“Mommy, who loves me?” This is a question my 3-year-old loves asking. He loves hearing from Mommy about how loved he is. So, I will start the list and he will help me rattle off who loves him. “Mommy, Daddy, Jesus, Nanny, Papa, Deb-Deb, Opa…” Sometimes he will throw a friend in there or a stuffed animal for good measure. It is simultaneously one of the most precious things ever and a window into the human heart. See, we all want to feel loved by those around us. We want to feel valued, important, and cherished. And as parents, I think one of our most important jobs (aside from sharing Jesus and faith with our kids) is making sure they feel loved.
The Desire To Feel Loved
I didn’t teach my son to ask me who loves him. It is something within him that he desires. He desires to know his worth and that he is so important to others…so loved. The only reason any of us love others or know love is because of the Lord. John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” The Lord loves us, breathed life into us, and his Spirit lives inside of us. And He died so that we may live forever with Him in Heaven. As a result of how He loves us, we know how to love. He models love for us. Can’t the same be said about our children? Our children will know love because of how we model God’s love for them. Thus, they will know love because of the love they feel us giving them.
Go Easy On Yourself As A Parent
It sounds so simple, but I often struggle with this. I tend to resort to black and white thinking in my head. “I yelled at my kids today. Will they hate me? Do they feel loved?” Or I take inventory of all of my interactions and say, “That was a pretty good day. I yelled only minimally, and I played legos with them for 30 minutes. They probably feel extra loved today.” But I know it doesn’t work like that. God does not teach us to quantify love and we can not do that with our children.
It is not the sum of all our actions, but an overall day-to-day effort. Our children don’t stay up at night weighing out their interactions with their parents and say, “We had 8 positive interactions and 4 negatives. We did okay.” No. They think about the fun they had, the times they laughed, the times they messed up and the times they were forgiven. They don’t know to hold grudges unless we teach them to, so we certainly shouldn’t hold a grudge against ourselves for the times we messed up.
Feel Loved And Forgiven
There is so much power in forgiveness. I think one of the greatest ways we can show our children love is by asking for forgiveness when we know we reacted emotionally. Whenever I lose my temper and overreact in anger I make it a point to apologize to my children. They aren’t perfect and neither am I. It is my job to model how to act in our imperfect human natures.
“Preach the Gospel at all times. And use words if necessary.” The quote is attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. He is reminding us to let our actions speak louder than our words. This is something we have heard from our parents time and time again. But it rings so true now that I am a parent myself. Love your kids through your hugs, laughter, apologies, forgiveness, and grace. It will all come out in the wash (and if you are like me, that’s a good two loads a day).