Our morning walk was so fraught with tattling and tears, I wondered why we even bothered to leave the house. Pausing every half block to pull the 3-year-old out of the double stroller for smacking the 6-year-old, I certainly wasn’t getting any exercise, and no one was enjoying the fresh air. As I wiped off a cheese stick that was chucked overboard, they started a new round of squabbling. When an apple sauce pouch was launched overboard, I kicked both of them out of the stroller and told them not to speak again until it was only kind words coming out of their mouths.
“Be kind” was all over Instagram — on sweatshirts and coffee mugs, and anything else parents might buy. I had a sign in our playroom that said, “Throw kindness around like confetti!” and in my Etsy cart were matching t-shirts for my kids that read, “Boys will be kind humans,” instead of the status quo, Boys will be boys. More parents in my generation were warming to the importance of emotional intelligence, and I was on board. Raising mean or emotionally obtuse boys wasn’t a mark I wanted to leave on the next generation.
As we crested the final hill of that difficult walk to our picnic spot, my 6-year-old bent down to pick a dandelion and asked sincerely, “Mommy, do I have to be kind to Luke even when we’re grown ups?”
The thought of him not having a desire to be kind to his brother as an adult hit me in the stomach like a baseball bat. What was I doing wrong as a parent?
Lying awake that night I wondered if maybe my little boys weren’t entirely equipped. Kindness, I realized, isn’t an intrinsic characteristic you can just demand from a toddler. It’s something that flows from a secure heart. It’s possible that I was demanding from them, more than I was affirming in them.
Instead of snapping at them to naturally emit goodness, I decided to give them more understanding of how God created them uniquely in his image, loved so deeply, that goodness couldn’t help but flow from them.
As moms, without our own unwavering identity in Christ’s love for us, we aren’t that far off from a 3-year-old when we try to show kindness—confused and overwhelmed with “big feelings” that make it all so hard. And just like my 3-year-old needs daily reassurance, so too do we need that daily reminder from our heavenly parent. Every time my toddler starts something new, or has a new fear, I don’t think twice to reassure him at every whimper that he is safe, he is strong, and he is loved. Our God also doesn’t think twice about giving us our daily dose of security.
Only when my boys were covered safely with his love through my love, could I begin to expect they make the hard choice to show kindness over the easier, kneejerk reactions. Isn’t it beautiful the way he designed his image to unfold through motherhood and spread out into the world?
We enable our children to be kind through our affirming love of them, and we are enabled to love them through his affirming love for us. And when all the mirrors in your home reflect his image, you can’t help but throw kindness around like confetti.