student teaching, my supervisor would tell me that kids need discipline. They want it! And if you really and truly love them, you’ll give it to them. Ugh, that was so hard. As a mom I learned this on an entirely different level. I would never let my sons play with my best set of knives, not because I’m a sadistic, mean, hateful parent, but because I LOVE my kids and would be so sad to watch their pain as I sewed a finger back on. We have a rule at our house that everyone must wear shoes outside. This one drove me insane at first (and not necessarily enforcing it…more following it. Who can resist the feeling of green grass between their toes??). But within the first month of moving to the country and having Our 5-year-old almost step on a rattle snake on two separate occasions, once being in our yard, I caved and realized it was a necessary precaution. Because we LOVE our kids.
But there’s more than just laying down the law. A friend reminded me the other day that “…Sometimes we just have to let kids learn about gravity by falling. It’s what good moms do!” (Thanks, Donna!) As parents we set the rules. We teach them what’s appropriate, then we allow them to make choices. I hope and pray every day my children will make good choices, but I know that being human they won’t always. The hardest part (in my opinion) is allowing children to make mistakes, get a little dirty, and experience consequences on their own. Of course I wouldn’t hand my kids a set of knives and say, “Go ahead! Juggle ’em!” But consequences to their actions should certainly be in place. We allow our children to reap what they sow because we love them. We want them to learn. It’s what good moms (and dads) do.
I wonder if one reason God gives us children is so that we can have a better understanding of him and his relationship with us. When I held all three of my boys in my arms in the hospital after they took their first breaths, my heart just about burst with love. I knew that no matter what happened in their lives, no matter what mistakes they made, what successes they experienced, no matter what, I would love them. I was their mother, and those feelings were different, in some ways stronger than I’d ever experienced. I think it must be how God feels about us. No matter what, good or bad, whoppers of mistakes or perfectly clean slates, he loves us unconditionally. He loves us so much that he’s set boundaries to keep us safe. He knows far better than we do what our actions, good and bad, will bring. He’s made rules and asked us to follow them, then he’s allowed us to experience consequences in order for us to learn. And when we come back, he welcomes us with open arms.
Im so glad I have a wonderful mother who taught me. Who set boundaries then allowed me to experience consequences of my actions, good and bad. she allowed me to make mistakes, do stupid teenage things (though I’m sure it ripped her apart inside), then let me come back with open arms. If that isn’t unconditional love, I don’t know what is. In my limited, mortal understanding, I think that must be how God teaches us, with that unconditional love.
When dear M came down those stairs and plopped his pajamad bottom at that kitchen table, I loved him. When he whined and demanded I cut his waffle, I still loved him. When the consequences of no breakfast followed (though for 15 minutes I debated my stance and wondered if this was a battle worth picking) and he howled and carried on and on, I loved him just the same (ok, so maybe with an edge of impatience and frustration). When he finally caught his breath and sweetly asked, “Mommy, would you please cut my waffle?” I gladly cut it and loved him as much as I always had. Whether it’s waffles or late nights past cerfew, parents love their children. Sure, they feel disappointment, discouragement, and pain, but never does the love go away. I don’t believe anything can change that. Just as God loves us in all of our mistakes, failures, shortcomings, and sins. No matter what.