That last post about individuality in a pile of kittens and how the eyes of love see them… well, here is where I am going with that.
I believe strongly that our children need to know that we see them, who they are, their gifts and natural abilities, as distinguished from all the other grey kittens in the pile. They need to know that Mom and Dad are on their side, cheering them on to success, despite the fits and starts that accompany budding attempts at growing up.
One of my sons is having a bit of a wobbly time right now, struggling to relate to friends, not always sure he likes himself or anybody else, even. Oh dear, I think, here we go into adolescence, and I have no idea what I am doing parenting this age. I have seen his step lighten after I just casually put my arm around him and tell him (one cannot be too deliberate with affection at this stage, it seems) how proud I am that he is my son. I tell him that he is learning to walk upright, and that is sometimes really, really hard, but I know that someday it will help him to be a real man because he fought battles when he was young. I explain that it is all right to mess up, as long as one admits the mistake and makes amends where it is needed. I want my son to know that he is special, he has gifts, he makes me happy, so I tell him those things, even when, or maybe especially when he sorely tries my patience. I do hope and pray that this will help him to have confidence and steadiness when the waters get even rougher.
In parenting, there are so many moments of correction, reproof, instruction… so many times we need to discipline and pull back an erring child. We certainly don’t want them to run wild without the stability of boundaries. But it is much too easy to forget that they do not automatically know how much we love them, how delightful they are to us.
The eyes of love notice the hidden talent that will be a tremendous asset as the person emerges. They see under the surface of sameness and assure the little ones that they are unique, telling them small specifics that are evident in the child’s life, like little buds waiting for the right season. This is what breaks my heart about orphanages. No matter how clean and well fed a child may be, every child needs someone who really sees them as invaluable. My deepest respect goes to those who make it their life goal to provide that for parentless children.
The old thinking was that too much praise would make a proud child. Humility is a beautiful virtue, but there were entire generations of children who grew up straining for approval and yearning to hear just once that their parents love them. That is just tragic, and not a mistake that we need to repeat. Surely we can show our children how much we like them without turning them into stuck-up snobs.
Parents are notorious braggers. We don’t mean to be, but it happens because we are besotted with these children that we love endlessly. I honestly think this is okay. I have heard some obnoxious bragging, but generally I love to hear people talk about their children. It means that they are noticing them, really looking at them, delighting in them.
This is why I also love pet names for children. It is like a personal tie, a more intimate connection than you have with just anyone. I love secrets with children, whispering in their ears. When my babies were nursing infants, I made up songs for them with their names and sang them in the dead of the night, just me and the babe. I make no apologies for being completely dotty over my children, and neither should you.
After all, God delights over His children too! Far from making me feel proud, that fact raises in me a reciprocation of delight in Him and cements in me a confidence in His love that takes me through the storm.
But the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love. Ps. 147:11