There’s a quote you see around the web about being careful how you talk to your children because they will remember the things you say to them. Anyone who has been a parent knows we don’t always say things perfectly. I have one of those children, actually more than one, who let me know when my words weren’t appreciated.
To whit, #1 Son, age about 5: “Mommy, I don’t think you should talk to me that way. I just got home from kindergarten.” He saw himself as being in the school bubble, doing his important work, and that bubble needed to be respected. His young mother, tired out dealing with the toddler in the household, lacked both reserves and reserve. I don’t think my impatience on that day scarred him. We had a good relationship, one of trust and love, and we withstood it. Well, I did. He’s 26. He can write about it someday if he wants.
I know there are other moments of parenting I don’t recall as shining. There have been heated discussions (that’s putting it nicely) with LP, probably well within the range of mother-daughter relationship norms.
But I hope I never said anything personally insulting as my mother did to me. It was apparent that she thought I was unattractive, not meeting the standards she had for me. I was heavier than she liked at times, and she did not hesitate to let me know this was unacceptable. It would give my husband a reason to cheat on me, she said.
I wish I could tell you that story is made up.
There’s another story that sticks in my head, my heart, my gut. In the two months before my wedding at age 22, I had been living at home preparing for the big event, eating almost nothing but salads and oranges. I looked good. I was slender enough to please anyone.
When the wedding pictures came, my mother named the thing I cannot help, my height. “Martha,” she said, “you look like a toadstool in the forest.”
I am still trying to unstick it.
Preparing yesterday’s sermon offered a reminder of the truth that no matter the facts of our appearance or abilities, we are created by God with purpose and possibilities. As my dear one frequently reminds me, in her preaching and in her life, we are all Beloved Children of God.
A few months ago, Young P came up for the Children’s message and asked, “Rev. Martha, can you baptize me?” She is 9 and a complete sweetheart. Yesterday was the day. I told people all last week I was as excited about this baptism as I had been about my own children’s. In the liturgy we speak of Christ’s own baptism, and the dove descending, and the voice from Heaven declaring, “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” In those moments, I felt the rush and the heat of the Spirit of God. I felt them in my short, imperfect body. It’s not a concept that applies only to other people. I, too, am a Beloved Child of God.
This is the way the Heavenly Parent speaks to us.
Maybe I can get that to stick, instead.
I hope Young P will always remember it, too. She is a Beloved Child of God, and God is most assuredly pleased with her.