I was recently in a swimming pool with my nearly-3-year-old daughter, Scarlett, at a Christian conference. There were 2 other mums there in the pool with their kids and they were all were queuing to go down a small crocodile slide. The other kids went down the slide into the water with great enthusiasm and much splashing, and the mums stood nearby cheering them on. When it came to Scarlett's turn, despite loving it the last time we were there, now she had an audience she wasn't so keen and she froze at the top. As we were being observed by the other mums, I was slightly embarrassed by Scarlett's reticence, and was a little irritated by her demands that I stand at the bottom to catch her. I did stand at the bottom as she asked but unfortunately I fumbled the catch and she went under the water and came up in quite a panic! The poor child was freaked out and made a great fuss in my arms as I tried to calm her down. In my embarrassment, I scalded her for being so silly, feeling self-conscious that the other mums had witnessed my child's pathetic attempt at coming down the slide!
Looking back at it now, I feel bad that I ridiculed Scarlett in order to save face in front of the others mums. In my head I was thinking that the incident surely showed them that I was a 'bad mum' because I hadn't nurtured water-confidence in my child! My impatient and embarrassed response revealed that, through Scarlett, I wanted their acceptance and approval when that's exactly what I should have given to Scarlett when she needed it most at her time of vulnerability. I felt my failure as a mum and I made Scarlett bear the brunt of it. Surely if I was a 'good mum', I'd have spent more time teaching Scarlett water skills? But even if that is so, (and its ok with me if it is - we can't all be good at everything), the incident made me really think about my acceptance of my child. Am I only going to show her love when she makes me proud by impressing other people? That's a road I really don't want to go down!
As a mother I feel I should unconditionally accept my child. In reality, however, in the heat of the moment, I was embarrassed by her poor performance in the water, and so I was sad to discover my acceptance was actually based on her performance and it wasn't so unconditional after all! I know it was only a minor incident, but it did make me resolve to never place my need for approval from others over my child's need for approval from me. That means, some time in the future I am going to have to put aside my insecurities and vanities and maybe feel the disapproval or disappointment of others in order to encourage my struggling child. Am I willing to make that sacrifice?
The incident also made me think about my perception of God. My reaction in the pool was a bad one, therefore it wasn't a response that God would have. It opened my eyes to realise that maybe I feel that God is ashamed of me when I don't 'measure up', but actually I think God has used the experience to reveal to me a little more of His compassion and unconditional love for me, and therefore the unconditional love I need to have of others inspite of their weaknesses too.
This passage comes to mind:
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
Matthew 7 v 9-12.