There is no greater lesson in humanity than becoming a parent. My (almost) 3-year-old teaches me this time and time again.

Babies are born into this world crying and thrashing about. It is a sign of life. It’s the sound a mother longs to hear, especially when she’s been in labor for 14 hours. But at some point within those first two years of life, that raging cry that once melted our hearts and brought tears to our eyes makes us want to rip our hair out (and GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT)!

Recently, while trying to temper a tantrum, a line we know so well popped into my head, “Love is patient, love is kind.” In that moment, I realized that patience and kindness go far beyond how we treat our spouse and should be included in how we raise our children, too.

I stopped my nearly-flared temper, took a deep breath and began to speak very softly. I even unclenched my teeth and forced a smile. I was patient. I was kind. Applying that simple principle, I was able to quickly and calmly diffuse the situation and determine why she was so upset. I then reminded myself, that at Eleanor’s age, it’s still easier to cry and scream than to actually use her words to express herself. The lesson was clear: at my age, I need to use my words instead of scream as well.

I’ve been called many things in my life, but patient is not one of them. Some days I believe that God gave me children for me to work on that. (I hear ya loud and clear, Lord!) It’s a constant struggle, and I fail regularly. The trials and tribulations of parenthood test me daily. I used to think I’d be “tough.” If I said, “NO” just firmly enough, my kids would stop dead in their tracks. My kids would never do this, never do that.

For instance, my kid would never be one of those 5-year-old’s you see in the grocery store sucking a pacifier. Nope. Instead, I ended up with a thumb sucker. (Eating my words on that one! It’s a lot easier to take away a pacifier than to remove a thumb.) We’ve been working on breaking her of that habit. As such, I bought some of that nasty, bitter polish for nail biting and thumb sucking cessation. One evening, after bath time, I painted her thumb with the clear, bitter polish. I told her what it was for, she smiled and said very confidently, “I don’t want to suck my thumb.” The evening progressed and I noticed that every time she came close to putting her thumb in her mouth, she’d twirl her hair or squeeze her favorite monkey. But moments after putting her in bed, I heard the shrillest of wails bouncing through the hallway. She ran out into the living room, softly sobbing, “Mommmyyyyy, I need to thuck my thumb. My thumb, Mommy. I neeeed it.”

I jumped up to console her and brought her into the bathroom, removed the bitter polish and washed her hands over and over again. Then, I literally stuck her thumb in my mouth and sucked it to make sure all of the bitter was gone.

I put her back in bed, read her favorite story again, coddled her and apologized profusely. We agreed that it was okay to suck her thumb at bedtime. My heart was broken; for I had saddened my baby so. I’d tried to be tough. There are probably volumes of research that support why a child may “need” to suck their thumb, which of course are placed right alongside every volume of research that scores of dentists have compiled stating why it’s so bad.

I walked out of Eleanor’s room that night and I cried. My daughter had taught me such a lesson in humility. It wasn’t about being tough, being right or “winning.” It was about being the type of parent she needed. It was about being tender and understanding and saying, “I’m sorry.”

We both realized that mommies make mistakes, but not love. Love is patient, love is kind. Love never fails.


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