It has been a long day, and I want nothing more than to collapse in a chair, pull a pillow up over my face, and scream a little or maybe just pass out–whichever comes first. As it is 6:00 p.m., I am feeling the pressing need to unwind in order to gear up for another work day tomorrow. Just as I enter the kitchen, my son comes in through the outside door behind me.
“Can we make cookies?” he asks.
I pause. A litany of reasons why I cannot possibly make cookies tonight rushes through my mind including the fact that my kitchen is spotless and I would like to keep it that way for the night.
“Not tonight,” I say brusquely. I take a deep breath and pivot to face him in preparation to give him a two-minute spiel on why one does not allow children in the kitchen after supper to cook. That is, until I see his face. And in particular, I see that poignant look in his eyes that is piercing my heart with emotional daggers. It breaks me every time.
“Okay,” I say hesitantly. I am still not fully committed to the idea of flour tossed all over my clean kitchen and smeared chocolate chips on my white appliances.
“You’re the best, Mom,” he says quickly. I concede to him the victory.
We find the recipe scratched out on a piece of loose leaf paper. It is written in my son’s hand and tucked away for safekeeping in a cookbook on the shelf. The recipe was invented the other day when he spent some time in the kitchen with his five male cousins from down the road. His dear aunt allowed the boys to concoct and cook a recipe of their own selection from which something edible would hopefully develop. She has one million mommy-brownie points now in my book for allowing them this freedom. They devised a recipe for chocolate chip cookies–with extras. It calls for 1 ½ teaspoons of flour and a cup of marshmallows. The recipe ingredients are also part of the reason why I am not really excited for this little baking adventure to begin.
You probably get my drift.
However, because I have already played the role of villainess several times today, I am feeling quite generous. I dig out everything on his list. In lieu of chocolate syrup, of which he needs a few tablespoons, I create a blend of chocolate milk powder and hot water, which I proceed to stir up chemist style in a little ceramic dish.
I feel like “the bomb”.
We work together. Side by side, we mix, stir, and eventually bake. I try to avert my eyes when he forgoes using a spoon to lift the batter onto the cookie sheet, and instead opts to use his fist. All I can think of are dirty fingernails and extremities being licked. Nevertheless, we manage to get most of the batter onto a cookie sheet and into the oven. And when they are all baked, it is a marvelous delight to enjoy a cookie with a boy who had the ingenuity to create, prepare, and share a special treat with his family.
When my son initially thanked me for baking with him, he told me I was very kind. In other words, I was being “nice” to him in that moment. Normally, I accept these compliments with a smile and a bit of gratitude. But tonight, I felt a little put off by the well-intentioned compliment.
Now I realize that part of being a mom includes doing things with your children. It’s expected. But, I also realize that we moms don’t always want to do with our kids everything that might pop into their heads. That would not only be exhausting, but also unrealistic.
When we do choose to give a little, we show our children that they matter to us and that the world is about making a difference. Sometimes that difference is sacrificing what we want in the interest of making others happy. Sometimes it is not. But let’s be serious. Sacrificial love is what most moms do best. We’re hardwired for that kind of thing.
I was a little disconcerted when my son told me tonight that I was “nice” for having chosen to do what he wanted. That is, mess up my clean kitchen, er…I mean bake up a couple batches of made-from-scratch cookies. My interpretation of his compliment was this: I am kind, or “nice” in my child’s eyes when I choose to do what he wants. But if I had chosen NOT to bake with him, I would not be kind. In other words, the evidence of kindness is dependent on how well I please someone else, in this case, my son.
I replied in this manner. I told him that I wished he would see me as being kind, whether I chose to do exactly what he wished, or whether I did not. In either scenario, I would still be a kind person. Kindness is an overriding quality that does not always have to please to be made manifest. It sometimes chooses rather to support and discipline. At other times it seeks to correct. And other times still, it even chastens. Kindness is not weakness that gives in. It is strength that can withhold, suppress and even deny.
However, because I love my child, I can act in grace. Grace can be confused with being “nice” because it has many of the same qualities. Grace is an undeserved favor or kindness. Grace is what my Father generously gives me, His oft-errant child, from a heart of love. He does not always give me what I want, but His heart is always full of grace and love. His gifts are more than enough to meet my needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus. And His unending love will not grow shallow any time soon. For His promise is to love with an everlasting love as He draws me close with loving-kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3, NIV) The Father’s grace is something I tenderly try to model for my own dear children as often as I can.
Why? Because, at the end of the day, my children will remember grace-filled acts of kindness more than they will remember a denied request. Those denials happen from time to time. We moms are only human. And so are kids. But grace and love, coupled with gentle discipline and instruction, can be our overriding response in how we deal with our children’s requests.
And when we choose grace, we all win.
QUESTION: How does grace make you a stronger parent?
CHALLENGE: Before answering your child’s next request, pause for a moment and consider the greater good for both you and your child.