“Children often show their worst side to their mothers.” I know this to be true, but I still found it immensely gratifying when I read the line in The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, this month’s book club book. The author, a child psychologist/parenting teacher/mother, confirmed what ever mom knows implicitly: she sees her kid’s worst.
I remember showing my own mom my worst when I was a girl… and in all honesty, even sometimes now. She is the one person with whom I can safely “let it all hang out” and know that she will not hold it against me. She will continue to love me unconditionally and think I’m a worthwhile human being to have around, no matter how grumpy or sinfulI may be on a given day. I can alwaysrest in that, no matter what a jerk I may be to her (or at least in her presence). It’s one of the biggest gifts a good, attentive mom gives her kids – her unflagging devotion regardless of moods and sin. She’s safe.
And isn’t this as it should be? Mothers have been with their kids since the very beginning – literally. We know our children most intimately – their character traits, joys, and struggles. God, the psalmist tells us, knows when we “sit and when we rise… our going out and our lying down;” in the same way, we know these things about our children. We are right there the whole time. And in a way, our role is a God-like role to our children when they are young. We get to participate with Him in their creation and birth. And his ongoing and unconditional love of us is mirrored, in a smaller (and less perfect) way, in our own love for our kids. What a privilege and responsibility.
It’s not fun being the person to whom your kid show her worst side. It’s discouraging when she behaves better for others – is an angel for her Sunday School teacher, a sweetheart with her grandparents, a pal with her neighbors, a mostly pleasant child even with her dad. All this and then – a monster for me. Unbelievably poor behavior at times – I mean truly, one can’t believe it in some moments. It can make me want to beat my head against a wall and feel that I’ve been dealt an unfair hand – especially when it’s a team-up or tag-team affair with siblings. But that’s when I need to step back and remember who God is, and how eternal and unyielding his love is for me – even when I am acting like a monster in my own way. Even when I throw my own mom-sized (and only slightly more subtle) tantrums. It’s all rolled up in the privilege He gives us of loving and nurturing another being in the selfless way that He loves us.