"Love is patient, love is kind..."
Despite the many parenting books I've read, the best description of how I want to love my children is still in 1 Corinthians 13. It's one of only a handful of Bible verses that I actually remember easily. It came to mind today when I noticed how impatient I was being with my secondborn, and how my firstborn was repeating my impatient tone when speaking to his friend.
I don't remember what I was irritated by, only that I took on that typical bossy, corrective tone parents like use when we feel a child has crossed some boundary, whether known or unknown, reasonable or arbitrary. We like to imagine it comes from a sense of righteous indignation, the kind born of the belief that our child needs to obey us -- even if that child is only two years old and what we want them to do is unclear or unreasonable. It's easy to remember the verse telling children to obey their parents. It's harder to remain aware of when we're provoking their anger.
My son is bright, verbal and very independent at not quite three years old. Despite his desire to be treated as a grown-up, I sometimes forget that I cannot expect him to behave with the same foresight and understanding of even the least mature adult. What two-year-old does not require patience as he swerves between security and self-sufficiency like an out-of-control driver speeding down a crowded highway?
Hearing my impatient tone repeated by my four-year-old the very next second was painful. Before I could say, "Hey, that's not a nice way to talk to your friend!" I realized where his attitude had come from. And that it wasn't the first time.
Nonetheless, my sudden awareness didn't prevent me from repeating myself at bedtime. While I brushed my four-year-old's teeth, my secondborn discovered the diluted-soda-filled pufferfish sippy cups which were left in a bag beside the bed. When I saw the liquid puddled on the floor beside the bed, the "righteous indignation" arose again. "Why are you messing with those? I asked you to get in bed! If you'd done what I said, I wouldn't have to clean up this mess."
But as I headed to the kitchen with the dripping fish cups, I realized how unfair my anger had been. Where was the love in my attitude? Is that how God talks to me when I don't do what he says the first time, and proceed to make a mess of my life? Of course not! Because He IS patient and kind. He is not rude, or self-seeking. He is not easily angered and keeps no record of my wrongs. I am forgiven everything. And yet, my children suffer my wrath.
Lord, thank you for your unending patience. Please help me love my children as You love me.