Within weeks of my daughter’s birth (almost three years ago *sob*) I felt totally disillusioned by baby-parenting books. They had given me tried-and-true methods for happy-mom/happy-baby success, but none of it really pulled through and broke those endless hours of screaming. Needless to say, I was not too enthusiastic about parenting books anymore.
Raising toddlers is a whole other ball game. I love my daughter to absolute pieces, but nobody told me that a two year old girl and a sixteen year old aren’t all that different… Does that came out insulting? Let me explain. The other day I asked my almost-three year old daughter to clean her room and her response: “That’s mommy’s job.”
But for the most part we have fun. Best of all, we have love. For every bad moment there are many more good ones. I get to hear “I love you mommy,” every single day, and “Just stay one more minute” every night. When I’m really lucky I get a “Mommy you’re so sweet and nice,” or “Mommy you’re my best friend.”
Then again, my two year old daughter does like to give me her opinion or summing up of most every circumstance. So sometimes I get “Mommy don’t be frustrated,” “Mommy why you angry?” or “Just be nice mommy.” It used to be “Mommy’s mean” every.single.time I was a bit (or a lot) grumpy, but I’m happy to say I curbed that one out of her vocabulary, and simultaneously worked (still work) to curb the so called mommy-meanness out of my heart.
The sweetest evaluation of all was “Mommy, why you sad mommy? Just feel better.” How this dear little soul manages to walk into a room, evaluate her mommy, and recognize that she is sad, I have no idea. Its only happened a few times, but I must say it is the absolute sweetest thing. How could a sad mommy not feel better with a precious little daughter giving hugs and well-wishes?
I’ve read a few more parenting books since “the great disillusionment.” Like two. But I don’t think a book can ever replace a sensitive heart towards the prompting and guiding of the Holy Spirit, a heart after God’s own heart, eyes opened to God’s word, or the lessons that can only be learned by living. A book could be written on all that in fact, but I’m not going to write it.
I will however tell you one thing I know, and if you are a parent (or caregiver) I think you know it too: Love makes all the difference. That sounds cheesy, I know. Let me explain.
All the right words and the right methods in the world cannot produce relationship on their own. Stern, calm consistency usually works wonders for reforming children, but on their own those traits do not produce affection. Orderliness, strictness, rules , and swift penalty for disobedience, might make a house more manageable, (I’m now pausing to watch this) but they alone are certainly not the ingredients for a warm family atmosphere.
The traits underneath which children blossom are those which can only be produced by Heavenly means. I’ve touched on this before but I come back to it again- children, but first their parents, need to seek and manifest the fruit of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).” Now there is a prayer list, and a focal point for mothers and fathers.
We have to love our kids and treat them like they are loved. Now of course, that most certainly includes things like discipline (Hebrews 12:6-11), but I would say it also has plenty to do with demeanor, or you could say inward heart realities reflecting on our faces, and even our stance. I have never been a fan of the viewpoint that Christian love is “only” a verb and “not” an emotion, partly because that defies common human experience. Have you ever had someone spend time with you and its obvious they are just “doing their duty” and have better things they could be doing? That kind of dutiful charity certainly doesn’t make anyone feel good, and I don’t even think children can be fooled by it. So look again at that list, and one by one close your eyes and picture what this looks like for a mother.
It looks like arms open wide to receive a hug. It sounds like singing a hymn or sharing a laugh. It is a firm trust in the Lord that needs not fall to pieces when you discover the wall got attacked by markers. It is speaking words that build up instead of tear down, words like “Wow! I am so proud of you,” or “I am so glad I get to spend the day with you today.” It is taking the time to guide and instruct them when your busy instead of barking out irritation. It is to hold their little faces softly when you brush their teeth. It is to offer a smile instead of a scowl when they struggle with their shoes.
It is love that feels like warmth, acceptance, and welcome. They will see it in your eyes, hear it in your tone, and feel it in your touch. And I think, it works more wonders for children’s hearts than any “method” ever will. Have you noticed that whenever you operate in the flesh, tromping about on a warpath, it seems children are madly bent to either rebellion or misery? I have. But when you love them and act like you love them, their demeanor usually changes too. If you want to call it a method this is what people call “modelling behavior,” but I prefer to think of it as putting Christ on display and bringing Him glory.
Let’s be honest- we are all “mean-mommy” sometimes. I seriously just got frustrated as my daughter continuously licked my arm and barked while I’m trying to edit this (probably should have laughed instead?). Thank God for His grace, apart from which we could do nothing good. We must remember at this point that God’s love and acceptance isn’t based on our steady performance but only on gospel-grace. So, we pray for that fruit which only God can produce, and we strive to walk in His ways. We pray also for our children, that God’s grace will break through whatever hindrances we might put in their way, and that above all else Jesus would reveal Himself to them. And pray- Oh Lord, that You might even do it through us!