Last night I was thinking about unconditional love.
I was driving home feeling incredibly frustrated about a situation in which I think I am doing the right things but still not getting the desired results. I dreaded walking in the door because I knew in my heart and soul that if I tried to address the issue I would say the wrong things.
I ended up grumbling a "Hello" putting my stuff away and saying, "Goodnight, I'm going to bed."
I am fairly certain I heard my 17 yo say, "Okaaaay." as I walked up the stairs. (You know what that sounds like with the elongated long a, right?)
My mother handled conflict by just not speaking. She would get mad at my dad and not speak to him for days (three days sticks in my mind) and if anyone dared appear to align with him, they also got the silent treatment.
Last night was not intended as a silent treatment but as a "mom timeout". I knew I could not say anything "right". If I said anything, it would have come out sounding like conditional love. There are only so many times you can say "I love you but I don't like ___ ." There are only so many ways to say, "Can't you just (fill in the blank with whatever will make me feel better, more competent or secure)?"
I recognize that I cannot use emotional coercion to get the results I desire. I realize that loving children is a tiring, difficult and unpredictable job. I have learned through 17 + years of being a mom to 6 amazing kids that their behavior is not about me, but about what they are experiencing. I can teach them appropriate societal norms and they follow those, mostly. I cannot however always get them to be happy or helpful or even as quiet as I would like. I am not raising puppets. Raising puppets with perfect obedience would be much less stressful.
In these moments, when I get to fully experience my powerlessness as a parent, I am reminded that God, our heavenly Father, has to put up with me... Me with the free will He gave me and a penchant for doing what I please and not always what pleases Him. Yet, even when I am not very lovable, God gives me unconditional love and forgiveness and grace.
His only condition is that I believe in Him and that faith was a gift to me.
I do my best to show my kids unconditional love. I'm not quite as good at it as I could be. I hope they do know they have the unconditional love of a far superior parent...God.