It has been quite the eventful week in our household, so thank you for bearing with me as we pause from our time in Exodus for some real life processing. Admittedly, I am not sure if I am ready to hang with eleven toddlers today, but I have about 3 hours to prepare myself.
My own toddler has kept me on my toes this past week and the weekend was no exception. Terrible teething and recovering from fire ant bites and a wasp sting had my sweet, laid back boy acting more like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
On one hand, his melodrama has been quite hysterical. You feel like a terrible person for laughing at him, but when he throws himself against the furniture or eases himself down to the floor before collapsing in crocodile tears, pausing to ensure he is being observed, you realize he is not just riding the struggle bus, he is driving it. It is a week where you attempt to keep the routine, enforce the healthy diet, the proper use of a plate, and God forbid normal hand washing, but eventually surrender to the demand of veggie straws for dinner. A week where you have walked through enough moments of intense fear that you hardly want to put the rascal down or let him out of your sight, while simultaneously wanting to beg for a break from the tantrums.
I read a meme once that addressed the double standard we can adopt towards our own children. We are allowed to have bad days, cope in maladaptive but justifiable ways for a moment, or throw a validated tantrum in the midst of pain or injustice, but they are not. It was much shorter and catchier than that, but that was my take home point. I mulled it over a bit but pulled it from the recesses of my brain this week to really chew on it. After all, if it is on a meme it must be true right?
The truth of the matter is that my fourteen-month old son has handled this week much better than I have even with his dichotomous behavior. He has continued to carry joy, extend grace, and walk in empathy even in the midst of great physical pain and discomfort. Even when he has chosen to lash out it has been in great frustration over an inability to communicate his needs adequately. When seen as an isolated incident of poor behavior, it is incredibly easy to respond quite firmly. When viewed in the context of his week though, compassion and grace permeate discipline with greater ease, tempering frustrated firmness with love.
I can imagine the lessons I am learning as a mother are only a tiny taste of how God parents us as perfect Father. I believe that God sees us in the entire context of our lives, and therefore disciplines us with great grace and compassion rather than with the harshness we deserve. Our circumstances will never justify our actions or dismiss our need for appropriate discipline, but they can provide a context for understanding the root of our behaviors. Perhaps good parenting, the kind that reflects the heart of Father God for His people onto our own children, goes beyond behavior modification and delves into the rooted issues of the heart. Perhaps that is why the first four of the ten commandments concentrate on internal attitudes of the heart: who we worship, trust, and honor. Perhaps that is why Jesus, when He teaches the law with great authority in the New Testament, turns the religious order upside down by addressing the heart rather than modifying the behavior.
If this is true and it is easier for me to extend grace and patience to my little nugget of drama when he is having a moment because I know what he is walking through, than I must accept the grace of God for myself in moments of my own struggle. The double standard of perfectionism must continue to be chipped away. If I am to parent, or even to walk, in authentic compassion then I must become well acquainted with it personally as well.
Tremendously more easily said than done, yet true nonetheless…especially on a Monday.