I love my 2 year old to pieces. We laugh, dance, tickle, sing, and read together every single day. We take slow walks, picking up rocks and sticks, sitting on logs and calling them boats, petting puppies and finding a world full of treasure in a puddle (you know like nut shells and dead leaves, that kind of thing). We also have melt downs- or near melt downs- every single day. That’s one of the parts of parenting I could do without.
This morning my sweet daughter Adelle got angry because Dora was on her potty seat. “No Dora.” Then she was upset because I washed her face with a cloth that had polka dots on it. “No polka dots.” Then she despaired because after brushing her teeth I forgot to let her finish herself (aka suck off the remaining toothpaste). It took a few minutes to figure out what that melt down was about. Silly mommy.
The hardest lesson to teach a 2 year old is sharing. Honestly, is there even a way? I’ve worked in day care and I still haven’t found an excellent way to teach that lesson to young children. If you have a killer strategy tell me, but I have a strong suspicion there’s no easy fix. I look after Adelle’s friend Scarlett a few days a week, and everything she touches is suddenly the most desirable thing in the world to my daughter. She chased Scarlett the other day because she had found a dirty old receipt behind the shoes that had suddenly become very attractive. I really couldn’t help but laugh.
Some days are great, but others I get frustrated- tired of hearing the word “no,” tired of repeating myself, even tired of wiping tears shed over things like dirty old receipts. Recently I started thinking about the things that bothered me, areas where I feel my daughter needs to grow. Instead of thinking about them in terms of negative actions, I tried to think about what attributes were lacking in those actions. Patience, kindness, self control and generosity, were the four things that came quickly to my mind.
It dawned on me that the attributes my 2 year old needs are the fruit of the spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Now this got me thinking about myself. I do not always practice any one of these things. I am not always loving, not always joyful, not always patient, and on it goes. I don’t break into tears because my face cloth has the wrong pattern on it, but I can get miffed at other things just the same. I’ve grown in all of these areas, but I’m far from perfect in any of them.
There is a vast difference between me and my two year old, and I have a serious advantage. I have practice and experience dealing with people and difficult situations. I’ve learned enough about disappointment to gain some coping skills. The biggest differences are that I have experienced the hope of the gospel, hold the word of God in my hands and in my heart, and am empowered by the Holy Spirit. All of that- and even still I can be selfish, impatient, and unkind.
While those are some significant differences between me and my 2 year old, we also have something in common. We were both born into this world with fallen hearts and fallen desires. Sinful (though if you ask her grandmas they will probably disagree). Yes, there is a common grace that enables us to learn proper behaviors, but genuine heart change with pure motives that are pleasing to God, can only develop by the power of the Holy Spirit. Every act of disobedience speaks of our need for a Savior. In ourselves we are utterly incapable of being good in the way God wants us to be.
How does this affect my parenting? Well, it affects my own attitudes more than anything else. Mostly, it helps me to be patient and sympathetic. It also gives both me and my daughter hope. I have no way of downloading into her a heart that loves others as much as self. I can keep instructing and modeling, but really, I don’t have the power to take her little heart and mold it into one that loves God. Only God can do that, and only through the power of the gospel. It reminds me that beyond the need of methods is the need to pray for her and with her. I understand that people reading this might think I am crazy. You think I have forgotten that she is only 2. I haven’t. But I am always amazed at what little hearts retain. I asked Adelle last Sunday what she learned at church that morning. She looked at my husband and I and said “Jesus died on the cross.” Honestly, I was not expecting a real answer. I love that little girl too much to be trite about Jesus. How can I put a limit on what God’s power can perform?
So, I’ve been both encouraged and humbled by this, and if you have little ones I hope you will be as well. I think if we turn our hearts to God when our children are about to drive us insane, we’ll gain a wealth of knowledge and blessing there. What would we do without our Heavenly Counselor? All praise be to His Name.