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“You don’t always like your daughter, Ruth.” My mother’s words comforted me.
“Really? You mean it’s okay that I don’t like being around her?” I didn’t want to sound too hopeful. I could barely speak the fact in the first place. I didn’t really like being around my six year old. I felt wretched. I'd never met a kindergartner I didn't like. Until I met my own daughter.
“It’s normal,” my mom responded. “Nobody likes their kids all of the time.”
I hung up feeling a little better about myself. A smile tugged at the corner of my mouth as I replayed my mom's assurance that not only was it okay not to like my daughter for this particular faze, but it was normal and expected.
The spring in my step got a little heavy when I realized as my mom's only daughter, the only way she could have offered this assurance was...wait a minute...she was talking about me! You mean there were times in my life when she didn't like to be around me?
I wasn't always her pride and joy?
I wasn't always her top pick for company?
I wasn't always her favorite?
I paused, accepting this reality. The truth is, at some point you aren't going to like being around your kid. It could happen if they cry for the first eleven months of life. It could happen if they say "No" constantly as a toddler. It could happen if they sneak the skimpy clothes to a party. It could happen if they decide to quit piano or not play on the basketball team.
As a new mom, who waited so long to have kids, I never expected I wouldn't like them. I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought I was the worst mother in the history of time. I thought maybe there was a mistake. Maybe I wasn't cut out to be a momma after all.
My friend Deb, a mother to four adult children, confirmed my mom's stance. Deb also let me in on another part of the truth. "You don't always not like the same kid. Just because you don't like to be around her now, doesn't mean this will be true in a few weeks."
No matter how much I didn't enjoy being around my kindergarten daughter, I sill loved her. Through the clingy and the needy and the whiny, I loved her. And this was okay. It was okay to not like her, and still love her. More importantly, this is simply a reality of motherhood.
This is especially true when you adopt an older child. They have been marred and scraped by the world. The reality is they are often hard to like. Feeling guilty won't change this reality. It only zaps the energy you do have for loving them.
And love is always a choice. As a mom, as a wife, as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend, as a human, I get to make this choice each day throughout a thousand moments, in a thousand different ways. It's not based on what I feel, but on my commitment to chose love.
I read about God's commitment to the Israelites. If there was ever a group of children not to like, these whining, moaning, complaining people wondering in the wilderness would qualify. They were miserable to be around. Yet the Lord loved them. Among the many miracles, he sent manna and quail from heaven. Six days a week. For 40 years. The Iraelites weren't easy to like, but they were loved.
Sometimes our kids aren't easy to like, but they can be loved. I'm glad I made the choice to love the six year old daughter who I didn't like very much at the time. It turns out that she makes a rather remarkable twelve year old. Everyday she is a reminder that when we make the choice to love, we are given resources and sustenance straight from heaven. As remarkable as dew drying into bread, is the ability for the heart to chose love.