Lori, just like any other two-year old, is going through a stage that parents know all too well: the terrible twos.
She’s learned the meaning of the word “no” and uses it profusely. She’s become picky with food and sometimes even clothes.
There are many circumstances when I just “accept” it and let her be, but there are times, like one morning, when I choose not to let her have it her way.
That morning I prepared her breakfast, which consisted of a bowl of yogourt, grapes, clémentines, and a toast with peanut butter. She threw a tantrum because she didn’t want to eat the food I prepared for her. Instead of giving her an alternative, I removed the food from her tray, and took her out of her booster seat. She kept on crying, but I chose to ignore her and started washing the dishes.
At that moment, I hated myself for ignoring her, but I knew that if I didn’t stand still, I would have raised my voice and made matters worse. It was one of those days when I didn’t feel patient enough to talk through her, and just chose the easy route of not doing anything.
After perhaps 3-5 minutes of whining, she stayed quiet for a bit. I continued to wash the dishes without saying a word. And then she said it, loud and clear: “Mommy, I’m sad.”
I instantly dropped the dishes and rushed to hug her. I was also sad. Sad that I couldn’t be more patient with her. Sad that I chose to ignore her, and sad that I made my baby unhappy.
She hugged me back tightly as if she wanted to be reassured that I still loved her. I kissed her and repeatedly told her how much I love her and that I didn’t want to make her sad.
I asked her gently then if she wanted to have breakfast and eat the food I prepared for her. She nodded and climbed back up to her booster seat by herself to finish her breakfast.
This instance gave me mixed feelings. As I said, I was sad to see her unhappy, but I was also happy and pleasantly surprised how well she could express herself. It was for me another milestone.
This situation also got me thinking about my parenting style. Both Tim and I want to avoid raising our voice when disciplining her, and sometimes we do let her whine for a bit and just ignore the bad behaviour. But Lori just showed me that day that she doesn’t want to be ignored even when she does something inacceptable. Indifference hurts more than a loud voice or a stern face. The most important thing is that she knows we always love her unconditionally, and that she can always return to us even after misbehaving. We’d always forgive her and welcome her back with open arms.
And that’s how God loves us. We don’t ever want Him to ignore us. We want Him to discipline us, and tell us which path to take, and if we take the wrong path, He’ll always be there to guide us back to Him. We can then hug Him tightly knowing that He still loves us unconditionally.