Have you ever felt sick with worry about loving your kids equally?
I have. It has kept me up many nights; tossing and turning, wrestling to admit the simple fact that I just don't.
I have six children (three biological, three adopted). Each of them is unique and beautiful, but I have a confession to make about them: I don't love them all the same way. I didn't really feel the full gravity of this tension until I adopted, but even if I never adopted I'm positive it would've only been a matter of time before I felt it. I think most moms with multiple children eventually start to recognize the difference in the love for their children.
At times I feel like I'm doing okay with them all, at other times I feel like I'm causing more trauma than they've already had to endure.
Do you know what's harder than admitting the lack of love you have for your child? The inability to change it. I have spent a good portion of motherhood believing that I could, or should, strive to.
But, I simply cannot. I cannot change how my love is different for my kids.
I'm not talking about bonds. I'm not talking about the different parenting angles required for each individual child. I'm talking about something deeper. Something like the foundation bonds are built upon.
Before I ever saw my biological children's faces, I loved them. The connection between us began there in the nearness that we shared. It started on the inside and grew outward; always knowing the rhythm of each other's hearts. On this side of the womb, I can easily read their thoughts, feel what they feel and know exactly how their heart hurts before they even realize its aching.
It was different with my adopted children. I saw their faces before I ever loved them. The connection between us began there in the distance that separated us. It started on the outside and grew inward; an unknown rhythm beating between. On this side of adoption, I can easily see the bigger picture of how they are, discern what they need to flourish and make decisions readily for their good.
The love I have for each of my children all started with sacrifice; all were grown and birthed with pain, sweat, and tears, and all were fully realized at first embraces. My adopted children are no less my children than my biological ones. However, the love for them each all look and feel differently in the every day; and each one of them knows the lack.
For example, when dropping my three older girls off at camp this last week, I was very aware that my biological daughter was having anxiety about being away from home for the very first time. I kept looking in the review mirror at her, seeing her again as a baby; just that morning Facebook reminded me of the day she learned to sit up on her own for the first time. This camp experience was new for us both and I wanted to cry with her; my heart aching in the same way hers was.
We were over halfway to camp before I realized that my youngest adopted daughter was also nervous. I had assumed she was fine; her expression hadn't changed and she hadn't really given any inclination that she was struggling until her older sister voiced it. Instantly, I felt terrible for not realizing it sooner. Of course, this would be difficult for her. Being this was a first for her too and given her history, the anxiety of the unknown and missing her family was painted with different colors of worry. Her heart twisted in a different way than she couldn't even put words to. I wanted to cry for her as my heart ached with compassion; particularly about how my own insensitivity affected her.
I was broken over these two realities. The difference between crying with one child and for another. I was never so aware of the difference in my love for them than at that moment. I was broken over where I lacked in feeling for my youngest adopted daughter, and where I lacked in over-feeling for biological one.
This is exactly the place of tension I have lived in for the past two years being a mother to these six children. The conflicting difference of love for my kids; it's broken me over and over. Somehow I've believed I could love them all the same and as I've strived to, I've beat myself up along the way. Seeing my lack and wanting what's best, but being unable to give it to them. At times I've tried extra hard with my adopted kids, expecting something I can't create. Other times I've pulled away from my biological children in an attempt at fairness, not wanting to give cause for unnecessary tension. Then there's been times where I've been entirely apathetic about it all. I've felt shame and guilt, and I've wondered how severely my lack would affect them. But no matter hard I try, I can't change how I love them differently.
For so long I've believed the difference in my love was better or worse, but as I drove home that day God showed me that none was less than the other. The differences were all love; they all held great value...but, they all just lacked.
Just isn't a light word in love. It holds a severity that isn't to be dismissed; however, it holds a simplicity that frees.
There are blind spots in the love I have for my kids. The love I have for my biological children is a nearness; it sometimes leaves me struggling to sort out what's me, what's them and discern the best for their long-term well being. The love I have for my adopted children is overarching; it sometimes leaves me struggling to be sensitive and tender.
Both of these are good, but the lack of both is hurtful. Both are necessary for a complete picture of love, but both fall completely short of it.
I've been so focused on my own lack that I've missed what's right before my eyes; the beauty that's there in how short I fall. The severity and simplicity of just. It's because of what's missing in my love that a full picture of complete love is revealed.
Realizing how fully my love varies reveals a full measure of God's love that does not. My incomplete love reveals His perfectly complete love, and He is the one that faithfully holds the tension that I cannot.
The differences in my love for my kids are all reflections of God's love; but unlike mine, His does not lack in any one area. My varied love is not wrong, it's just incomplete.
I was never meant to fill the place of God in my children's lives. I can't save them by my love, nor will they be doomed by my lack of it. In fact, with my incomplete ways, I can point them to His complete love. I don't have to exhaust and guilt myself into trying to achieve a balance, because He already holds it. That's where grace comes in, for me and for them; grace that pours over us all and fills in all of the gaps.
My job as a mother isn't to love perfectly. My job is to pursue God's heart for my children and let His love shine through all the ways that I lack.
God's sufficient love is abundant where I'm weak with it. His love is wholly unconditional and perfectly complete. As a mother, I get to imperfectly reflect His perfect love to my children. My love as a mother isn't meant to be whole, it's meant to be an incomplete picture so that the gravity of His love is revealed to my children.
My love is impatient, it withholds, it wrongs, is unkind and even boasts at times; God's love is none of these things. My unconditional love is partial; God's love is complete.
If I rely on myself and my power to love fully, I get lost in guilt and failure. It becomes about me instead and ultimately I do the very thing I don't want to do and love less.
When I rely on Him and the power of His love, I find freedom and a renewed spirit to keep on loving imperfectly. When I rely on Him, His love shines through me to my children. His love is enough for us all.
The difference in which we love is where God is revealing Himself, to us and to our children. One cannot know complete love without knowing the lack first. He's using our lack to draw us close to His heart, saying, "I'm enough. I'm always enough for you."
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