Today and yesterday my little man is in the throes of teething — again. He’s as sweet as ever, but instead of exploring, he’d rather cuddle and stare into space. There are things I had planned on accomplishing, but thanks to the perspective my mother has shared with me (which is why, by the way, younger women need older women), I’m happy to hold my little man close. All day. And all night. I can sleep when he’s grown and gone.
I say he’s happy, but I should qualify that: he’s happy most of the time. He’s also much more sensitive than usual, and little things completely undo him. We had a moment like that after lunch today. He went into hysterics. I picked him up — he writhed in my arms. So I set him down — he lifted his feet and refused to stand. I did my best to make sure I hadn’t totally misunderstood him or offended him in some way, and being certain that wasn’t the case, I assumed my role as parent. Screaming two-year old in arms, I quietly told him that I knew he was exhausted and feverish, and that we were going to sit and nurse and take a nap. I told him that even if he wasn’t sure of what he needed, I was. And I would see to it that he got the sleep his little body was desperate for.
I think often of that position I’m called to take as this little person’s mother.
It seems popular these days to treat children like adults, to reason with them and come to a mutual understanding. The problem is, children are not born adults; they are born babies. And God gave them parents because without strong authority, leadership, and training, those babies will not become successful adults.
Jameson doesn’t need me to treat him like an adult. I will treat him with respect, as a person, but I am his mother, and for good reason.
I know, for instance, that he must develop a liking for vegetables and whole grains. He seems to have been born with a strong liking for chocolate (he came by that honestly enough!), and if he dictated his menu, well, he’d have a health problem on his hands sometime in the future. God knew that, and so He gave him a mother. Me.
I know that minds need to be cultivated and fed and stretched and trained to be curious and fascinated with learning. While Jameson would be as happy as the next kid to watch the LOUD, flashy, high-speed, no-plot programming readily available on any TV station, I desire more for him. I want his attention span to grow. I want him to be entertained by his own imagination, not by stimuli. I want him to begin to grasp stories and logic. And so, as his mother, I choose what and when he watches TV. [Very little!]
If it was up to him, Jameson would never have a clean diaper, pull open hot ovens, climb into the dryer, stand on the piano keys, cover himself in mud, and eat rotten apples found in the far corners of our yard. And he would throw himself onto the ground, screaming, every time something else was suggested. That’s the way we’re all born. That’s why there are parents.
Although it’s not popular to be an authoritative parent — although this strange “we’re peers” relationship seems to be more in vogue — I’m so glad for the example I’ve received from my own parents. I’ll be honest; sometimes I want to cave. Sometimes he’s on his way to becoming a little tyrant because I’ve been duped by thinking I need to somehow understand him better — when really, I just need to stand up and say, “No, I’m the parent, and you will obey. That’s what the Bible says.”
And it’s when I begin to step into that role — when I realize that I am his sense of right and wrong — that I realize parenting requires the grace of God in my life. It requires wisdom from above, as I am continually stepping into his little life and putting his heart where it should be. Short term, it may be easier to just let him eat Twizzlers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Long term, teaching him to choose what I say is right will result in him someday loving what’s right — by the grace of God.