After a long day of work, Wes came home in the evening. I had just gotten Bonnie to sleep and Henry had been patiently waiting for some snuggles. When Wes came through the door Henry had just gotten into my lap for said snuggles.
“Hey buddy! I missed you today! Can I have a snuggle for a bit?”
“No. I want mommy snuggles.”
“Okay. Can I tell you all the things I love about you? I love that you are kind, I love that you are strong ---”
“Daddy. I don’t love you today. I’ll love you later.”
This could have made Wes sad. Or frustrated. He could have said “Don’t say that, that hurts me.” He could have said “That’s not nice.” He could have just grabbed Henry anyway and made him snuggle. But he didn’t. Do you know what he said?
“Okay. I’ll be here.”
I’ll be here.
No judgement. No shame. No fear. Just love with waiting arms.
Henry was able to sit in that unconditional love. Unafraid. Resting within the air of peace. Knowing that nothing would take away that love. Nothing he could do will make his daddy love him less.
Within a few minutes, if that, he got a big smile on his face.
He and I ran over to Wes and gave the squeeziest squeeze hugs and smiled and laughed and loved each other.
As the spouse of a pastor I have often been asked if there were any Bible passages that inform or inspire my gentle parenting approach. I honestly hadn’t been able to answer other than overarching biblical themes. But tonight, this one comes to mind.
1 John 4:10, 16-19
“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that God loved us. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face God with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.”
Perfect love expels all fear. Our children should not fear us. We won’t be perfect (we aren’t - trust me), but our love should be one that does not shame, does not hurt, does not isolate. Our love should be a deep breath in. And a slow breath out. It should be rest, peace, and without the condition of reciprocity. We love them just because and with abundant overflowing joy.
May we all find this kind of love. May we feel it given to us and may we give it freely away. May we love our children as God loves us.