Labeling vs. Loving

The last couple weeks, something's happened. Something good.

Amidst all the stresses of the last few months... sickness... bizarre infections stemming from those sicknesses... an unexpected move... a few trips to the ER (one just two days ago with my littlest guy!)... general exhaustion from being pregnant... unpacking our house... getting geared up for another baby... dealing with heat without a/c... and whatever else life normally puts on our plates, I realized recently that I was just surviving through each day. Not to say I didn't enjoy my kids... and not to say I was a complete grump... but my tone got really firm and jaded (this was helpful for that), my plans took precedence over being responsive or spontaneous, and somewhere along the way, I became highly susceptible to annoyance and provocation.

But the last few weeks, after taking a break from our school work (they were ahead anyway), and having a nice family vacation (it was so needed and so enjoyable), and intentionally trying to just love them, I noticed something-- I AM falling back in love with my kids. And they're wonderful little people. Hilarious. Quirky. Curious. Fun to be around. Interesting. Interested. Precious. All these months, I was just surviving, and just barely getting by, when I could have been enjoying them, laughing with them, and spending time serving and loving them.Last night, as I was reflecting on this change in perspective, I realized it was as if, in my mind, I had stamped each child with a label of their worst behavior. Just like that game show from a few years back- "you ARE the weakest link"... I had stamped each child in my mind: "you ARE whiny and dramatic." "You ARE mischievous and trouble-prone." "You ARE prone to emotional, irrational displays of temper." Now-- I need to clarify-- that's not an accurate picture ofmy kids. It's perhaps an accurate description, sometimes, of some of their worst moments. But in my view, they had become entwined with those things, and I sat ready to pounce on those behaviors, the moment I saw them crop up. Anytime I saw those things, it fed my perception and fueled my anger. And you know what else? Even in the moments when they were just acting normal, that perception colored nearly all of my interactions with them.

Instead, what I've started trying to do in recent weeks is to focus on the 1 Corinthians 13 passage as I reflect on how to interact with my kiddos:
  • Am I patient with them?
  • Am I kind to them?
  • Do I show envy or boasting about them or towards them?
  • Do I demand my own way all the time, or do I say "yes" to them when I can?
  • Do I rejoice in their sin?
  • Do I keep score of their wrongs? (like my "stamping" I talked about earlier!)
  • Do I delight in the truth?
  • Do I bear difficult things graciously?
  • Am I hopeful in my interactions with them? Do I teach them to hope in God?
  • Do I choose to believe them, or am I suspicious and distrustful?
  • Do I endure in difficult times, or will I fail them by giving up and giving in to my own selfishness?
I'm trying to focus on loving them, and the more I do, the more that I find that my love for them grows. So I'm gonna keep working on it. Cause they're worth it. They're awesome little people. And I want to love them more.

{End note: I debated about whether or not to share this; it feels so personal. I love my children and am so thankful for each one of them... but I wanted to encourage other moms-- that we all get stuck in ruts sometimes, that stress can rob us of joy, and that we can "get our groove back" in relationships that are wonky. We don't have to settle into a bad habit and just assume that "that's the way our relationship is now". We can choose to love. As Christians, we MUST choose to love. And when we do, joy and delight come.}


Katie (gregswife03) said...

Jess, thank you so much for sharing this. Why have I never viewed my children through 1Cor.13?! I'm grateful that the Holy Spirit lead you to post this, and I look forward to how He will use it in my life.

melissa said...

THANK YOU so much for posting this! This is exactly what I needed to read today. I've felt the same way with my two little guys.

I just mentioned to my husband that I just don't feel joyful in my role as a mom, not as I would expect to. I like the way that you ask questions of yourself using 1 Cor. 13. I'm going to copy that down and use it, too! Thanks, too, for the link to cultivating a kind/gentle tone. I'm off to read that now, too. :)

Becky Smith said...

Thanks for sharing Jess! I think you're right- sometimes life, and all of it's stresses, gets us to the point where the little things our kids do turn into big things, and since we're stressed anyway, we take it out on them..... it's a vicious circle!

And in my experience- sometimes it is hard to enjoy your kids. Not always. But sometimes you (or I anyway) have to make an active decision to delight in them. Sometimes it's harder to do that than others (like when they've cut their own hair, say).

This is one of those things that I think moms, especially Christian moms, and ESPECIALLY Christian stay at home moms feel so guilty thinking this, let alone talking about it (or heavens- blogging about it!)

If we get it out in the open, understand how it effects us and our kids and talk about actionable steps, not only does it let other moms know they aren't crazy or horrible, it mights help make us aware of a behavior before it gets too deep or too bad.

So thanks again for sharing your heart!

Jamie said...

HI Jess,

thank you for "putting yourself out there". I needed to read your words today... I see myself labeling more than one ought to, and it is always based on "feelings" rather than reality. Thank you for sharing your heart.


Anonymous said...

Love this, Jess. I feel the same way in some months of life... it's so hard to keep fresh perspective-- I'm glad you shared!

Jessica B. said...

I really appreciate that you did choose to share this. I think I am also guilty of "stamping" my children too as you put it, but I hadn't ever thought about it that way. I do enjoy my children, but I know I can grow in my love for them and tenderness towards them... etc.
So thanks for encouraging me to holiness and convicting me of sin!

Candice said...

Jess--I am so glad you shared this. I completely understand and have experienced the 'stamping' of one or two particular children, and need to guard against it creeping up. Your words are always so encouraging to me. Press on, Sister! :)

Jessica said...

Thank you, thank you for posting this. It is to a T what I have been struggling with as well!

I think as Christian mothers much of what we struggle with is common to man..or woman that is. :)

I appreciate your blog and your honesty!!

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU FOR SHARING!! Sometimes I feel like the only one who gets really annoyed at my kids and I often I have trouble figuring out how to change (obviously the Spirit works to change us). I love the questions that I can use to measure my heart and work to enjoy my children more (even when I'm really tired and vacuum the living room seemingly 15 times a day!)

Marci Goodwin said...

So glad you shared this! It is what I needed today! I am in a season of labeling instead of enjoying and nurturing and loving. I need to move out of this season and fall in love with my kids again. Love this post!

Amanda said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I definitely feel like I just "survive" a lot of the time. I have a feeling I will be reading this post over and over again, especially once my husband deploys and I am doing everything on my own for several months.

Candra Georgi said...

This was so timely for me. Thank you for sharing!

Candra Georgi said...

This was so timely for me. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Thanks Jess! I so needed to hear this today. My girlfriend and I were just having a conversation about how we tend to label our kids to much this way and how we needed to start just enjoying them for who they are.

BTW - do you have a way to subscribe via email? I didn't see one and just wanted to double check! :)

Ashley said...

exactly what i needed to hear. been suffering from the exact same thing during the last months of this pregnancy and even wondered at one point if i would ever feel, toward one of them, the same way i used to feel about him. i'm so glad you decided to share. i'm ready and getting closer to being back to my "fun self" again, i noticed today. each baby is such an adjustment for everyone, especially mom, i think.

Jennifer said...

Great post! I am SO completely guilty of the labeling thing. I didn't realize it until I read your post, but I do react based on their label. Thanks for sharing in honesty.


Jess Connell said...

Well, I'm glad I decided to share. :)

Chelsey- I don't know if you can subscribe by e-mail or not. If you look in your browser's address window, there may be a little orange square with some white curved lines on it... click on that and see if it gives you any options for subscribing in different ways. There are ways with google readers, bloglines, etc... but if you don't use one of those blog readers, I'm not sure about the e-mail thing.

Sorry I can't be more help.

Unknown said...

I love this, and I'm not even a mom yet!
Such a good attitude check for even when I'm baby sitting!

Merri said...

Just adding another thanks to the list. Sounds like you have hit on something here. I have been reading your blog and appreciate your transparency and the value you place on the Word. It is one of the few blogs I really consider.

Mary said...

I enjoyed your post. I do feel this carries over to many aspects of our lives, not just our children. We can include our marriages, our friends, even our general, the life that God gave to us. No grudges, no complaints, with the love of our lives, and the gifts that have been given to us.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you did decide to share this, thank you! It's something I am really struggling with right now and I'm grateful for the inspiration.


Kate said...

Jess, I've been meaning to tell you that I was thrilled when you started blogging again. I appreciate your transparency. It is so easy to read blogs and think these ladies have it all together. I find very refreshing when people who are like me (ie, sinners saved by grace) share where they're struggling and how by the work of Jesus are learning to have victory.

I really needed to hear this today. Thanks for sharing.

Polly said...

Great post! I HIGHLY recommend the books of Sally Clarkson, if you haven't read her, for encouragement on this point!!

Susan @ Heart Pondering said...

Love this post and concur with the others and their enthusiasm for your return to blogging, at least occasional. I for one will take what I can get - I always appreciate your vision, humility, and wisdom.

I love this post and its focus on HOW we are to love our kids as moms. I recently posted on mother's love - a different but related topic - at

Thanks again Jess-

Elspeth said...

Hey, Jess, I'm going to link to this today!

It's very inspiring and what's more, training ourselves to "think on these things" will bless every relational area of our lives.

Good stuff!

Catherine R. said...

I think there are a lot of ladies who have been blessed by this vulnerability you shared : ) Sometimes I think the most encouraging thing to other people is to share weakness. I know especially for me - someone who feels like there is hardly anyone who has their act together *less* than me, it is comforting to see that strong people like you struggle.

Allison said...

I was encouraged by this post. So often I look at my toddler and see only a handful of energy (which this tired pregnant momma doesn't have)and a tantrum waiting to happen. Sometimes in weaker moments, I've even felt resentful toward him.

Yet then when those little eyes light up at the sight of me coming to get him from the church nursery, or his soft litle voice calls out, "MA-ma", I remember just what it is I love so much about him. He really is a fun little man. :)

Thank you for the reminder

Tina said...

This was one of the most timely blog posts I have ever read. Thank you, THANK YOU! I found myself begging God yesterday for help b/c I just didn't like one of my kids. I blogged about it and asked for prayers from my friends. One of my regularly read bloggers posted a link to you. I could barely finish her post I was so excited to come over here and read what you had to say. Which was, EXACTLY, COMPLETELY and TOTALLY what I needed to hear.

It's the first day of summer vacation and maybe I'm not dreading it as much as I was!

Di said...

Thank you xxx

Ruby said...

Thanks for sharing this, even though it is personal. I feel that I fall into this pattern with my kids as well...thinking of them as "the whiney one", "the angry one", "the drama queen", "the troublemaker", & "the baby" (she's not naughty yet!). I know I don't live up to the agape love that is talked about in 1 Corinthians 13...far from it! I can't do it without the Lord, but so often I don't even ask for his help. This is a great reminder to seek Him for wisdom, strength, & empowerment to do His will, & also to really see & be thankful for the children that He has blessed me with!

darci said...

jess!!! first of all congratulations. i am so excited baby #5 is on the way! (i have obviously been mia for awhile). yay!! and i love love getting back into reading your post, al lof them. this is a gem...i have so been in this same rut, just tired, getting thru the days until bedtime..where did the joy go? the last couple of days school has been chucked, the house ahs stayed slightly messy, and we've been just hanging out. what a gift to be reminded of what treasures we are given for such a short time. blessings! darci :)

on the eastern journey said...

I cannot stop thinking about this post and how you have found the words I was looking for to describe my own season.

Catie said...

Great post, Jess! :) What a great reminder for me! Love your new look, btw!

Ruth MacC said...

I love this post! My son is 12 now and he is changing. I find it hard sometimes to see him growing up and wonder at all the changes that seem to be coming. I put on a home video of him when he was seven and it really helped me! I remembered that he loves me so much and just wants a bit of fun and security while he is changing.

Gina said...

Thank you. I needed to read this today!
You are a blessing!

Stephaine said...

Thank you SO much for posting this. For almost 2 years now I have been dealing with the same thing with my oldest daughter. This line "Even in the moments when they were just acting normal, that perception colored nearly all of my interactions with them" is an accurate description of how I interact with her on a daily basis. In the last week, God has been convicting me so much of this and speaking to me through His Word and through some posts on Nancy Leigh Demoss' website. My almost 4 year old is incredibly bright, sweet, and full of life, but my attitude toward her and being so focused on the behavior that I don't like has turned me into (like you said) a firm and jaded momma. I see her as if she is always at her worst and constantly feel irritated at her worst behaviors, even though she is not always behaving badly. I hate being like that. And I feel so at loss to change it now that we've been interacting like that for almost 2 years (since my youngest was born). This week has been so much better. Realizing that I can't really love anyone, not even my own kids or husband, except through the power of the Holy Spirit working through me, has been a humbling and view changing experience.

Anonymous said...

Funny I should read this...I just started browsing through your blog a few days ago from LAF's articles. I'm really enjoying it. I am due in a few days for our 5th child, and just a week or so ago I too read 1 Cor 13 and had similar thoughts about how I was behaving with my children. Being pregnant with 4 kids at home can sometimes be so draining. I labelled them too and was just hating my reactions. Knowing it displeased the Lord.

Glad you posted this...just a confirmation to me to take captive those thoughts and to continue down this road of love and true charity towards my sweet children. By the way, I also have 3 boys and 1 girl so far :)

Your blog is very encouraging for me. Thanks!