Daniel is my bright little ray of sunshine. He is the first to offer a hug, a positive spin on things or a kind word. He gets out of bed every day ready to greet the sun and face the world with a smile. He gets dressed in a favorite shirt- his "Oh Snap" lobster or his hip rhinoceros shirt are always go-to options, leaves the hanger on his bed from said shirt, heads off to the bathroom to brush his teeth for something approximately close to 2 minutes but way closer to one, and then galumphs off to start his day.
Then along comes nagging mom- "Daniel, was that really two minutes? Daniel, is that your hanger laying on your bed AGAIN? Like, every DAY? Daniel, you need to redo your homework, you got this problem WRONG. I can't stand it when you don't take your time on your homework. Shouldn't you have taken your time last night? What did you do with your lunch money from last week? Did you even MAKE your bed?"
Who is this lady? Is she ME? When did I become such a drag? I wish that I was making this dialogue up, but these are sadly the typical things that come out of my mouth before he even spills any milk on the table or we find the forgotten lunch money crumpled up in the bottom of his backpack.
Usually my Sunny D apologizes profusely or jokes right back, "But, mom, the hanger is my friend! I love sleeping with it!," and "Hey, I've never had a cavity!" and I give him a hug and shake my head and we move on.
But one morning, I looked at him at the breakfast table (after we fixed the homework, found the lunch money and wiped up some spilled milk) and he had tears clouding his eyes, and more streaming quietly down his face.
It hurt me to see him so hurt- and I was the one to blame.
You know, sometimes my kids push it too far, and sometimes I push it too far. I had pushed it too far, and I started to really not like how I felt or how I was behaving in that moment. It was time for me to pick up the mirror instead of the magnifying glass and look within.
If my voice is going to become their inner voice, how can I make it one of love and encouragement and gentleness? If these kids are going to be the ones taking care of me when I'm old, how will I want them to treat me when I am forgetful or can no longer do things quite the right way, or do them quickly, or do them by myself? What would it hurt right now if I let a few more little things go? Would it mess them up forever to be more gracious with their faults?
The fact is, they are not intentionally doing anything wrong most of the times that I am annoyed. I am becoming aware that when I lose my patience, it is usually because their feelings and their needs are getting in the way of my agenda. Ouch. Isn't part of my job as their mama to help teach them to be fully human. . .with feelings and needs that can be expressed in healthy ways? Is my to-do list or my comfort or my convenience the god that I serve? Often when I find myself being the kind of mom that I don't really want to be around, it is more about having my needs served- my need for order, or organization, for peace and quiet, or for well-behaved children, than it is about serving their needs with a kind heart in this season of life. I've made an idol out of those things at some time or another, and it is time to smash it.
This season, and it is just that, only a season, is in fact loud and messy and full of, shall we say, "growth opportunities" for them, AND for me. So, after a conversation with my bestie, Kris, a few weeks ago when we sorted through this, I'm asking myself: "What would it look like, for a whole (insert period of time here), to love my people exactly as they are?"
Not who I want them to be, or who I think they should be, or how they could be if they just did this one little thing right that they are doing wrong right now, but exactly as they are. Right now. Generously and appreciatively and joyfully, the way God sees them.
In this, the only moment that we are guaranteed.
I'm starting with some increments of time to focus on seeing my people through the eyes of love and love and only love. Starting with this moment, right now, and stretching that for even longer periods. Can I stretch that gentleness out for like, a whole meal? Or a whole morning? A whole homework session? If today was our last day together on earth, would the fact they use their sleeve as a Kleenex be the most important thing I want to talk to them about? Is spilled milk worth our tears? Can they forget to carry the one or put "i before e except after c" and still make it to heaven?
Yes. Yes. Yes. No. No. Yes.
"The world has enough critics," I tell my kids, "be an appreciator."
I need to heed those words myself.
"Treat other people the way you want to be treated," I tell my kids.
I need to show them that with my actions.
"Is it more important to be right or to be kind?" I ask my children.
I need to ask myself the same question.
Because I know in my heart the answer- kindness matters most. Now, there is a time for everything under the sun and there is a time to correct to be sure, but do I need to correct behavior at the expense of hearts? Probably not. There's a win-win out there somewhere, and I am praying for the wisdom to seek it and to live it, and praying for the grace to be gentle with myself so I can be gentle with them. I'll never get it perfectly, but I know I can do it better.
The sun rises each day and shines on us all with new mercy.
Here's to greeting the sun like D.