Even With the Smallest of Us

I have two sons. The older one is your quintessential responsible, law-following, parent-pleasing oldest child—a […]

Lauren R.E. Larkin / 4.16.15

I have two sons. The older one is your quintessential responsible, law-following, parent-pleasing oldest child—a budding Adam Braverman, if you will. The younger son is, well, the opposite; he’s a total scofflaw. My oldest is ready to leave the house ten minutes before it’s time to go; the younger we have to practically pin to the floor and put his shoes on for him. When I call for the boys, the oldest comes over to me quickly, the younger doesn’t, and claims he didn’t hear… Apparently my voice is of the same frequency and tone as Legos clicking together. My oldest does his homework and chores after school promptly; his brother, well, we have to push and pull, plead and beg, to get him to do each part of his homework.

blood_s1_003_hMy older son is devastated by any sign of displeasure in him, any failing of parental law; he can’t tolerate it in the least. He’s hyper-sensitive to judgment, in fact he fears it with such great intensity that he’d rather lie than tell us what he actually thinks about something. My younger son is a bull when it comes to our displeasure or the breaking of rules. He tends to go full steam ahead, pushing buttons and provoking us, grabbing the law by the horns and thrashing it about.

I used to think that my oldest son had to be treated with kid gloves when it comes to the law, but the younger needs a heavier hand—and boy, have I brought the law on that kid’s head. I would swoop in and affirm and comfort my oldest son while bringing harsher discipline and threats to my younger son, trying in effect to break him.

But I was wrong. My assumption was that my oldest son’s sensitivity to the law meant that he was more aware of its stature, while my younger son’s thumbing his nose meant that he didn’t care or respect our standards and, thus, needed more, heavier, stricter enforcement. But that assumption was wrong; 100%, no matter how you look at it, wrong. My younger son’s reaction to the law was the same as his brother’s, just manifested differently. While my oldest cowered under judgment, my younger son (metaphorically) flipped it the bird. But both kids are trying to silence the voice of condemnation of the law–one by trying to appease it, the other by rebelling against it.

It has become clear that what my younger son needs isn’t more law—no one needs more law—but more love. He needs his mother to look at him as he is gripping and pushing boundaries and say, “I love you now, right now.” He needs me to grab him mid-rebellion and hug him and tell him over and over again, “I love you; you can push all you want, I’m not going anywhere.” Like his older brother, he needs someone bigger and stronger than him to swoop in and comfort him, to help silence the voice of condemnation.


So that’s what I tried to do the other day. It was one of those moments where he was pushing and pushing and I was growing more and more frustrated, downright angry, practically seething. When he did that thing he knew—full well—he shouldn’t do, I stormed out into the backyard, grabbed him by the arm and got down, eye to eye with him. He looked at me with an anger all his own, pulling away slightly from my grip on his arm. Then, by the grace of God, the following words somehow came out of my mouth: “If you are doing bad things to get negative attention from me, you don’t have to because I love you so very much…right now.” Before I finished the words “right now” he had collapsed against me, face pressed into my belly, arms wrapped around my waist, weeping.

More law never silences the voice of condemnation we hear from the law; the law cannot silence itself. The only thing that can ever silence the voice of condemnation is the voice of unconditional, one-way, I-love-you-always-and-forever love. This is why Jesus came: to be for us and speak to us–mothers and sons alike–the final, irrevocable word of grace. As Jesus whispers to our troubled minds that we are fully and completely loved as is, right now, so we whisper to our children that same message. As it is with us, so it is even with the smallest of us.