I read somewhere that children love their parents because they are basically programmed to love their parents. I mean it makes sense, I suppose, from an evolutionary standpoint that children love their parents so that their parents will take care of them and so forth.
And something about this appealed to me at the time, being a cynical, wounded adult, reading these thoughts from another cynical, wounded adult.
But I realized today that they were really quite wrong.
Children love because it is their nature to love. They love because they were created in the image of God, and as little tiny people, not very long in this messed up world, that part of the image of God is still more or less intact. So my son loves me and he loves his daddy and he loves his puppies and he loves his kitties and he loves people who “get” babies and speak their language and he just… loves.
He doesn’t love me because of what I do, in his world, he loves me and I love him and of course I take care of him because I’m mama and that’s what mama’s do is take care of babies and I think it’s safe to say that it has never occurred to him that it can be otherwise.
Which is why I feel like dirt when I get frustrated with him, or rather, get frustrated that his needs, which are many as he is still very dependent on me (obviously!) completely block at times my ability to do what I need (like sleep!), and I get frustrated and he gets confused because he doesn’t understand, but then I feel better and he just goes right on loving me like nothing happened, and I feel more like dirt because I feel like I don’t deserve it.
And then it hit me as I was playing with him in his room after he woke up from his nap and he was warm and snuggly and sleepy and wanted me to chew on his teether and play with his favorite rattle.
Love is never earned. If you could earn it, deserve it, it wouldn’t be love, rather it would be something else. And if I operate with others feeling like I don’t deserve their love, then I also operate in fear that something I do will make them stop loving me, and then I live in a cycle of trying to always be perfect so as to earn the love of those I love, and yet, I don’t expect them to be perfect in order to love them.
They say that becoming a parent changes everything, but what I think those people missed when they said that was the fact that being a parent changes you profoundly. It doesn’t just shake up your life (it does) or cause you realize that sleep is over-rated (it’s not, but you really can function on far less than you think!), but if you listen to your baby, they will explain love to you in ways that you haven’t known since you were a baby.
If you listen to your baby, they will remind you of how God loves you.
And as he reached his favorite rattle toward me, to place it in my hands, I realized I’d cupped my right hand in my left and reached out, as though waiting for communion.
And I was.