Discpline is Love

As the mother of a toddler, conversations seem to arise in the strangest places. Like in the refrigerator. Yes, you read that right—in the refrigerator.

When the words spout from my motherly blowhole, I immediately realize I never thought I’d say them. Yet, they slide down my tongue and through my lips like they’ve been greased and ready to go for lifetimes:

“Marie, we don’t put food between our toes.”

“Marie, take the cheese off your head.”

“Marie, we don’t stand in the refrigerator.” (The little girl sits down as though she understands.) “No, Marie, we don’t sit in the refrigerator either.”

“Marie, you must be patient. What does it look like to be patient?”

Like her mother, that last one is a sure-fire way to set her off.

But most days, she obeys my wishes, wagging her tiny forefinger the way I must. “Noooo,” she says, understanding her wrongdoing and repeating the word we’ve both become pros at.

On the other days—when she’s particularly proud of the slice of Swiss in her hair or totally fed up with waiting—she puts up more of a fight. She arches her back until her face is red and tear-streaked. Her lungs barely take in enough air to fill themselves up. She chokes on her own struggles. She disobeys until it looks like she’ll die for the cause.

As a parent, it’s one of the most difficult parts of my vocation to recognize an offense, handle it appropriately and explain the infraction (and the reparations) to a two-year-old.

But I do my best to tackle the task. Each and every time. On any given day. At any given time. During any given event.

After all, even now—and especially now—she is learning right from wrong, and I would be doing her an unloving disservice if I didn’t help guide the way consistently.

Discipline is love, even if it doesn’t feel good to give it.

Calmly, in words she’ll understand, I try to explain what she did wrong and what she should do next time.

Then at some point, the tears evaporate from her cheeks, she hiccups on a receding sob and rubs her chest to say “I’m sorry.”

My heart overflows with love for the small girl and I pat my thighs, inviting her to come sit on my lap. Then I swallow her in my arms, letting her rest there until her breathing returns to normal.

“Mama,” she says into my chest, throwing her arms around my neck.

It’s what she wanted all along, I realize—to be near to me. To be reconciled.

I look down at that bloated face covered in salty streaks and wonder how many times I’ve appeared that way in front of my own Father. How many slices of cheese have I fought to keep on my head?

Looking at my past—and even my present—I can almost hear His rebukes.

“Kelsey, you must be forgiving.”

“Kelsey, you must trust Me.”

“Kelsey, you must be patient. What does it look like to be patient?”

Even now, those words make me cringe. Patience? Forgiveness? Trust?

Already, I can see the fight coming. I can feel my lungs shrink as air pulses rapidly from them. Heat rises to my cheeks. I have no words, just screams that make my limbs flail.

I’m the spitting image of my toddler.

Yet even now—and especially now—I’m learning right from wrong. It would be an unloving disservice if I was not shown the way.

Discipline is love, even when being corrected stings.

It usually takes me longer than Marie, but eventually my fists stop flying and the tears evaporate from my cheeks. I hiccup on a receding sob.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper.

God pats His thighs and I crawl up, grateful for a Father who always has room for me on His lap.

It’s what I needed all along—to be near to Him. To be corrected then reconciled.

And to be made better because of it.

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