You know the saying: ”I was a great parent before my kids were born.” No doubt I fell into that category, and was a loving, patient and confident mother 24-7. Then our two little doses of reality arrived:
How do I comfort an inconsolable infant in the middle of the night? Manage a fussy toddler throwing a tantrum at the grocery story? Direct a sassy tween who wants to be 21 when she’s 10? Or redirect a rebellious teenager who knows it all?
These are all things I have, or will inevitably, deal with. Take, for example, the scenario of a crying child. We have a 5- and an 8-year-old: one that rarely cries and one that seems to cry at the drop of a hat. I’ve struggled with how to handle the crier [when to comfort, when to ignore]and recently got some perspective from mom blogger Simcha Fisher in a post “Unearned Love.”
Here she shares an ‘expert’ advice column as well as her $.02 (paraphrased for brevity):
Question to advice column: I’ve been told I’m a cold and unloving mother because when my children get hurt I don’t run to them and coddle them. I make them calm down and stop crying before I check them out. My friends run and cuddle and hold them until they stop sobbing. I want to raise strong, individual, self-helping, little people. Am I wrong? Will more cuddling make them feel safer?
Simcha: The answer was sensible, just make sure you’re taking care of your kids in the way that seems best to you, and never mind what your friends say or do.
It’s what she went on to say that had greater impact (again paraphrased):
Simcha: I wonder what will happen when her children encounter genuine, overwhelming grief that has no reason to be contained. I’ve met some good people who have been trained not to show emotion and not to need help. They’re good people—but they aren’t good to other people. They don’t understand grief, don’t know how to offer sympathy, and don’t know how to seek forgiveness or help when they’re in need, because no one has ever taught them about mercy or compassion.
We teach them that there are rules, and that there are glorious exceptions. And that we are commanded to love, but that we mustn’t command others to be lovable first.
I’ve ignored tears from my children (“You’re the meanest mom ever!”); and maybe that was the right thing to do at the time, but do I ignore them when I shouldn’t? What message does that send?
Whatever the affliction: a scraped knee, bruised ego, broken heart, or being just plain unagreeable (“I’m NOT tiiiiired!”), if parents don’t model unearned love, who will? I’ve been a regular recipient of it from my parents all my life—and I don’t want to miss a chance for my kids to experience it from me, at their most unlovable: say, as an inconsolable infant, fussy toddler, sassy tween, or rebellious teenager.
We all receive unearned love from our heavenly Father: he loves us whether we deserve it or not; on our good days as much as our bad; when we’re strong and when we’re crybabies. He loves us so much he sent his Son to be our Savior.
Though I’ll continue to discern genuine tears from staged drama, when to console and when to ignore, I hope that being aware of the infinite amount of unearned love I receive will help make me a more loving mom.