I happened to be close by when his little hand raised up to hit his brother. With my quick maternal reflexes, I reached out, grabbed his wrist before impact, and sternly said, “No.” Tears flooded his eyes. I did not let go.
Kneeling down to meet his gaze, I told my boy, “We do not hit. In this family, we do not hurt bodies.” And just like that, the rule was made. We value that God has made us in his image and we will not let our bodies be abused.
Over the years, many people have asked me if our four children fight. I tell them they argue. They disagree. They get angry. But physically fight? No. They do not. They have learned to live with the boundary that we established when they were young. Hitting is not OK.
It is easy to feel like certain parenting problems are just going to happen, no matter what. It is easy to feel powerless in the midst of daily situations, to shrug our shoulders and believe that’s just how kids are. But the truth is we have more say than we allow ourselves to believe. Taking the time to be intentional in our choices can help our families to develop in a way that is purposeful and planned. God has given us authority in our homes and we are called to yield that authority with love.
That first day, when I watched my son impulsively move to strike his brother, I knew it was not what I wanted. Not just because fighting is bad. Not because crying would ensue. Not because it was unfair. It was not what I wanted because I knew something they did not. I recognized that as they grew up, they would need each other. As they got older, they would share a relationship that would outlast what they have with me. That connection should be characterized by support, not conflict.
From that day forward, we told them the truth. They were born as gifts to each other. You do not want to hurt a gift. On good days and bad, when they agree and when they don’t, when they are sharing or snatching or laughing or crying, my boys are a gift from God to us and to one another. Today, they are teens and they still don’t fight. Every now and then, impulsivity will wash over them and one or the other will raise a hand. And then, a lifetime of lesson catches up to them. A look of shock on not one face, but two. They know the rule. And the rule still stands. In this family, we do not hurt bodies. We accept one another as gifts from God's hand.
As parents, we have a lot of decisions to make. Our choices help to form our families. As we choose, let’s remember that the people we live our lives with, our children, our spouses, those who fill our homes, they are gifts to us. In the midst of frustration and fury, in the laughter and lounging and longing and learning, there is blessing to be found. Let us follow the example of Jesus and "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you"(Ephesians 4:32). In our family, we want our words and our hands to honor what we have been given. Today and for years to come.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster