Friday, September 17, 2010

Love, Grace, Mercy - a post on Parenting

He glowers over his math book, frustration seeping from every pore.  I'm trying to keep things light and positive but the grumbling is taking its toll.  Baby brother dumps his cereal out on his tray, milk seeping down wooden legs, pooling on the floor, he's splashing gleefully and droplets are flying every which way.  The 3 year old, she has taken up her daily chore of keeping a constant whine going, even when I get down on her level and beseech her, draw her close, tempt her with reading books, coloring pages, eating snacks.

It has been 8 long years ago this fall that I sat on that cold chair in the dim examining room of a clinic, wave upon wave of nausea breaking over me, curt nurse with hard eyes delivering the news that would break me wide open and change my life forever.

8 years I've been "Mama."

4 babes have been handed to me, snuggled close, skin to skin, cheek to cheek.  4 faces I've searched and admired.

And it seems to me, the more I mother, the more I live, the more I think about it - the more love I need to give.

For I've been thinking long about discipline and obedience, what it means to be consistent.  I've tried everything with my kids: threatened, cried, yelled, grounded, and more and more I am realizing how counter-productive it is.  I've taking consistency to mean consistent punishment, and those days have been long and painful for all.  It never seems to work out.  Punishment and discipline are not the same words at all - yet so often I get them confused.

More than anything, I want my children's hearts.  But how do you attain the heart of a child?

All too often I am guilty of taking the smooth times for granted and not noticing those around me until they do something wrong.  I get my work done when things are calm, talk at them instead of to them.

I don't hug enough.  Don't look love into clear eyes enough.  Don't speak the encouragements I should:  I see you.  I like you.  I think you are special and important and real.

And most of all, this: Nothing you could do could ever make me stop loving you.

Actions speak louder than words and if the only times I look them in the eyes or grab their hand is when they are doing something I do not approve of, doesn't that say so much more?  Perhaps, does it say "I pay attention to what you do wrong, not what you do right"?

I have been guilty of rolling my eyes at the term "Gentle Discipline" believing that it meant a life of chaos and the absence of rules.  But here, 8 years later, I am tired of adversarial parent-child relationships.  I am done with drawing lines in the sand and watching them being crossed time and again, feeling that "consistency" means doing battle on a daily basis.

 Imagine for a moment being married to someone who never sees what you do right, and largely ignores the good times, but then remains consistently bent on enumerating your many faults and making you "pay" for each one.  I cannot imagine I would have much respect for someone like that - I probably wouldn't want to be around them either.  I believe that being around a parent who only notices bad behavior to be similarly unpleasant and discouraging.

There is a place for discipline, but that place comes long beyond the basic foundation of a deep and abiding love relationship between parent and child.  One full of grace and mercy and unconditional acceptance.

Maybe obedience follows respect, which follows love.  Maybe feeling unconditionally loved, protected, heard and validated is the path to true peace in the family.


  1. Great post Lydia, hit home. -Amber

  2. Wonderful post!~mary M

  3. Beautifully written. Sometimes I will skim through posts, but each thought that you articulated worked and made me want to read from beginning to end. I love reading honest heartfelt thoughts from moms. Parenting is not always easy, but what a blessing!
    Your kids are very lucky to have a mom who strives to do better for them.


Thank you so much for stopping by! I love hearing from you! While you're here, don't forget to click "subscribe"!