A post from the archives. I originally wrote the following in June, 2013.
I heard the declaration from about ten feet behind me, a plaintive little voice desperate to be heard.
"I don't like you very much right now. Just so you know."
I continued running.
"I don't like you as much as I used to. Mommy! Just so you know I don't like you right now."
I continued running. I thought about responding. Debated in my head about whether to say something or just let him vent.
One of the girls piped up from the entourage behind me. "Mommy, Gabe said he doesn't like you very much right now."
So I answered. "I heard him honey. Don't worry, I can hear it all."
I continued running. Behind me, they continued scootering and bike riding. It was quiet for the length of a front yard or two.
"I don't know if I'm going to like you again as much as I used to."
OK, I thought. He's thinking this through.
"I probably will. But I don't know."
I couldn't help but smile.
"Did you hear me Mommy? I don't know if I'm going to like you as much as I used to."
"I did hear you Gabe. I appreciate you being so honest with me. I sure hope you like me again."
"Well I said I probably will, I just don't know."
"Yeah, I hear you. We're having a bit of a rough patch right now aren't we?"
"Yeah. I don't know how I'll feel when we get home. I think I might see if you'll let me watch a show."
It made me smile. "Thanks for the heads up on that."
We continued in silence for a little bit longer. And then he inched his bicycle a few feet closer to me, so we were side by side, me running, he riding.
"I want to hold your hand Mommy. It's OK. I know how to ride my bike with one hand."
I reached out my hot hand and he grabbed it in his own and we made our way down the sidewalk. A few houses later it was clear the rough patch was behind us. All four of us--Gabe, the girls, and I--made our way home on smooth ground. When we got home I asked, and Gabe assured me he liked me again. Just as much as before.
It all reminded me. Reminded me that I'm not here to be my kids' friend. I'm not here to indulge their desires or cave to their whims (I fell out of Gabe's good graces when he rode beyond my vision and I told him for the rest of the ride he had to stay behind me). I am not here to make them happy, though of course I hope they experience happiness along the way. I am here to provide safety, security, guidance, acceptance, and love. I am here to provide structure and responsibilities, to instill values and enforce boundaries. I am here to teach them they are beautiful, special, and unique, and yet their efforts in the world should aim not to claim that specialness and live in its glory, but to find it and draw it out in others. We do not need to impose our own value on others when we find it in the God who bestowed it on us to begin with.
It hurts sometimes, when Gabriel tells me he doesn't like me. But it helps to remember that, so far, he always comes back to liking me. Sometimes, in fact, I think he might like me even a little bit more than before. At least he knows it's safe to tell me what's on his mind. And at least I know he still likes to hold my hand.