"I HATE YOU, MOM."
I knew the day was coming soon - he'd been testing the waters by asking about the word 'hate', then using it ("I really hate that violent storm that took away our power and scared me!"), and then moved on to telling me he hated my words when I disciplined him.
But he saved the worst for today.
"I HATE YOU, MOM." It came out of his mouth following a morning of disobedience and its resulting punishment.
My mom climbed into the van just minutes after he said it, and he was still angry. His little 4 year old mind was obviously spinning as he tried to articulate big emotions, and the words coming out of his mouth would have been a little funny to someone who didn't know and love him, but they just made my heart sad.
"I don't want to talk to you anymore today. I'm not going to talk to you until Eli's birthday on Saturday." When I asked him how I would know what to order him for lunch as we drove to a restaurant, he said he would tell me what his lunch order was, and that was IT until Saturday.
I prayed silently in my heart. I never expected this situation with a 4 year old. I sort of thought it was reserved for the likes of 13 year olds, 16 year olds, teenagers with angst. I prayed for the right response, for the wisdom to know what to say and not say that would soften his heart, but mostly that God would give him humility even as a 4 year old to lay down his anger about whatever it was that felt like an injustice. I want my boy to learn early on - earlier than I did - that it doesn't help a heart to fight for what we feel like we are owed. So I reminded him of my love for him, told him I was sorry he was feeling so angry, and I changed the subject to something happy and continued to keep my spirit light.
Robbie was the first one I saw on this morning, as he wandered into our bedroom sleepy-eyed and flushed from sleep. "Happy Birthday, Mom!" he said and then snuggled up with me under my blanket, as is our custom. I asked for a birthday kiss and hug and he happily obliged. I welcomed the day and my 32nd year at peace, not knowing that in a few hours I would hear such angry words from my sweet boy.
He is a gift from God. When he's sweet, when he's vulnerable, when he's angry and impatient. When he surprises me with his tender heart and generosity. Even when he tells me he hates me. He gave me quite a gift on my 32nd birthday yesterday - he reminded me of how deep my love is for him, how nothing he could say or do would keep me from loving him. If anything, it made me love him more!
However, the best part of unpacking the gift of 'him' is that I have learned that my happiness cannot hinge on him, or any of our children. God is teaching me that in order to lead and teach and love them well, I have to be completely satisfied first in Him. I cannot unconditionally love my kids through their ups and downs if I am hostage to their moods, experiences, growth or lack of it.
Since I first held him in my arms, it has been a journey of learning to let him go. So much of this life in Christ is upside-down, isn't it? Lose your life so that you can save it. Let go of the death grip you have on your kids so that you can all truly learn to live. Tell him you love him when he spits at you and denies you his love. Discipline him so that he learns that true freedom is found in obedience to the Lord.
Thank you, sweet Robbie, for the gift you are to me and the gifts you keep on giving me each day as we grow in the Lord together. You are precious and I love you!
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