I remember when my son was little. Oh, I remember so many things!
I remember when he was a newborn and his crying went from squalling to actual tears filling his eyes and running down his precious cheeks. Those tears nearly did me in—for a long time, every time they flowed my own eyes overflowed as well.
I remember when he was a toddler and he loved his trains. I remember sitting and watching his toy train with him, holding hands with our fingers intertwined, just sitting and watching and feeling so filled up and perfectly in harmony it was impossible to imagine a more beautiful place to be or feeling to feel.
I remember when he was a preschooler, the first time he shouted at me in anger and how we both were so taken aback by it we stopped, stunned in our tracks, and we cried together and made amends.
I remember the wrestling, the hugs, the training runs, the late night snuggles. I remember the butterfly kisses and the stories read together and the seemingly endless fart jokes (his) and the seemingly endless eye rolls (mine).
And I remember yesterday, when my nine year old boy came to me again and asked for something he wants—to download a particular video game that I have prohibited—and again I said no. We talked.
I heard him:
-The minimum age recommendation say nine, and I’m nine!
-All my friends play this game.
-Most kids get to play for hours every day!
-I wish you didn’t care so much about my brain.
-Why do we have to serve God? Why can’t we just have fun?
Oh my dear son. I heard him. I ached with him. His eyes brimmed with tears and, just like when he was an infant, it prompted my eyes to do the same. There is no pain so deep as pain endured alone. I saw my boy struggling, saw him wrestling with warring motivations and desires. Who among us has not felt the strain of internal conflict? I cannot keep my kids from the struggle, but I can accompany them in the fray.
So I spoke. Carefully I tread on fragile ground:
-I know your friends get to play a lot more than you do. I know that’s hard, and I’m so sorry.
-When you get to be an adult you can make these decisions for yourself. Until then, it’s my job and Daddy’s job to enforce guidelines to help you be healthy and wise.
-In our family, we honor the Lord. That means we need to say no to things that dishonor Him or encourage us to sin, even if they look fun.
-I love you too much to sacrifice your long-term health for short term pleasure. You are worth more than that to me.
-I know you hate this. I need you to trust me. I love you.
He heard me and he hated every word. He heard me and the tears flowed freely and he sat on my lap and then he had to excuse himself to go to his room. He couldn’t abide my company any longer. Not in that moment of raw disappointment. How awful it feels to want something so so badly, and realize that there’s just no getting it.
I watched him go.
Growing up is hard. So is watching our kids wrestle and squirm and push their way through it.
Half an hour later my boy was back. I was making dinner, running out the door to get his sister to an appointment, distracted. He stopped me with a hug.
“I’m sorry I got mad earlier. I want to make things right.”
My mind buckled at his words. Such maturity. Such grace. Such forgiveness for the offense of denying his heart’s desire. This is my boy.
I hugged him fiercely, held him and wished I never had to let go.
“You know I love you,” I said. Part question, part statement. Is there really any doubt in his mind?
“I know,” he said. “I love you too.”
And I know he does. This boy who despises my rules but craves my hugs, who rails against my boundaries but whispers secrets and holds my hand in his dark room at bedtime. This boy who carries my heart with him through every rebellious thought or playground mishap. This boy.