My first two children were girls. They loved dress-ups, crafts, and reading books. Life was busy, but relatively calm. Then baby number three came along and really shook things up at our house. He was a boy, and a super active boy at that. So active, in fact, that when he was three, we were permanently kicked out of the gym daycare. When he went out into the cul-de-sac to play, other moms would gather their kids and take them inside so they wouldn’t get injured.
One day we were at the children’s museum with some good friends, and while all the other kids were playing nicely with the hands-on exhibit, my little guy was throwing things, tackling people, and karate chopping the art supplies. I was so frustrated with him, thinking, “What is wrong with this kid? Why can’t he ever just sit still and play nicely?”
Interrupting my thoughts, my friend stepped up next to me and said, in the sweetest, most loving voice, “Isn’t it so amazing that he was born with such a strong instinct to protect and defend? God made him that way for a reason.”
I was taken aback. I had never thought of that. It sure didn’t look like protecting or defending. But what if this was what those skills looked like in a three-year-old? What if there was nothing wrong with him? What if he wasn’t trying to be violent and drive everyone crazy? What if he was busy developing skills that could one day be used to protect and defend his family?
My friend offered me a new thought that changed the way I loved that little boy. Instead of loving him even though he was a little terror, I started to love that about him. I started to see him as a strong man in training, and I knew it was my job to help him learn to use those instincts for a good purpose. Rather than try to squash the intensity out of him, I embraced it and helped him channel it.
Sometimes I fall into the trap of loving my children, but wishing they were different. Or maybe I am loving who I wish they would be, instead of who they are. That kind of “love” leads to frustration for all of us. It feels so much better when I can let go of all the expectations I have of who they “should” be, and love them exactly as they are. Then I am in a position to teach and train them, rather than correct or discipline them. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one.
My relationship with my little boy (now 6′ 4″) has been exhausting at times, but also such a joy. What might have looked for a while like a reckless streak, I now see as a fun sense of adventure. His lack of interest in what anyone (including parents) tells him to do, has developed into a healthy sense of confidence. He is becoming a strong, independent man who has a desire to do what’s right.
It feels so good to love people exactly as they are. No “buts.” No “in spite ofs.” No exceptions. Just love.
Love is always the best choice.
QUESTION: Do you ever notice yourself wishing someone you love was just a little different?
CHALLENGE: Try filling in these blanks: “I love (name of child) EVEN THOUGH ___________________.” Now ask yourself how you can think about that thing differently, so that it becomes one of the things you love about your child.
Edited by Sharon Brown and Nollie Haws
Image provided by the author.