“I love you too much to let you do that.” It’s my catchphrase. My go-to. My sanity-restoring answer to the chaos around me. Parenting is hard and, at times, it can feel like an impossible task. In an attempt to tame the “Mommy Monster” in me I have ingrained this phrase into my tired brain. While wrestling the wide range of emotions I feel throughout the course of a day home with my kids I can blurt it out through clenched teeth, with a pounding heart, or in a moment of calm, focused discipline.
I love you too much to let you throw a fit like that. I love you too much to have too many cookies instead of a healthy dinner. I love you too much to let you climb on the top of the swing set like that. After all, that is why we discipline in the first place, right? Love. What you’re really saying is “I love you too much to let you become anything less than your full potential.”
My kids are all under 5. Even as they age and the challenges of parenting grow and change as well, this phrase will ring true.
After one particularly hard bedtime, I sat down and wrote out this letter to my oldest daughter and every now and then I have to re-read it to help me remember why I fight this daily battle of the wills. I love her to much to give up.
You won’t understand this until you are much older. Tonight, as you lay in your bed crying for me to come tuck you in for the third time, I sat outside your door with tears in my eyes, praying you would fall asleep quickly. With all my heart I wanted to go in there and hold you and rock you to sleep like I did back when you still fit into my lap.
But I love you too much to do that.
I need to teach you something I wish wasn’t true: sometimes, love is tough. You’re a big girl now and all you were doing was stalling to put off an already too late bedtime. I sat outside your door listening to your tantrum, silently blaming myself for letting you stay up later than I should have. I entertained your stalling a little: making you a “sammich” you didn’t eat, refilling your water, leaning in to hear the secret you forgot to tell me as I reached your door. Finally, I had to put my foot down.
Can I tell YOU a secret? I hate when I have to do that. I want to give you everything that makes you happy. Every. Single. Thing.
But I can’t.
Life doesn’t work that way and I know you’re only three, but I want you to learn it from me in small steps rather than from life in one giant tidal wave. It’s the hardest thing I have ever had to do. When I discipline you, stop you, scold you, forbid you, what I’m really saying is “I love you too much to let you think that is ok.” I don’t like it, not one bit; but I love you too much to let that stop me.
Someday you’ll understand. Parenting is hard but it’s the most important job I’ll ever have.
I love you with all I have,
Parents, I know you’re tired, frustrated, angry, and downright exhausted. No matter what, do not give up. You CAN do this. Take a breath, take time to pray, take a nap, and then get up ready to guide, discipline, and love them all over again.
You could give in, give up, and just indulge them, that would be so much easier. It would feel better in the moment, create less headaches and definitely make you the coolest parent on the planet. You could let them grow up without discipline or life skills necessary for success, but we both know you love them too much to let that happen.
Parenting is hard, but it’s the most important job you’ll ever have.