If you missed it, go here for Part 1.
As Katie has grown from newborn to toddler, her needs have changed quite a bit. She is naturally much more independent than she was as an infant. She is a very strong-willed child (perhaps evidenced early on by her propensity for screaming). When she wants to read a book, she wants to read it now. If she’s ready for a snack, it simply cannot wait, no matter what I may be doing. Self-centeredness is part of our fallen human nature, and a quality we’ll need to do our best to train out of her. Because of that (and often because necessity requires it), I don’t always give her what she wants. All too often, her response is undesirable. She whines or cries, and occasionally has an outright fit.
As Katie’s mother, it is my duty to discipline her when she disobeys or misbehaves. However, discipline has to be done out of love for my child and not because I’m irritated about her whining or angry because she has disobeyed. Having my own fallen nature to contend with, Katie’s growing sense of self-will and lack of self-control has brought with it many an opportunity for me to learn a lesson in patience. I am often reminded how patient and loving my Heavenly Father is toward me despite my frequent sin--and how much more offensive it is for me to sin again Him than it is for my two-year old daughter to sin against me.
All that said, I do prefer to say “yes” to Katie more than I say “no” in part so that my “no” carries plenty of weight with her, but also because she is one of top priorities. Spending quality time with her reading books or playing is often more important than what I may be doing. As she has gotten older, many opportunities for self-sacrifice on my part have become optional and easier for me to ignore. Her persistence, while not always a positive quality in her, continues to be a tool for the refining of my own character.
In addition to more opportunities for Katie to show her sinful nature as she has gotten older, there are plenty more such opportunities for me. When I’m tired from the combined lack of sleep and chasing babies all day, it is far too easy to say no when I should say yes, or to snap at my daughter rather than responding in love. Then of course there are things I do by accident: tripping over her when she is underfoot, stepping on her toes, or--worse yet--bumping her in the head with a weight while working out. When I offend or hurt her, in her childlike state of love and trust, she is so quick to forgive. Within a few short moments, it is as though she has completely forgotten that I raised my voice at her (or bumped her head), and giggles, hugs, and kisses resume their usual sweet fervency and I am her very best friend again. Seeing this quality in her is a painful reminder of my own shortcomings and an encouragement to forgive as I am forgiven--by my family and friends and ultimately by the Christ whose law I so often transgress.
When I consider the depth of the love I, in my fallen and dreadfully sinful state, have for the two precious children I have borne --a love that is nearly inexplicable, one I could not have imagined without having become a mother myself--I cannot help but to think about the love of God. To know that the love I have for my children pales in comparison to the love God has for us as His children is a truly blessed and humbling reminder.
Being a mother is much different than I expected it would be. Before I had children, I thought secretly, in my naïve state, that it would be easy. I mean, what could be so hard about changing diapers, cooking meals, and cleaning up messes all day? In two short years as a mama, I have quickly learned there is so much more to it than I originally thought. In many ways, having children has taught me what it is to really love someone--to sacrifice for a person and expect nothing in return, to be patient in spite of their shortcomings, to forgive no matter how many times you are sinned against, to love them as God loves His own.