One of the most important spiritual truths I have learned during the transition with our daughter since her homecoming is that discipline, when intended to provide opportunity for growth and maturity, is only effective if it is followed by a reconnecting of the parent and child.
I should have known this before, and most likely I did practice it with my other kids…but it wasn’t intentional – instead, it was just natural. After bringing Sage home, I have found that very little in our love is natural and almost everything is intentional. Don’t read this the wrong way – this isn’t a negative thing. In fact, I have found some of my sweetest moments with her during the times that we are both working hard at being ‘intentionally in-love.’
After four months of this working out of our love, it has become such a deep-seeded part of who we both are, it’s hard to imagine a time when I didn’t love her – It’s hard to remember the days before Sage.
All sweetness aside, admittedly, the greatest parenting challenges have come in the form of discipline. It doesn’t matter if it’s my 10 year old or my 3 year old – discipline kicks my butt.
It seems I am either dishing out my share of justice and penance while full of frustration and steeped in weariness, or when I am half-heartedly committed to keeping the perpetrator accountable with the punishment. Example here: I administer a grounding, only to realize that I REALLY want to let them go to that friends house and enjoy some childhood perks. I can be firm but compassionate and frankly, sometimes the compassion makes me soft…but I don’t mind having a marshmallow-like heart if it reassures my kids that I love them. If God can let King Ahab live, I can revoke my sentence every once in a while. (There’s a little self-defense bubbling over here…)
But since we’ve brought Sage home, everything I do must be intentional. I am constantly checking myself to make sure that I have administered the same degree of punishment to her that I would the other kids for the same behavior. I am always checking to make sure I haven’t set the bar of expectation too high that I am setting her up for failure. I am constantly second guessing myself, wondering if I have doomed our relationship forever.
There have been many times when I leave her room short of breath, worn out from the argument that ensued, desperate for her to understand and knowing that every adoption book out there would be telling me I stink. Sometimes, I stand outside her doorway and peep back in, begging her to stop crying so that we can move on from this chapter in our day and move into the next phase, because it’s the next phase that I have learned to love so much.
It’s when parent and child are able to show one another that we are here together for good.
It’s the post-discipline hug. When her tears have stopped and I have wiped them away. When we have both agreed to what the offense was and talked about how it could be avoided (such discussions take place in broken bits of english and lots of pantomime gestures) and there is nothing else to do except embrace.
Oh my, how I love those big hugs from a little girl.
It’s like the slate is clean. We have made it through another trial and it hasn’t broken us apart. We have a new understanding about the character of each other.
She still accepts my embrace.
And as she wraps her little arms around my neck and whispers I love you, I think to myself. “The Lord disciplines those He loves.” (Prov 2.12, Heb 12.6) And, OH, my, how I love you.
And how He loves us.
There is no doubt that the period immediately following our acceptance of his correction and the time that we turn to Him to tell Him we still love Him, isn’t some of the sweetest moments He has as our heavenly father.
This morning, I found myself wondering how many times I haven’t run back to him after He has corrected me…are there times when I failed to take advantage of His outstretched arms? I mean really, how silly would I have to be to run past Him and back into the helter-skelter schedule of my everyday.
Not too long ago, after a heavy discussion between my oldest son and I, I sat back and wondered if I was too hard on him. I second-guessed everything I said and even asked another of my sons what he thought. He agreed. I was headed back downstairs to apologize when my oldest son met me in the classroom and threw his arms around me, holding on for dear life. I couldn’t breathe because he clung so tight. “Everything you said was true, Mom.” And he continued to tell me about what was going on in his heart, some of the struggles he felt inside and how they were coming through his words and actions in ways that were not pretty.
That precious glance at his heart wouldn’t have happened had I not stood with courage to correct him. It’s hard on us both, necessary for growth and maturity, but is at it’s finest if followed by a reconnection between parent and child–God and child.
Just my incomplete and unprofessional thoughts on a Friday.