I’ve already given up my life… So for lent this year, one of the things I’ve chosen to do is to re-engage with this blog. I’m hoping that this will translate into a better long term habit!
I have an amazing daughter, who is straddling the line between toddler and preschooler. She has the intelligence of a preschooler, and waffles between toddler and preschooler when it comes to her emotional comprehension. When it comes to compassion and empathy, she’s a preschooler. When it comes to not getting her own way, there’s still a lot of toddler there… the understanding and reasoning that preschoolers grasp are just a little bit beyond her as her world caves in and she grows increasingly convinced that Mama doesn’t love her.
She teaches me about my relationship with God every day.
When I regress to “toddler” state… it’s nearly always because I don’t get my way.
I don’t think I need to add much to that. That’s a pretty hefty conviction on its own.
I want to parent her the way God parents me. Sometimes He has a course set out for me, and He’s excited for me to step into this thing that He knows I will love and to see my delight in it, but I’ve got my mind made up that I HAVE to go “this way”.
When this happens with my daughter, I have a lot of choices. I may have this great plan for her that involves her favorite things, but she’s intent on doing THIS thing. Now, provided that “this thing” isn’t dangerous to her, I have the choice to allow her to engage in “this thing”, or to argue with her about why the other thing is better, or pick her up and force her into the “fun” thing, knowing that once she’s there, she’ll be happy with it.
I’ve done all of the above. I took her to playland before her 3rd birthday this year, and she was so excited to try a ride! But when she found out Mama wasn’t allowed on the ride she had chosen, she didn’t want to try the ride after all. After going on the 2 rides we could do together waaaay too many times, I decided she was going to try a ride all by herself. She was clearly adventurous with the other rides, and I knew she could handle it. So I explained to her that I was going to put her on the ride, and (with the blessing of the ride operator) assured her that if she still wanted to come off after the ride had started, we would stop it immediately and take her off.
I must have looked like the most twisted cruel parent in the world as I forcibly strapped my daughter into the motorcycle seat that she had soooo wanted to ride at the beginning of the day. The ride operator looked at me as if she was unsure whether she should call child protective services or flip the ride switch. My daughter screamed like the world was ending for the 12 seconds it took for me to clear the area so the operator could start the ride. She flipped the switch, and mid-scream, without stopping to breathe, my child’s wail turned into giggling. She loved it! She had so much fun that she went on the ride 5 times in a row! It became her favorite ride!
I’m not sure if that was the best way to do things. I didn’t like doing it that way at the time. But I don’t regret it either–and I think on *rare* occasions, this is how God parents me. Sometimes, I think he pushes me outside of my comfort zone so that I have nothing left BUT to see the beauty laid out for me… Sometimes He pushes my past my fears to do the wonderful things He has called me to do. But I think such occasions are rare, just as I think they need to be rare with my child.
More often than not, I think that when God has something else for us and we’re focused on “this thing” God allows us to pursue this thing while gently guiding us towards the better thing, until we get tired of “this thing” or His thing appeals to us more, and then we make the decision for ourselves to embrace the thing that He’s got for us.
It’s not about Him circumventing our free will and badgering us into “His way”. It’s about the fact that He knows us, and knows what will excite our Spirit and connect with our very beings and help us step into the people we were created to be, and fill our hearts with the deepest of Joy. So He lays these things out for us, and then helps us to catch sight of these things.. to understand what they really are—and at that point WE DECIDE to follow Him there.
This is how I want to parent my child. I want her to make the decision herself. This morning she was intent on doing something that I know she actually hates. So I kept on offering her the other option, while helping her to get ready to do the thing she hates (go in a shower–she hates the water falling directly on her head) and then just as she was about to step into the shower, she decided for herself that she wanted to do the other option i’d laid out for her. And after this encounter I mused about God’s parenting, and how I think, ultimately, this really is how God parents us almost all the time. He sets parametres that keeps us ultimately safe, he goads and prompts, encourages, chides, and ordains things for us, but despite being omnipotent, doesn’t exert control or force on us. He beckons us into choice!