Mother Holding Child's HandAll relationships go through seasons – friendship, sibling, marriage, and parent-child.  I realized today that I am now in the season of not only loving my children, but liking them as well.  With some of my kids, the ‘not liking’ season was short.  With some of my kids, the ‘liking’ season has been a very long time in coming.

I think all parents, if we are honest about our true feelings, have times when we simply don’t enjoy being with our kids.  Now for me, I don’t enjoy being with any of my children on Friday night.  That is when I am worn-out from a long week of being a homeschool mom and farmwife, and am ready to be my husband’s girlfriend for our Friday night date!  This is a 4-6 hour time period when I don’t want to be around my kids so I can get a break, enjoy having my husband all to myself, and be refreshed for the same routine in the week to come.  Frankly, our weekly date night keeps our ‘liking’ season going.  If we don’t have this time alone together, neither one of us is very likeable, nor do we like each other much.  We love each other, but liking has to be worked at.

The season of ‘not liking’ kids I am talking about is much longer than a few hours weekly.  It might be for one of those ‘teen’ years, like 14 for sons, or 15 for daughters.  You know, when nothing you say is respected, let alone obeyed, and the eye-rolling look seems to have permanently replaced the ‘rise up and call mom blessed’ look.  I have had those seasons with all of my children that are over 12.  Thankfully, that season passes when they spend more time away from home than at home.  Whether at college, or on their own as a working adult, they learn that their parents are indeed the wisest, most kind, most patient, most brilliant in the world, since they now know a whole bunch of unlikeable people who were not parented with New Testament love and forgiveness, and Old Testament commandments and discipline.  I got an email from my 19 y.o. this week that said “Thanks for everything and believing in me.”  Well, she gets it, finally!

With some of my adopted kids, I have had a very, very long season of ‘not liking’ that started way before the teen years, and continued for many years.  In fact, I think those years actually had 730 days, and the days had 48 hours, because the days and years seemed to drag on and on.  Honestly, at times, they were a complete nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from because I was awake while having the nightmare!  Death, destruction, and running away seemed to be the only answers, and those were my answers – from a capable, Christian, joyful, loving, optimistic, patient, smart mom!  Thankfully time heals all wounds, and the Lord walks us through those horrible, awful, want-to-forget-them-completely times.

Yesterday, while waiting in the car with one of these kids I didn’t like for a long, long time, something wonderful happened.  We actually enjoyed ourselves, just the two of us together, listening to music, talking about not very important, and also some very important things.  We were relaxed, we loved each other, and we liked each other!  It was mutual – I know this because I actually got eye contact without rolling eyeballs, smiles, and complete sentence answers.

Today, while working outside on one of our farm gardens, another one of these kids I also didn’t like – for even a longer time – was so enjoyable to be with!  We worked together, got our job done, did it well, had fun laughing at weird things (like deep holes in the ground that probably housed a disgusting varmit), and enjoyed talking about upcoming family events.  We liked each other!

Last Sunday, I sat in the fellowship dining hall during the service with one of my pre-teen kids.  This kiddo is going through some things that she can’t verbalize.  Her behavior tells of the sorrow:  overly bossy, manipulative, bed wetting, angry outbursts, and running to her dad and I nearly knocking us over as she grabs on to us and holds tightly in a hug for a looooonnnnngggggg time.  Once done, she sits in our lap and snuggles, wordless, until she looks at us with a smile and runs off again to be busy with something in her world.  Sitting with her, as I have been doing for a number of weeks since I discovered – actually God showed me in a moment of my desperation – that she needed this time alone with mom for nearly an hour every week, I realized I liked her.  It had been a couple of years since I felt that way.  Wow, that is an honest thing to say!  I loved her, but I didn’t like her sometimes, in fact for most of the time in an average day.

Anyway, my point is, that if we are faithful to ‘feed My sheep’ as the Lord commands us, He is faithful in giving us a heart to shepherd them.  A heart that not only loves them, but likes them.  My heart, being conformed to the Savior’s everyday, and letting Him mold it everyday the rest of my life, not only helps me unconditionally love my challenging children, but helps me learn to like them for who He created them to be.  Parenting is a lot easier, fun, interesting, and rewarding when we like the children we will be parenting the rest of our lives.

The conundrum is that the children who are the least likable, are the ones that need the most time with parents one-on-one.  The challenge is to put the parent-child relationship ahead of all other pleasurable activities that one certainly ‘likes’ more than the unlikeable child.  That is where seeking the Lord, trusting in Him, relying on Him for every breathing minute of your day comes in to play.  I need to remember that, and practice it purposefully.  I have found that if I want to do something I like to do, doing that with the child I don’t really like, helps us have a relationship that grows from unconditionally loving each other, to absolutely liking each other.  Just as 15 minutes daily practice of a foreign language, math facts, or a musical instrument helps you become very knowledgeable about that subject over the years, so too is relationship parenting.  Just 10-20 minutes of focused time, each and nearly every day, makes a difference through the years.  Eventually, the Loving Season, also becomes the Liking Season.