It was just another normal breakfast in the Royes home. I sat by the side of Joanna's highchair, instructing her to take bites of food, followed by sips of her milk. After a bite-too-big and a cough-too-loud, the breakfast in her belly came back out onto her tray.
As I wiped down the highchair and my child, I tried explaining to her the importance of not throwing up. The conversation went something like this:
Mommy: Sweetheart, it's important to keep the food in your belly. Do you understand?
Joanna: Yes, Mommy. Understand.
Mommy: Can you please try not to cough? When you cough, the food doesn't stay in your belly!
Joanna: Yes, Mommy. No coughing.
Mommy: And if the food doesn't stay in your belly, then you can't grow big and strong! Don't you want to grow big and strong?
I stopped what I was doing to look at her, puzzled. This daily-repeated conversation had taken an unexpected turn. She repeated her new battle cry several times, each time with increasing volume and resolve.
Joanna: NO, Mommy! No big and strong!!
She proceeded to cry, asking to be all done breakfast, despite my sad attempts to convince her that being big and strong was a GOOD thing-- much better than being 25 pounds for the rest of her life.
Rationalizing with a two-year-old hardly seems logical.
Half of my heart was saturated with annoyance. This isn't fun for me either, kid. But the other half of my heart was pricked at her sadness, at her desire to escape pain, rid herself of inconvenience, not realizing that she'd be sacrificing so much more in the future. And as her mother, with her future in full view, I must insist that mommy knows best, and she needs to eat. She'll thank me later.
I am my 2-year-old. Many days, I don't care about growing big and strong, I just want the hard work, the sadness, the tiresome tasks, to end. And the very things in this life that cause me pain, God has determined to mold and use so that I grow up "big and strong." He uses the things I would eagerly forgo if given the chance, to sanctify me, change me, sharpen me, humble me, grow me in grace, dependence, mercy, steadfastness.
Because He knows it's better. And He knows that I will thank Him later.
Sweet mothers and fathers -- thank you for serving your children, doing for them what is best, even when they despise you for it. You are growing them big and strong. You are caring for their future when they'd prefer to ignore it. You are imaging our faithful God who daily does this for us.
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