I Don’t Care
“I. don’t. care,” I found myself saying the other day after one of my little darlings offered an explanation as to why he had hit his sister when he was mad at her.
“I don’t care why you thought that was a good or even an okay idea,” I told him. “I’m sure you don’t like that she messed with your Legos that way, and I get that; if I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t like it, either. But I’m looking at the bigger picture, and I. don’t. care. about the Lego thing. I care about how you handled it. You are not allowed to handle your irritation through hitting.”
I’m sure he’ll thank me for being a Big Picture Parent soon. Possibly tomorrow. Maybe even later today. Probably never.
I remembered saying the same thing a few days earlier when I’d corrected our daughter for some relatively minor thing and she talked back to me with full-on pre-teen sass – and she’s not a pre-teen yet – about how whatever she’d done was perfectly fine and shouldn’t have been corrected.
“I. don’t. care,” I said with a calm clarity, looking right into her eyes. “You weren’t in trouble before; I was just correcting you on one thing. But now that you have spoken to me with that tone of voice and that attitude, you are. I. don’t. care. whether you agree with me and my parenting or not; I answer to God for that, not you. I do care that you show love, kindness, and respect in your words and actions, especially to your elders. That’s the bigger picture here, and that’s what I’ll address now.”
She was thrilled, same as I would have been at her age. That’s been a couple of weeks now … surprised I haven’t received a handwritten ‘thank you for loving me well’ yet. It’s probably just delayed in the mail.
If we’re going to be worth our salt as parents, we have to get used to parenting from the perspective of “I don’t care.” Not the ugly kind of “I don’t care.” Not the ‘your feelings don’t matter” kind of “I don’t care.” Not the ‘you don’t matter to me and so I don’t care’ kind of “I don’t care.” God forbid. Literally.
No, I mean the kind of “I don’t care” that says, “I won’t be swayed by begging and pleading and nagging and trying to convince me that you never do wrong.” Parents have to know that kids do wrong because we are adults, and supposedly we know better, and yet we do wrong all the time! And even more than that, we were kids once; we know full well that we did wrong and then tried to get out of punishment for it.
We have to see the bigger picture and parent by way of what matters in the long run – the character issues, the bringing kindness into the world, the looking out for others, the doing unto others what they’d like done unto them.
But except in the cases of severe depravity, we also live out “I don’t care” in parenting from another direction that looks a little more like this tenderness:
- A daughter is sad because someone has made fun of her looks, and we scoop her onto our lap and say, “I don’t care what anyone else says about your eyes / teeth / nose / hair / clothes, I think you are the most beautiful child in the world.”
- A son hears other kids talk about how easy a particular school subject is, one in which he has had great and prolonged struggles, and he feels permanently dumb. We hug him and say, “I don’t care whether you are the best math / science / reading / geography / history student ever or whether it is hard for you and you feel stupid because of it; I am proud of you and I love you with my whole heart no matter what. I will help you make sense of it all.”
In essence, we say, “I don’t care that you mess up / wish you looked different / wish you were smarter or faster or thinner or curvier or whatever else; you are precious to me, and you are mine.”
In all the best ways, that is a fundamental message of Christmas. God, our heavenly Father, is looking at us with all our excuses and all our justifications and all our history and baggage and Things That Bring Us Shame, and He sends down His Son in the form of a Babe in a manger as a big, sweeping, beautiful, loving way of saying, “I love you so much that I. don’t. care. I don’t care about what you have done or haven’t done. I don’t care about what you’ve said or left unsaid. My love for you doesn’t change. Never has, never will.”
Once we get that, once we really grasp that His love is constant and true, then we can address the hurts of the world that live around us … and let Him work through the hurts and sins that are within us. The fact that He loves us doesn’t give us a pass to act in odious ways that are harmful or hurtful to self or others; He is a loving God who detests sin.
But so many people walk around this world not grasping the truth of God’s love that this season is the right time for understanding that God is the ultimate Big Picture Parent, and yes He will address our sin, but the big picture He wants us to receive is that His love supersedes, engulfs, swallows the punishment we ought to receive for our sin. The proof? Just look at the Babe in the manger … and then look to see that grown Babe on the cross, the greatest “I don’t care what you’ve done; I love you enough to die for you” message of all time, for all the world.
And yes, for you. Specifically for you.
Merry Christmas, and Godspeed.