Bedtime seems to draw out the chatty side in my youngest son. We go through our ritual of PJs and toothbrushing, followed by reading the Bible with Dad and then prayers of gratitude for our day. Some nights we read a book. Dad says, “I love you,” tucks him in with a kiss and leaves the room. I sit on the edge of the bed, enjoying the experience of my son all snuggled under his blankets. Just before drifting off, the discussion begins.
Usually, the content isn’t light. Some nights he has asked deep theological questions like, “Mom, if God knew Satan was going to fall and bring sin into the world, why didn’t he just stop him?” Men debate these kinds of issues for years, well into graduate seminary. I don’t have pat answers. I listen to his thoughts and share mine, even when that includes the fact that I don’t know everything.
Reflecting on the Day
Tonight he started in about his piano recital. He missed a note. Honestly, he was adorable and the note was nothing. It mattered to him. I held my tongue as he said, “Mom, I hated my recital today.” I asked why and he told me about the missed note. My heart wanted to jump in and tell him, “It’s okay! No one cares about your missed note. They enjoyed the precious way you bowed after playing and the effort you put in to share your song and all the notes you got oh-so right.”
I restrained myself. I’ve missed notes before. Worse than that, I’ve botched things big time in situations where it mattered way more. The last thing I needed was someone telling me my missed note didn’t matter. I simply said, “It’s tough when we feel we are prepared and we think we’re going to nail something and then it doesn’t go as we had hoped.” He said, “yeah.” Then I added, “You know, I love you the same whether you miss notes or not. As a matter of fact, I’d love you if you never learned to play piano. I’d love you no matter what you did.” His response took me by surprise. “Really, mom? Would you really love me, even if I never did anything good and I did everything bad?” Whew.
How Do I Answer?
I paused and said, “I love you for who you are, not what you do. When we do good things with what God put in us, it is a joy and it blesses others. It is also a way to thank Him for the ability to use the gift or talent. But, God doesn’t love you more or less based on whether you use your gifts and I sure don’t either. I love you as much as I ever will. You can’t add more love to what I have for you”. His voice had a soft smile to it as he drowsily said, “Thanks, Mom.”
Loved As Is
I never knew my son had lurking ideas about whether he was loved for being instead of doing. Having grown up in a highly performance-oriented family where my talents and intelligence felt like my identity, I have worked hard to make sure my boys know my love is as unconditional as human love can be. I might not be pleased with their behavior at times, but I’m always on their team. My love doesn’t fluctuate with their moods or actions.
This conversation made me think about love and how easy it can be to assure a child of our commitment to them. I haven’t always been as intentional as I would like about stopping to listen so I can hear what is rattling around in my children’s heads. I’m so grateful that I sit on the edge of that bed every night and allow these many colored conversations to unfold between us. I know my children better because of the simple act of giving them my quiet, undivided attention.
A New Resolve
I left this conversation convinced I need to echo that message until it feels like his own thought.You are loved for who you are, not what you do. Nothing in the world can stop that love, change it, or diminish it. Click To Tweet
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