Thursday, July 12, 2012

We Are Toddlers


So often my sweet little child does something so dastardly that really tests my mommy patience to the max. She can be wily, she can be mischievous, she can be downright violent. She can be defiant, and stubborn, and disrespectful, and sometimes temporarily deaf it seems. (If you ever find yourself repeating your child's name more than five times in a row, then it appears your child may also suffer from temporary loss of hearing; my condolences.)


But then there are times when she can be a little angel. Sometimes she does things that make me want to google whether or not there have ever been any reported cases of a mother's heart literally bursting from pride, and if not, I'm certain I will be the first ever recorded case. She can be loving, and silly, and hilarious, and obedient. We share moments together that are filled with so much joy that no smile nor laugh could ever properly express.


But whether she is throwing a shoe at my face or planting a huge smooch on it, my love for her never changes. In any moment of any day, my heart swells with love for her. Her goofiness, her quirks, her wildness, her sweetness, her whole life... fills my whole life with meaning. She enriches my days and teaches me so much about God's love.


The other day, Gemma woke up from her nap in a ridiculously grumpy mood. And I use the word ridiculously very literally here, because what could be more ridiculous that a well-fed, well-loved, well-rested child coming downstairs just whining for absolutely no reason whatsoever? Anyway, here was my little grumpy-poo, wailing and flailing, just being unreasonable in every way. So I dug deep and mustered up some genuine empathy for her because I guess there have been times when I've woken up on the wrong side of the bed too. (Rocky, if you're reading this, the correct answer is "Why no dear, you're always sunshine and butterflies!") I knelt down in front of my little girl and offered her every kind of help I could. I tried to snuggle her, make her laugh, sing to her, hug her, offer her food, read her books, etc. Nothing was working. 

So I changed my tactic. I started talking to her in a very logical, grown-up kind of way. "Everything is okay Gemma. You're safe, I love you, nothing is wrong. If you're hungry, let's go get some food. If you're thirsty, here's your water. Now, please tell me why you're upset and let's try to figure this out together." In my head, I pictured her responding very well to this tactic, cheering right up and speaking in complete, coherent sentences about the full nature of her unhappiness. What happened in reality is she just kept crying and shaking her head and throwing things. And as odd as this may sound, it was in this exact moment, that I saw God. In myself. No narcissism here, dear readers, in fact - quite the contrary.

I realized in that moment that we are like toddlers to our Heavenly father. How many times has God been trying to speak to me and help me, but I was too busy shouting and throwing a tantrum at him to hear his voice? How many times have I ignored his counsel? Disobeyed his commands? Refused his love? I'm ashamed to say, more times than I can count.

And yet through it all, his love for me never wavers. It never decreases. It never changes. His patience never runs out. His forgiveness never ceases. He never abandons me. 

So whenever Gem starts to throw a fit over something trivial (really, is there any non-trivial fit in a toddler's world?) or I see another child screaming at Mass or watch as a mother at the playground consoles her baby who just fell, I'm reminded of God's love. He nurtures us, guides us, forgives us, and loves us through all the seasons of our lives, all our deviant behaviors, all our injuries, all our fears, all our tantrums, all our joys, all our accomplishments. Even when we act like toddlers to him, God loves us as a mother loves her child: unconditionally, unrelenting.

But being a toddler in God's eyes does not have to be a negative thing. For there is a simplicity, a humility, a beautiful dependance that little children have on their parents that we as Christians can learn from. This is how we should approach God always... as children. Let us remember the words of Jesus. "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these."

And next time your toddler defies you, ignores you, harms you... reflect on times when you have been a less than ideal child, and then recall how God was patient with you, loved you, and forgave you in those times. Let that be the always model for how we parent our little ones.


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