“Mommy, will you tell us a story?” My three-year-old looked up at me, pleading. Her wispy hair lay fanned across a cotton pillowcase, and her eyes shone glossy in the lamplight.
“A story? Sure.” It was a typical bedtime request. My girls like to hear stories from my childhood, so I spin ordinary memories into fairy tales. They think this is fabulous entertainment.
“Once upon a time,” I launched into my standard opener, “there was a beautiful princess named Princess Becky. Every week, she went grocery shopping with her mom, Queen Nana. At the checkout aisle, Princess Becky was allowed to pick one treat. Sometimes she chose a candy bar, sometimes bubble gum, and it was always special because it was the only treat she got all week.”
“One treat?” My six-year-old daughter’s eyes bulged. “That’s all?”
“Oh, yes,” I nodded. “Just one a week. Princess Becky didn’t have chips and cookies in her house every day like we do.”
“Wow.” My daughter struggled to comprehend such hardship. Suddenly I thought of the two Hershey’s Kisses she ate that day, and the Oreo her sister gobbled after dinner. Plus the fruit snacks I gave them on the drive home from gymnastics, the suckers they got at the bank, and the vanilla cones we bought at our neighborhood drive-in last night.
Open our cupboards right now and you’ll find Sunchips, Cheez-Its, Raisinets, jelly beans, marshmallows, M&Ms and every variety of Goldfish made in America.
My mother never kept junk food in the house.
Am I spoiling my kids?
“Girls, maybe it’s time to start cutting back on the treats.”
“Nooooo! We like treats!”
“I like treats, too! But do you know what I like even better?” I tucked the blankets around their shoulders and kissed their cheeks. “I like you.”
“I love you, Mom,” my three-year-old whispered.
“I love you, too, Mom.” My six-year-old lifted her head a few inches off her pillow and reached for me. “Will you stay for a little bit?”
I caught fleeting thoughts of the dishes on the counter and the e-mails I’d planned to read. But I shoved them aside and snuggled on the bed between my girls.
“Okay. Just for a little bit.”
Maybe I could indulge my kids in less sugar. But there is one thing I refuse to ration.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1a)
Do you give love freely to your kids? What about forgiveness? And grace?
Understand that God does not skimp—he lavishes his love on us, his perfect, merciful, never-ending love. Did we earn it? Did we do all our chores and refrain from bickering and eat every green bean on our dinner plates? Usually not.
And yet he pours his great love into his children every day. So I want to do the same.
Yes, sometimes love means discipline, and sometimes it looks less like hugs and more like letting go. But however we express it, love should be the unlimited motivation for our every move in parenting, don’t you agree? I fail at this regularly. But I won’t be ashamed for making it my goal.
About those treats, however—I’m not too proud of that. So tonight I have a new story in mind.
“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Princess Becky. And her favorite snack was carrots and celery, yum!”
Sweet dreams, my girls. Mom loves you.