“LOVE ME!”

Ramona Quimby, as I mentioned yesterday, is our current character of interest these days. At my insistence, we are taking a little break from the intensity of The Chronicles of Narnia. Following a child of a similar age to my own child, in circumstances which ring startlingly familiar, seems more up my alley than the battles of CS Lewis’ creation. {Although I will interject  that I came into the bathroom to get Alex out of the tub last night and the entire bath toy collection was waging a battle and our squeezy, bathtub toy lion–Aslan–was running the show.}

We finished up Ramona the Brave tonight and Alex enjoyed projecting himself into the world of first grade, along with Ramona. Bigger expectations, more social dramatics & sibling challenges. One of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the story occurs during an art lesson in Ramona’s class. They are making owls to have on display for Back-to-School night and Ramona is ecstatic to let her creativity and individualism shine through her creation. Sadly, this chance to bask in the glow of her work of art was cut short as a classmate, Susan, eyed Ramona’s owl and began to mimic the same elements on her own piece. As you can imagine, or might remember, Ramona loses it. She throws her own owl away. Stamps out of the classroom and later ruins Susan’s work, after it is held up in high esteem by her teacher, shown as a model to the whole class.

These events get back to Ramona’s parents during Back-to-School night and again on her progress report. Ramona collapses in anger, frustration and sadness and feels “less than” for the umpteenth time when compared against her “perfect” sister, Beezus.

She is broken in this moment. When pressed by her parents, who wonder what to do about Ramona, she cries, “LOVE ME!” Ramona’s own words surprise and shock her self. So much so that she buries her face in the pillow. But the truth has seeped out. The cry to be loved. The realization that in the midst of all the mistakes and bad reports and comments about her character, Ramona just wants to be loved.

I see so much of this in my eldest….and I know it is happening and will continue with my youngest. We all and crying out this same response, in fact, whether audibly or more subtlety. As I see teenage-like responses from my 5 1/2 year old, I wonder how best to love him. When we put boundaries on behavior, we often hear, “YOU DON’T LOVE ME!!!” in response. Despite the fact that kids unconsciously crave and need boundaries, in the moment of fences being erected and lines being drawn in the sand, it is NO FUN.

Some moments are filled with deep joy and thrill…

Others are times of experimentation—dressing up in Dad’s boots. Choosing to quiet oneself with art to “take a break”. Measuring spider webs.

Sometimes life just forces times of patience, waiting, observing & watching—and in spite of best efforts and intentions, that lollipop & sticker at the end of the rainbow doesn’t materialize.

And I am remembering for myself and also for my parenting, for my relationships and with those I encounter, really it boils down to this….we all are like Ramona. We hit the end of the line, the frayed rope, and deep down, everyone just wants to be loved. In different ways, the cry for love is the one foundational desire and motivation that fills every heart.

The storm that has hit the East Coast this week has brought deep devastation to so many. Hurricane Sandy packed a big punch and the region will be reeling, no doubt, for a long time to come. As I watch various reports, news pieces and interviews, this same desire, maybe with slightly altered words, is shouted, “LOVE ME!” “See us.” “Don’t forget our devastation.” “Don’t leave us here to fight this battle alone.”

Lord, show us how to do that day-to-day. Moment-by-moment. Show us the path of love when every other emotion and need competes for our attention. Help us love when things feel too big, too hopeless or too dark. Give us grace to see the need that lies below the surface, threatening to seep up—this cry for love.

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