There it was again. The third time this week that the words, "You don't love me!" had come bursting out of his mouth.
It caught me off guard the first time he said it, and I remember casually responding with "Of course we love you. Don't say that."
But it happened again. And again. Always in the middle of a tantrum, always when he wasn't getting his way.
My husband and I thought we had a light bulb moment one day while discussing this new phrase coming out of our son's mouth. MAYBE we had created this false sense that "love" was supposed to have the end result of "feeling good", "being happy." We weren't shining light on the fact that love rebukes, love disciplines, love bears all things....you know, the stuff that doesn't always look OR feel good.
Aha! That MUST be it. That must be why he always says "You don't love me," when he's being asked to leave the table for poor manners, or when he's corrected for snatching a toy out of his brother's hand, or when he looses a special privilege because of his disobedience, (or even when he throws a fit because he has to wear shoes he doesn't like to school). He thinks love is supposed to work in his favor.
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only son. That whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life."
The very verse he had memorized the week before was going to be this momma's go to verse to solve this problem. I was going to open that Bible, explain how Jesus died on the cross because of His love for us...that it didn't feel good...it was painful and he was all alone, that it didn't make him happy...it brought darkness and separation from his Father. But it was all because He loved us and wanted a way for us to spend forever with Him in Heaven.
Yes, this sounded SO good in my mommy head. Share the Gospel AND get my son to stop accusing me that I don't love him when things aren't going his way. Win Win.
And then, the time came. Another, "You don't love me" moment right after dinner. I was armed. Bible in one hand, his hand in the other. It was time for the talk!
I opened my Bible. I could tell he was defensive. I felt the Lord leading me to ask. Ask how he was feeling. Ask why he said those things. Ask what was going on in his heart.
Eyes watering, he began to let the walls he had built up, crumble down, and right before my eyes I could see his broken little heart.
"Mommy, you think Weston and the babies are so cute. I'm not cute anymore. You think the babies are so smiley and you hold them all the time. You never hold me. You love them more because they are little and I'm not little like that anymore."
Tears flowed down my cheeks. My little boy was feeling unloved. And it broke my heart that I hadn't seen it before. This momma was going to fix it, and I put my Bible down.
"Can I hold you now, buddy?
Can I tell you about the love I have for you?
When the doctor placed you in my arms for the first time, I loved you more than I ever knew I could love somebody.
When you smiled and laughed for the first time, my love for you grew a little bit more.
When you said "I love you, Mommy," for the first time, my love for you grew.
When you would hold my hand while we snuggled on the couch, my love for you grew.
When you beat me, every time, at Toy Story matching, my love for you grew.
When you wrote me a note when you were supposed to be sleeping, my love for you grew.
When you became a big brother and held your baby brother and kissed him for the first time, my love for you grew.
When we danced cheek to cheek to your favorite songs, my love for you grew.
When you walked into your preschool class on the first day of school, my love for you grew.
When you prayed to Jesus for the first time, my love for you grew.
When you made new friends in your first week of Kindergarten, my love for you grew.
When you read your first book to me, my love for you grew.
And right now, as you told me how your heart really feels, my love for you grew even more.
You may not be as little as your brothers are anymore, but as you grow, my love for you grows too."
I could see the weight lifting from his heavy heart as I spoke those truths to him. I could see, in that moment, how being the "big brother" to 3 little brothers was the hardest thing this little boy has had to do. I could see how he just needed a mommy and a daddy to scoop him up in their arms, giggle with him, and smile down on him sometimes. He needed to sit in our laps and be carried sometimes. He needed to be touched, tickled, loved on, and praised. And even though I felt like I did these things often, it wasn't often enough for his little heart.
He needed to feel like he was still little, even though he was the big brother. And I need to see him as still being little, because soon, I will blink, and he won't be.
I realized after this conversation, that my son, who resembles me in every way (especially our sin struggles), had the very same love languages as my husband...Physical Touch & Quality Time. I realized that every, "In a minute," "Not right now," "Your too big for that," "Please don't hang on me," comment I had made was depleting his little love tank, slowly every day, until he couldn't take it anymore....and "You don't love me!" came bursting out.
I realized that it is so crucial to give my children space and freedom to be vulnerable. To ask questions, and not attack, not try and fix it "our way." As much as I believe in the power of the Word of God to help direct our children's hearts to truth, I also believe in the power of His Spirit within us, as parents, to minister to our children's hearts and meet them where they are in their times of need. And sometimes, what they need, is just to feel little.
Welcome to Dwelling Well Mom! I'm so glad you are here! I'm Christi, wife, mom of boys, Christ follower, picture taker, DIYer, chocolate eater, and coffee drinker. Born and raised a Florida girl, now braving the mountains of Boone, NC, I'm on a journey to find peace in the midst of my mundane. Join me!