Tuesday, October 28, 2008

biblical womanhood (3b) loving your children: how to really hate your child

Sometimes, I hate my children.

And no, this is not what you think. This is not a no-holds-barred, bare-my-soul, spill-my-guts post on how my children irritate me, or how I don't always like them very much, or how sometimes I want to run screaming from the house. This is about those times I feel like I'm being, well, loving.

This is about Proverbs, and what it's taught me about hating my children. You see, I'd swear that I don't hate my children. I love them with every fibre of my being. If danger threatened, I would lay my life down for them in an instant. But Proverbs has a different perspective.

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. (Prov. 13:24)
"Come here!"
"Come here now!"
"I told you to move away from your brother. Do it now!"
"I'll punish you if you don't move."
Inches away slightly. Silence.

He's one of those children with an ability to wind his parents around his finger. He excels in enthusiastic, loving affection. "I love you, Mummy!" "Cuddle, Mummy!" "Can I stroke your hair, Mummy?" But, like many all-or-nothing children, he also excels in rebellion. He's our sunshiny child, our mugwump, our stubborn-as-a-mule boy.

Only yesterday, he disobeyed me, and I didn't discipline him (and no, I'm not talking rod, I'm talking a far milder punishment). Only yesterday, I gave in, because it was just too hard to enforce what I'd asked him to do. Only yesterday, Proverbs says that I hated my son.

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Prov. 22:6)
"It's not fair! I'm hungry! Why shouldn't I have lollies? We always have lollies on Monday afternoons! Why didn't you bring something for me to eat? It's not fair! You don't care how I feel! You just don't care!"

She knows how to press every one of my buttons. Like many girls, she excels less in outright disobedience, and more in emotional manipulation. Tears stream down her face. She's my darling, my only daughter, my tender girl. She turns the screws like an expert. With every word, I can feel my chest tightening.

Is it true? Am I being unfair? Is my child starving? She's been sick recently. I should have remembered to bring some biscuits. We have to wait for half an hour. I know a little self-denial is good for her. But I can tell she's actually hungry. I don't have any really good reason not to go to the milk-bar this afternoon. I hold out for 20 of the 30 minutes.

We go to the milk-bar.

The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him. (Prov. 20:7)
Here we are, standing in the toy section of the supermarket aisle, and there's the toy I've been wanting to buy my son for weeks. He's not asking for it, he's not a greedy child, but I know how much he'd enjoy it. I also know that if I get it at all, I should come back and get it tomorrow and put it in his Christmas stocking. I know I shouldn't impulsively buy it today.

But the lure of the bright, shiny toy is too much. "You can choose one toy each, children. You have $5.00 to spend. I wouldn't normally do this, mind! But just for today, you can have one toy each." My words are empty, and I know it.

I give in to my own desire for something new, trivial, and shiny, and train my children in the art of impulsive spending.

Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. (Prov. 4:1-2)
We're at Sunday School, doing a study on Proverbs, and we're talking about how our parents teach us God's truth. "My parents tell me how to live." "My parents sometimes punish me when I do the wrong thing." "My parents pray for me."

And suddenly, there it is: one of my children says, in a complaining tone of voice, "My parents make me read the Bible 4 times a day! They make me read it 5 times on Sunday!"

This is a complete exaggeration. Five minutes Bible over breakfast, 15 minutes with Daddy some nights after dinner, and Bible notes at bedtime, hardly constitute parental Bible-bashing. We make every effort to keep Bible reading fun and full of interest. There is much more than Bible in our family life: laughter, and chatting, and play, and affection, and books, and wild games, and tickling, and love.

But the questions turn over in my brain: "Am I no fun? Will my children hate me when they grow up? Will they hate the Bible because it's been rammed down their throats? Will they rebel? Is our family all work and no play?"

This time, I don't give in. Because sometimes, I know what's good for my children. Sometimes, I'm courageous enough to stand up to them. Sometimes, I refuse to give in to the fear of losing their approval. Sometimes, I love them more than my pleasure at seeing their pleasure. Sometimes, I'm brave enough to discipline them. Sometimes, I put up with the burden of their whining, or the pressure of their arguing, or the guilt of their tears.

Sometimes, I love my children, even when love takes guts.

This post was inspired by CJ Mahaney's definition of the fear of children: "an excessive sinful concern about what our children think of us, an inordinate desire for our children's approval, or an intense fear of being rejected by our children." (Carolyn Mahaney's Feminine Appeal p.55)

images are from stock.xchng


mattnbec said...

Hmmm. Thought-provoking with the 'hating our children'. Encouraging with the last bit. Thanks.


Liz said...

A timely reminder for me.


Rachael said...

thanks Jean.

Sharon said...

I loved this post. I've been thinking a lot about mothering lately, "rod and reproof", "training and instruction" type stuff. So thanks for another perspective.
~ Sharon

NotSoShorty said...

Thanks so much for being so real. I really appreciate that you don't gloss over things and that by being honest you encourage me to prayerfully consider how I live - the times I know I fail and the times I think I am doing alright. It's so important to shine God's light of truth over all areas of our lives - as women, wives, mothers... May God continue to bless you as you encourage us and challenge us on a regular basis.