Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Marriage Monday: Myth 7: You Will Always Feel Unconditional Love Toward Your Children
I know, It’s Tuesday night and Marriage Monday is coming now. That’s right. I took an unplanned day off of writing yesterday to celebrate seven years with my wife. It probably wouldn’t have looked good for me to encourage you on marriage if I don’t even take time out for mine. It was all good. Sure it was popcorn and TV, but it was a good time had by both.
So time for another Marriage Monday and continuing in Leslie Leyland Fields’ book “Parenting Is Your Highest Calling” And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt. Today’s myth is that You Will Always Feel Unconditional Love For Your Children.
If you ask my mom, I was a relatively easy child to raise. I wasn’t a handful until my college years. I was a good little kid. But those college years, man were they rough. I’ll always remember a night after my mom fell and broke her ankle in January of 1988. I was a college freshman and becoming independent. I was out till all hours. Usually, I called in and told her where I was going to be.
Not this night. My friend Kevin and I had ran into a high school buddy, Mark. We went out to his cabin and had a bonfire. There were no phones and I figured my mom knew I was safe with Kevin. However, when your mom can’t walk and has no way to know where you are, things go through the mind. My mom yelled, crying, as I arrived home at 3:30 in the morning. Not exactly responsible, looking back on it. If she could’ve hobbled over to me, she probably would’ve whacked me with the crutches. I even remember her telling me that it wasn’t easy to love a child that was so wild and out to all hours. It was once, but I never forgot it.
As kids, and even moreso as young adults, we tend to break our parents’ hearts. That’s why it’s even tougher today as a parent. I’m lucky for now. My kids are 4, 2, and 1. The biggest heartbreak I’ve had to this point is when our teaching pastor visited our family and my oldest uttered the F Bomb. Where’d she learn it? I stared at her mother to give my buddy Tyler a hint, but honestly, I really don’t know who uttered it to give her that word to use. It could’ve been anyone amongst my family and friends. In a fallen moment, it could’ve been me.
I remember when it happened. I wanted to slide under the table, but Tyler was cool. He acted as if he didn’t even hear it. I can’t remember if I was praying more, “Thank you Jesus,” or “Thank you Tyler.” Mentioning it would’ve definitely brought on a long lecture for Megan and myself after he left. Because as most husbands know, any foul language or any other fart noise or bad gestures or anything else is always the dad’s fault. I don’t know why, but women have this way of blaming guys for these things.
It’s not easy for us as parents to keep the halo of niceness on our children. It’s even harder sometimes to show the love that God wants us to show when children misbehave or disappoint us. Leslie takes us through a couple examples of how hard it is to always show the love unconditionally then shows us that she is like other parents that get on themselves for not being able to do show the love 24/7.
Leslie tells us by relating scripture about some of the “love” verses that show God’s love, but then begins a section that talks about how God’s love isn’t always the mushy, giving kind that we want to believe. She speaks of Israel and its disobedience in the desert on the forty year journey to the Promised Land. There is also the relating of how Israel and Judah lost that land by continued disobedience.
We have this New Testament perception that it’s all love and no matter what you do, God still will give you a big hug afterwards. That’s not true. God still had to discipline the Israelites, the same way he does to us. The Israelites journey to the Promised Land was to be two years. Because of the continued sin and not listening, the journey took forty-two years. God took the Israelites around the mountain (well in this case, the desert) as many times as necessary.
Leslie then takes us through a section of three mini-myths under this myth. The first is that love is supposed to feel good. All of us love the feel good love. You can think of REM’s Shiny Happy People. Of course, I prefer their Furry Happy Monsters with the Sesame Street gang. Monsters dancing with the band is the ultimate in happiness. The second myth is that love is a feeling. When the love is good, the emotion is a happy one. However, this myth gets tough to live when times are hard. You can explain divorce rates with this myth. The last myth is that love is holy, perfect and unchanging. We’ve already disproved this myth with the times of the Israelites.
We have made love too simple. It always has to be a positive. James Dobson writes a book called Love Must Be Tough. And it is. Leslie makes a great comment in the next to last section of this chapter. “We may feel anger, as God does. We may feel hurt, as God does. We may feel disgust, as God does. Love not only allows these feelings; it requires them.”
I never thought about those emotions as a child growing up. Because as a child, it’s about us. We tend to make us the center of the universe. When we become adults and move into parenting, we begin to see, if we pay attention, that we are not alone. We are merely along for the ride. We go from thinking about what we’ll do today to how what we do affects those that live with us.
My daughter Megan has been recovering from the flu. She admitted to me the night that she began feeling sick that she played with a little girl whom she knew was sick. I think to myself, “Why would you play with a child that’s sick?” My daughter answers the question with, “Well daddy, you taught me to play with kids that needed a friend.” Yes I did. Inevitably, that’s what is right with my daughter. She sees the ones that are alone and in need. That’s when I realize that I have done something right and even when my daughter is not easiest to love, it will be memories like these that will make it easier in the hard to love times of her life.
Next week, we’ll look at Myth #8.This myth tells us that successful parents produce Godly children. There are three lessons left in this series, so keeping looking for this on Mondays, or if I am trailing behind, on Tuesday.
I love you guys!