A recent conversation with my favourite little human was an incredible teaching point for me as an adult and as a prospective parent.
During one of my ‘catch up’ calls to my family, I noticed that my niece was not being obedient when asked to desist from doing something. I called her name sternly. She did not respond. I changed my tone to a gentler one and tried again. No answer. One more time. I even included endearing terms like, “Baby.” Still no response. Though irritated, I calmly said, “Well, when you’re ready to talk to me and when you’re ready to apologise for being rude to me by not answering, you can call me back.” My mother and I carried on our conversation.
Hours later, I had to make a second call home. My niece came on:
Sorry Auntie. Auntie I’m sorry.
Hi baby. What are you sorry for?
I’m sorry for not answering you when you were calling me.
It’s ok baby. I forgive you. But why weren’t you answering though?
(pause) Because…I was scared.
What were you scared of?
I knew you would be upset because I wasn’t listening. So I was scared. You were going to be upset with me.
(My heart breaking a little)…Baby, even if you’re doing something wrong, Auntie doesn’t ever want you to feel afraid of talking to her. You could always talk to me.
And if I correct you, it’s because I love you and I want to see you do well. You don’t have to be afraid, baby. You know Auntie loves you sooo much?
Ok, Auntie. Yes, I love you so much too.
There is much that could be be said, but here’s my simple offering. Sometimes the little humans in your life are just going to be rude. Plain and simple. They will test your patience. They will be defiant. They will even embarrass the pants off of you! Children are trying to find their way in the world and it is our responsibility and privilege to lovingly guide them to becoming responsible, caring and authentically helpful members of society. But sometimes, just sometimes, they’re not just being rude. Sometimes, they are just scared.
Fear is a powerful emotion. We’ve all felt afraid at some point; and when overcome by fear, when it drives us, we are influenced to do things we wouldn’t usually do when we are feeling safe. We lie, hide, cover up wrong doing, run away from God and other authority figures. And sometimes, we shut down.
Learning how to overcome fear – fear of disappointing others, fear of causing others pain, fear of being wrong, fear of being right – is one of the most valuable lessons we could ever learn.
I don’t condone rudeness and other forms of bad/inappropriate behaviour in my little human. BUT, I am a firm believer that we should also listen to children when they speak. Don’t decide that your children are behaving a certain way before you sit with them. If they can speak, sometimes they can give you great insight into their internal world that you cannot even find in a text book. I am often amazed at how emotionally intelligent my niece is at 5 years old. Listen to the little ones – they are wiser than you know!
I know that when we do something wrong, sometimes fear is an indicator of an awareness of that wrong doing. But instead of debilitating fear, I want my little ones to experience the safety I have come to experience in Christ. No matter what I have done, no matter how terrible, I know that my best option is to run to my Saviour rather than away from Him. I go to Him with all of my fears, shame and guilt. As He corrects me, He embraces me. He takes those emotions and replaces them with power, love and a sound mind, reminding me that I am His, reminding me that His love for me is everlasting and that it will always be unconditional.
I need the grace to remember this in the days and years to come.