It was a surgeon’s scalpel phrase, applied itself to the wellspring of my heart – the source of my deepest value – relationship. Next to my husband, there is no one on earth I’d rather have that faithful, intimate connection with than my own children. And to think my position of “mom” was a wall rather than a bridge to that connection…arrggh.
They say it is part of the Independence Phase, like when she was a toddler and insisted on “I can do it myseff, aww by myseff.” I’m trying to remember the bittersweetness of that phase as we journey through the teen years – specifically the push and pull of tender toddler affection, tempestuous and mercurial. How my arms stayed open for the chance to hold her after playtime adventures, knowing eventually her battery would run low and she’d need a soft landing…or that a scraped knee would hasten her towards me for some TLC. Or, because I held the magic of reading, my lap was a welcome place for the effervescent bookworm. Cuddles and read-alouds were just manifestations of what she didn’t recognize at the time – unconditional love.
Her journey through toddler independence was applauded with such encouragement! Perhaps it was because we knew this was a natural step for her to take, and it would result in such wonderful opportunities – education, adventure, purpose…and relationships other than my own. Of course, we also knew that there were still years to bond with her – so many family vacations left to take, so many daily moments together….it was preposterous to think the push-pull would be permanently “PUSH.”
Perhaps the difference is that with teenagers is that the push-pull could possibly not resolve. We actually do not have years of bonding and daily connection guaranteed to counterbalance the push. Some things are similar – the hope that with this independence they have education, adventure, purpose, and other relationships as blessings. They may financially return to the nest, or practically need to return for lodging and food…but relationally they can take their hearts somewhere else. I think that is what is eating at the issue….a mother of teens realizes she could face the ultimate rejection. Not to mention the fear of being displaced – of having your child tell you “I do not prefer you. I do not trust you with who I am and what I feel/think/say/do. I can do it myself, all by myself.”
Parents can hold financial or practical carrots in front of their child to buy their time and attention. But I don’t know of any parent who is content to offer only those things – because those are just manifestations of what lies beneath….the unconditional LOVE…the yearning for relationship.
Today I am going to focus on that unconditional love as we step further down the path of the teen years. If I truly, unconditionally, love my child, that will not change if the flavor is push versus pull. I will want her best… and DO my best to mother her the way God designed me to. Regardless. And I will keep my arms open, just in case.
He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…Malachi 4:6