There has been some chunk of time, with each of my children, when our relationship has been less than perfect. At age three, my youngest decided he hated me and had no trouble saying it to my face, literally, every day. Until she was about four, my daughter and I had a difficult time communicating and we didn’t especially enjoy one another. And my oldest child has lashed out at me countless times as he struggled with having cancer, being dyslexic, and general displeasure with life.
I won’t pretend that these situations were easy for me. I cannot deny that I didn’t delight in being treated cruelly, rejected, and hated by my own children. It hurt. Like hell. And I sincerely hope I never have to experience anything so painful again.
This weekend, all three of my children were especially sweet to me.
Friday night, I tried to convince my youngest to give me a good night kiss. He refused. Finally, I rolled over and pretended to cry. He said, “You aren’t really crying.” “You did hurt my feelings though,” I replied. There was a beat and then he wrapped his sweet arms around me, took a pause, and whispered, “Good night, Mommy. I love you.” Oh my heart. He does care.
Yesterday, my sweet little girl who has told me that the reason we couldn’t get along when she was little was because she couldn’t communicate her needs effectively, sat on my lap and sang a love song to me. The lyrics went something like…
I love my Mommy.
She is so good to me.
She does such nice things.
She is so beautiful.
And I am so glad she is mine.
Finally, last night, I had a little boy tell me that he was excited about an Easter basket which I’d decided to skip out on. So my oldest accompanied me to make a run to Walgreens and Dollar General so we could grab a few items to put in baskets. As we were leaving, he held the door open for me as he said, “After you, m’lady.” He held my hand off and on all day. He’s eleven. I feel incredibly lucky to have his affections still. I realize the time is limited and he might not always want to snuggle and watch Seinfeld with me every single night. But for now, I still have him.
While the times when my children have felt far away from me were difficult, I feel proud in knowing that my patience, my love, my constantness kept pulling them back in. No matter how many times my children reject me, hurt me, and insist that I am mean, I never stop loving them. My love for them is not dependent upon how well they are treating me at the moment.
Today is Easter. As I reflect upon these thoughts, I notice similarities between my relationship with God and my relationship with my children. God loved me even when I rejected Him. God kept pulling me closer, even when I pushed Him away. He never deserted me. He never gave up on me. He waited, patiently, constantly reminding me that He wasn’t going anywhere and that, no matter what I did, I couldn’t get rid of Him.
I have watched earthly parents reject, humiliate, hurt, and ignore their children. I can, with confidence, say that I will never be that parent. Not because I am superior or have somehow mastered being the perfect human. No. Because I have my heavenly Father as a model. As long as my love for my own kids is not unlike the love I receive from my heavenly Father, we should be okay. Even on days when they think I’m mean and unfair, we should be okay.
In general, I am struggling with my identity as a Christian, with my feelings toward church, and my feelings toward the people who call themselves Christians and then behave in a way that is very much unlike Christ. But one thing with which I’m not struggling is God’s love. I’m sure of it. I feel it. I know it’s there. And I’m thankful that I’ve had enough sense to use it to guide me as a parent.