I have red, swollen scratches on my chest from Landon's kneading fingertips. He paws and pinches while he nurses. A baby kitten with drunken eyes half-shuttered, pushing against his mother's softness. Sometimes I pull his fist away to ease the sting. Sometimes I let him claw. His pushing is instinctual; my body, the cushion against which he can find his own strength.
But those inflamed lines don't really hurt me. They are fleeting and sweet. And Lauren's little-girl wildness doesn't hurt me. She is still learning to reign in that fire for life which most of us have controlled into something (sad) like respectable stoicism.
It's something else that's hurting me, and I feel powerless against it. It is the attitude of a beautiful six-year-old girl.
She is smack in the middle of childhood and there is so much to learn about life right now. About society. Friendship and respect and doubt. About allowing others to be different. And about trusting those around you to listen to simple words without devolving into demands to make yourself heard. About love.
Six is hard for Mia right now. Not every day; she is funny and smart and sweet in giant swaths and for days on end. But the hard parts are overpowering in their negativity. Part of it, I know, is just normal brain-stretch and soul-growth that every child travels through on the way to being big. (Isn't it? Please tell me it is...) But oh -- the other part? Seems inherent to this darling girl.
She is fierce. She is always right. She does not hear the rudeness in her voice, nor does she understand how it makes others feel -- about themselves and about her.
I could punish her into submission, but that would remove any spark of the beautiful strength that lies behind her force. I could command, matching her tone with an anger of my own, but that would fill her with conviction: to be heard, it's okay to yell and demand and control. I love her through it, but those moments of argument and stubbornness and anger -- they hurt.
And this, surely, must be what God feels for us. We rail and stomp or ignore completely, and the mother-heart of God listens. Hopes for our about-face. Understands that life is a maze of external and internal, choices and obligations, love and hate. Waits patiently while guiding us with an absolute fulfillment of love.
It hurts God, I'm sure. Watching us turn away from truth and towards self-satisfaction. Our mother God has birthed us into being and endured our scratching fingertips and set us into the world, where we must live and learn.
And right now, I'm trying to learn that my own mother-heart is filled enough with God's grace to extend it to my child. I can endure the fingernails that draw beads of blood over my heart. I can endure the pinching words and angry faces that are flung carelessly in my direction. I can embrace the beauty and accept the challenge.
Because I have a mother God who does the same for me. She endures my mess of disbelief and doubt and confusion, and sees the true me behind every expression of anger.
Mia's pushing is instinctual. So I will be her cushion. Firm enough to resist a few puncture marks, tender enough to absorb her fierceness, soft enough to give it back as love.
I will let her find her strength against me. But I will not be so overcome as to be paralyzed with hurt. I am tender, but I am not wilting.
And we will make it through this.
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