Inevitably there was a screaming match going on between the youngest one and his two older siblings as they took to the smoothie like a school of piranhas. I had a massive headache at the time and had watched the two older ones take sip after sip without letting the little guy get his head in there for a chance. This, of course, set him off.
(Before we go any further you should know, if you don't already, that two-year-olds of both genders have been blessed with the most piercing high-pitched wail known to man. If you happen to have a headache when the wail goes off it will instantly reduce you to a blubbering pile of goo on the floor.)
Tailgunner was getting his wail worked into a fine crescendo, so I stepped in before he did irreparable harm to my head. I had just told the two older ones to back off when Dr. Destructo swept in for one more shot of smoothie, setting off Tailgunner like an air raid alarm. I lost it.
Nailing my oldest boy to the floor with a look of death I began the roaring for which I am known (unfortunately) in my house. As I looked at him the most interesting thing took place. I could see from the look on his face that he was about to argue with me that it really was his turn at the smoothie. "Dad..." he began saying, but then he caught the expression on my face. His eyes widened and then his voice got very small and said: "Dad, I love you Dad."
His expression (undoubtedly one of self-preservation) took almost all the steam out of my boiler, but I was still too worked up to completely think through my response:
"I love you too son, but you have to be obedient."
I was irritated that he had been disobedient and because his actions were aggravating my headache. No doubt my son needed correction, however by putting that conditional "but" in the middle of my sentence I'm afraid that I communicated a very damaging message to my son. It no sooner came out of my mouth than I realized I had failed the test of that moment.
There are no "buts" when it comes to the love a parent has for their child. It is not conditional on their performance, they do not have to be constantly earning it and they should never feel that they are in danger of losing that love.
Could I re-do this moment I would have said "I love you too son, and because I love you I want you to learn to be obedient."
|"Dad, I love you Dad"|