Monday, March 07, 2011

As a Mother Pityeth Her Children...

This phrase has come back to me several times over the past few days: "as a father pityeth his children, so the Lord pityeth them that fear Him; for He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust."  Or, as my sister & I memorized, 
"As a father has compassion on his children,
   so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him;
 for He knows how we are formed,
   He remembers that we are dust."
Every parent instinctively "pities," or "has compassion" for their child. You know the feeling-- your child comes to you with tears in his eyes, bruised and hurt either emotionally or physically, and whether he is two or twelve, your heart melts. You put your arms out and gather him into your arms, you kiss and sing (or at least wish you could) and assure "it will be all right."  You have compassion.  You care.  You want to take away their pain and help.  You care because you know them; you know what they've been through.  You know how little and frail they are; you know that they missed their bedtime, that they're afraid of spiders, and that they take your pillowcase to summer camp "because it smells like home."  You know their limits, and you understand.

Of course, we are totally inconsistent in our compassion, unlike our Heavenly Father.  How often do I get exasperated with my daughter instead of remembering that she is only one, and has no idea that I am trying to organize those bits of paper that she finds so fun to walk on.  Or how easy it is to be frustrated and short-tempered at her fussing instead of realizing that the poor child is hungry and doesn't have the words to tell me yet.  I've read two parenting articles lately that have reminded me to make compassion and patience my first response, to give my child my sympathy.

At the Relevant 2010 conference I attended back in October, Sally Clarkson was my favorite speaker.  She spoke with the weight of years of mothering and teaching behind her; she was a voice of quiet wisdom I instinctively felt I could trust.  She read a quote that I've often thought of:
How many parents there are … who are readier to provide playthings for their children than to share the delights of their children with those playthings; readier to set their children to knowledge-seeking, than to have a part in their children’s surprises and enjoyments of knowledge-attaining; readier to make good, as far as they can, all losses to their children, than to grieve with their children over those losses.  And what a loss of power to those parents as parents, is this lack of sympathy with their children as children.  (Henry Clay Trumbull, Hints on Child Training (1890))

Sally just recently wrote a blog post about this exact thing; about first attempting understanding & sympathy before disciplining.  I think the title is misleading, because as you read, you'll see that she isn't discouraging expecting immediate obedience or whole-hearted submission, but rather a quick, automatic, one-size-fits-all formulaic response to our children. 

Why do we tend to want quick-and-easy answers?  Well, sometimes it's laziness.  I just want to say something and have it happen, no work!  Other times it's idolizing of my plan, my vision for how I want to spend my day.  Or it can be that we've let having obedient children become the end rather than a means...a means of preparing them to obey Christ.  On that note, here is the second article regarding parenting, a commentary on the "Tiger Mom."

She touches on an antidote to all of the above-- laziness, pride, idolatry: thankfulness.  If I am in the position of thanking God for whatever comes from His hand, I will be far more gracious with my child!  If I see my children as gifts, and as even interruptions of my day as His severe mercy towards me, I am far more equipped to handle them with compassion.

For me, I've noticed that with Eowyn, kneeling in front of her and touching her face as I speak to her, telling her that "I know you wants to keep playing (or whatever), but that now it is time to do this," is far more effective and happy than simply demanding off-hand that she "stop that and come here."  Or, if it's time to leave her pacifier and blankie and move on past naptime, that having her drop them in her crib herself and wave, saying "bye-bye, bo-bo" tends to be tear-less.  In these small ways I'm trying to show her my compassion, my sympathy, my desire to make obedience as attractive to her as it is in reality.

Now... just think... the Lord is always compassionate like that with us!

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