Love Believes All Things
Once again, this phrase has several possible meanings, even beyond the broadness of all things. It could mean holding fast to the faith or it could having faith in what others think or say. Holding fast to the faith, referencing the Christian faith, is probably too broad of an understanding. More accurately, “believing all things” means to have an appropriate belief of and trust in other people, or even a controlled and patient acceptance of others.
Even beyond this, the applications toward motherhood and loving our children are endless.
Often, I have heard this applied as love believes, or assumes, the best about others. Even before our children are very old, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to judge motives or believe we are the sole understander of the heart behind actions. Particularly in young motherhood, parents sometimes don’t remember that their children do not yet have the emotional and physical makeup to express their emotions as we expect an adult would. In a parental eagerness to squash any sign of sin or rebellion, it can become easy to judge every action (or word) as sinful, rather than remembering that children may not even have the developmental physical or mental skills to even attempt what is being demanded of them.
Believe the Best of Children, Our Own and Others
I have read and heard discussed several times about how our American culture has a tendency to look at a small child and focus on all the difficulties that accompany these little years, and to see negative aspects as the chief characteristics of childhood. For example, in other regions, a mother in a store with little ones in tow may be approached by strangers and ask how they can help, even if a child is crying or having a fit. Here, it’s more common for others to shake their heads or assume a child will misbehave when we see a young mom accompanied by her children.
However, when we begin to assume the best of children we encounter, our paradigm slowly shifts and we can demonstrate love to both mothers and children. And as mothers, we can also choose to assume the best when we are wondering about what or child has done or said.
The Paradigm-Shifting Pinched Finger
Around two years ago, I was at the grocery store with my two daughters. For the most part, shopping with them has been a fun, enjoyable experience. (It’s the unloading, car-seat buckling, and bathroom trips that make it a challenge to me!) My oldest has always been safety conscious, and this trip I had her in a different cart than what was usually available, and didn’t have all the buckles fastened on her. She drew this to my attention, and asked if she could buckle it herself.
Moments later, the whole store heard a piercing cry. Within seconds, I saw that she had pinched her skin in the seat buckle, an experience that would be quite painful for even an adult. I am ashamed, though, that my initial reaction was more to try and quiet her crying than it was to make sure she was comforted and recovering from her pain. As I looked around the store, I assumed everyone would think I was a bad parent and that my child was crying because she couldn’t have something she wanted. Her crying quickly dissipated and a large blood blister formed in between her finger and thumb.
I am sure she’s forgotten about that moment, but it was a paradigm-shifting moment for me. I don’t like to hear my own children cry in public, and I certainly don’t like to hear other people’s kids crying, either. But it made me realize how much I assume the worst of my own children, as well as others. (And wasn’t I also assuming what others were assuming? :)) What if, when I hear a child crying in a store, I choose to demonstrate love, believing that the reason is not a failing parent or erring child? Or even if a child is “throwing a fit,” what if I assume he or she is overtired, hungry, or coming down with a sickness?
With Little Ones, Hindsight Is Often 20/20
With little ones, particularly ages four and under, often hindsight about a child’s reactions and behavior can explain things that in the heat of the moment cause us frustration and even anger. We often expect our children to be able to show no emotion or only cheerful emotion, even while they are not able to speak, walk, or even control bodily functions. Meanwhile, when we are in pain, we can retreat to a quiet room to rest, moan and groan, or help ourselves to pain relievers if desired. There are so many factors that can affect our little one’s temperaments — teething pain, upset tummy, extreme tiredness, hunger, and more.
If our immediate assumption is that they are being manipulative or purposefully spiteful rather than even evaluating potential disruptions, we are failing to love our children in this way. Even beyond that, so many of these issues are often our own fault or neglect, and yet we hold our children to a standard higher than we hold for ourselves. While boundaries are important even in the little years, it’s also important to remember our children are children.
How many times have we seen a friend’s posts (or our own) on social media about a child’s horrible, mysterious grumpiness one day, only to read they have been taken in for an earache, upset stomach, or other issue one or two days later. Sometimes the dots are connected afterwards, and other times, this pattern unfortunately repeats itself.
A fifteen-month old’s refusal to eat on demand may very well be his body reacting to the stomach bug he is coming down with, yet he has know way of communicating this. A two-year-old’s tantrum may very well be his visceral reaction to the pain threshold’s end when he’s undergoing an ear infection. And a five-year-old’s sulkiness and unprecedented tearfulness may be a result of the fear she has about an upcoming experience that she is nervous and fearful about, but isn’t able to express those abstract feelings.
To this end, we would be wise to examine whether our reactions are playing a role in exasperating or provoking our children to wrath.
And to us mamas who will at some point let our kids and ourselves down in this area (quite grieved myself at not giving my children much grace in a recent situation), God’s grace and love are deep and healing rivers. He can redeem even the greatest parenting failures, whether we feel we or our children are the reflections of it. Let’s believe the best of our children, other children, and even other parents who are in this journey together.
Others in this Series: