I'd like to think that I've always been a relatively soft-hearted person when it comes to kids. Almost all of my students and their parents would probably classify me as a relatively kind teacher who, though firm, was also loving toward their progeny. At least, that's what I'd like to believe.
But motherhood has a way of altering perspectives, and I find that in loving Little L, particularly through this current crazy phase of incessant whining and biting and tantrums, I am being given new eyes to see her. I am learning to practice compassion, a quality I always thought that I had but in hindsight I now know that I had previously lacked.
I'm not exactly known for my patience, but God has been giving this to me in abundance as I try to cope with toddler tears and bites over everything and anything (and sometimes nothing at all). With that patience comes a supernatural (meaning it is also from God and by no power of my own) ability to step back from the moment and all of its stress and heightened emotion, and actually *see* Little L. Not just see her as a kid misbehaving or an obstacle to my zen or schedule or plans, but to actually *see* beyond the actions and consider her for who she is - a curious, tender-hearted and easily-frustrated 21 month old image-bearer who, in that moment, needs her mommy. She doesn't need me to "discipline" her or make her feel shame and guilt right then and there, because a harsh reproof or reactive response does nothing to address the heart of the matter. Rather, she needs me to comfort her, and help her find a safe and secure emotional space to work through some big emotions that she cannot yet process on her own.
And this is where compassion steps in and enables me to crouch down to her eye level, scoop her up in my arms, and whisper affirmations into her ear without the least bit of anger at the stinging teeth marks forming a bruise on my arm, or the inconvenience to my day's plans. These new eyes help me see past the whining and the undesired behaviour; this compassion allows me to see her vulnerability and heart, and gives me the ability to weep when she weeps and laugh when she laughs.
As I contemplate my newfound "sight," I cannot help but think about how my Father in Heaven deals with me. God modelled this whole parenting relationship after His own relationship with us (and with Jesus), so I know that this compassion that I am able to have is a quality of He who is love. Just as Jesus welcomed the little children to His side in a scandalous and outrageous display of love, so too does God come down to my level and scoop me up when I am in a full-blown meltdown. And as He looks at me, I know that His first thought isn't to discipline me for the sake of teaching me to respect and fear Him. It's not to be reactive or retaliatory. It's not to shame or guilt. No, the Father looks at me with compassion, and His gaze is at my heart. And because I have been redeemed, when God looks at me, He sees Jesus and His atoning work at Calvary. Nothing I can say or do will diminish the fullness of His affections for me.
There is a softness in His eyes, and a fierce security in His arms. Sweet encouraging Truth is whispered in my ear, and I am safe to weep or rage. He cries with me too, matching my own grief or sorrow with His.
How glad I am to have the lavish love of such a compassionate Father! And I am blessed to be able to participate in this kind of love from the giving side, rather than only as a recipient; somehow, in practising compassion and patience with my own toddler, I more deeply understand God's love for me. May Little L see a bit of Him through me during this testy time of her development!