Everyone said to wait for it. The terrible two’s would bring it. I grinned inwardly when my oldest hit the age of three, thinking “Well, that wasn’t so bad”. I even patted myself on the back, congratulating the accomplishment of meeting a milestone, assuming we were out of the woods.
And then there was today…
It is hard to pull it together in the face of a yelling, screaming, kicking tantrum in the presence of other adults. Even if the adults are familiar and understanding, a raw chord is struck deep inside that is hard to ignore. It’s even more difficult when the moment is unanticipated, as they often are, which causes me, the parent, to scramble in order to find an appropriate reaction that provides discipline, firmness, and love all at once. Then, when the first reaction isn’t effective, the frustration builds, which only ends with more disappointment, both in the child and in the parent.
And in the end, there are tears on both accounts. One set of tears are shed openly, trying to find understanding and acceptance. The other tears are mine. Those are tears of shame and guilt because for a minute, my heart feels that the devil scratched the surface of my soul because my words could’ve been more kind. My touch could’ve been more gentle. My looks could’ve been more supportive. My patience could’ve been more tolerant.
I am lucky. Parents everywhere are lucky. The hearts of small, innocent children easily forgive. Their resiliency is an inspiring reflection of God’s grace. Often (especially lately) I am personally seeking the beauty of grace in so many other disappointing avenues; but when I look into the heart of my daughter, I am met with the wonder of God and the beauty of forgiveness and unending grace.
What a unique makeup we have. At one point, we all had the ability to wash sins away. We had the ability to wash disappointment away. At some point along the path of growing up, we develop the ability to harbor frustration, hold onto sin, and squeeze the neck of grief by not allowing our child-like and God-like hearts to forgive. The heart of my sweet, innocent three year old girl forgave me within the next breath. As tears slid from my eyes and I turned to hide my disappointment in myself, she had already washed my sins away. Her hope and faith in me was already restored because her love for her mother was bigger than the disappointment on her mother’s face. In the reflection of her eyes, I was able to see the path that God is pulling me toward, and that path is not to work harder at my job. That path is not to get more sleep. That path is not to have a clean house. That path is not to participate in every recreational activity that is extended to me or my children. That path is to my family. That path is developing discipline in not only building my faith in God, but also in developing discipline to love my family and my neighbor the way that God intended. The practice of love starts with God and flows into the family. My heart, my words, my thoughts, and my actions should be a reflection of that love and discipline so that my daughters can understand an ounce of God’s love. Because His love…? It’s powerful and insurmountable to any portion of love we can humanly ever experience. His love is the catalyst that catapults Christians to love one another and embrace one another, despite our faults and fears. His love is inspiring and forgiving, and what’s most amazing is His love is most largely reflected in the eyes of my child.
So yes, it happened today. My daughter tested the limits. It was surprising and difficult and not my best moment. It was challenging, and I didn’t walk away a winner. But I know I walked away a mommy with a little girl who continues to love like God intended, and that allows me to experience forgiveness and new opportunities to get it right. I know she is learning lessons through me and my actions, but more often than not I am finding wisdom in the whispers of her heart that teach me more than I could ever learn on my own.