I learned about love this week when my daughter projectile vomited all over herself in the car and my husband was working late and we were out of toast (and pretty much everything else) and the baby didn’t want to share my attention and the world was falling down like rain. It was love that got me through that. Love in it’s most primitive form.
In these crazy heartbreaking moments it’s easy for us as parents to say that love is everything. We LOVE our children (and we hide our gagging).
But really? How love is truly fleshed out in the day-to-day trenches of parenthood changes faster than a toddler’s mood. One moment it is cuddles and kisses, the next moment it is discipline and redirection. In any given day you could breeze through a hundred different ways of showing love to your children.
Does that make one way better than another? One form more desirable? My method more preferred over yours?
I don’t think so.
I think there is a time for each of them based on every person, family, relationship, circumstance, mood, age, time of day, phase of the moon ______ (fill in the blank).
Love is hugs, cuddles, and kisses.
But love is also discipline and boundaries.
Love is a special treat at the store.
But love is also saying, “not this time.”
Love is letting a tired child cry in the checkout line because you’re almost done!
But love is also stopping everything and removing your child from the situation until they can get it together.
Love is holding and playing with your child until they are comfortable in their new classroom.
But love is also walking away and trusting the teacher to help calm them down.
Love is overlooking the last of the oatmeal spilled all over the floor.
But love is also addressing the problem of not being careful and making her clean it up herself.
Love is holding them close and wiping their tears when they get hurt.
But love is also encouraging them to get up and dust themselves off after a fall.
Love is a gentle eye-to-eye conversation about right and wrong.
But love is also a loud warning and a firm grip in the parking lot.
Love is buying them another My Little Pony because they lost the first one.
But love is also letting them experience the disappointment of irresponsibility.
Love is picking up the baby when he’s crying.
But love is also choosing to finish interacting with your older child while the baby cries.
Love is staying at home with your children.
But love is also working outside the home and entrusting your children to the care of another adult.
Love is saying “yes!”
But love is also saying “no.”
Love is showing grace.
But love is also appropriate consequences.
Love is giving your child a myriad of experiences.
But love is also setting limits on what a child can be involved in.
Love is breastfeeding.
But love is also formula feeding.
Love is lavish praise and adoration.
But love is also constructive criticism.
Love is letting a friendly toddler talk to the baby.
But love is also asking for space when your baby is under threat.
Love is talking an issue through.
But love is also knowing when you need some time apart.
Love is helping your child succeed.
But love is also helping your child learn from their failures.
Love is cherishing the season.
But love is also having high expectations for your child to aspire to… no matter the age.
Love is everything… and so much more.
Here’s the Catch:
As parents we are charged with maneuvering these situations on a moment-by-moment basis. But showing the right kind of love in the right way at the right time comes with practice. And trial and error. And wisdom. And about the time we think we’ve got it figured out, something is gonna change and we’re gonna have to start all over again. But we are all on this parenting journey together- learning how to love.
I think at the end of the day it is safe to say that we all want to love our children in the best way we know how in any given moment. But gosh, how often do our circumstances bump up against each other and we judge based on our “best way” and our “given moment.” Perhaps that other mom was simply given a different moment, a different lesson, and a different opportunity to learn how to love?
So next time you read about a mom doing something different than you would, or you see a mom making a choice you wouldn’t make, resist the urge to assume she’s doing it wrong.
Instead, admire the love that Momma has for her child.