‘Do you know what I like most about you, Cadell?’ I asked my 8-year-old, as I looked in his eyes.
‘What? My lego skills? My hugs?’ He replied. Eyes wide, hoping to get it right.
I shook my head.
’All of you, son. Good night.’

That’s been my thing this week with my three kids. It felt good to see my youngest boys face light up when I said ‘All of you.’. So I asked my 14-year-old girl the same question. ‘Do you know what I like most about you, Mia?’
‘All of you.’
‘Even when I fight with Willem?’

Dang, it! She caught me. I had just broken up a get-in-the-car-for-school argument two minutes beforehand. She knows I hate the petty bickering about seating. She can probably recite my mantra. “For goodness sake, we have an 8 seater van, and there are only three of you. Choose a darn seat!”

How do I answer this?

‘Yep. I like all of you. Even those arguing parts.’

Relieved and probably about as shocked as I was with my answer. Mia smiled, leaned forward and I kissed her on the forehead. ‘Have a good day at school, honey.’

When the car left the driveway, I was left with what had just happened. I started reflecting on the situation.

Do I really like those parts of my kid’s heart and persona that drive me nuts?
Should I have created a disclaimer before the question like, ‘Besides those things that are really annoying, painful, rude and harmful, do you know what I like most about you?’
Am I lying when I answer with ‘All of you?’

Then this surfaced. ‘Is this question more of a much-needed reminder to me, than it is the kids?’

Contrary to facepalm parenting moments, kids aren’t dumb. They know when adults aren’t impressed. Nearly all of us could recite many things we knew pissed our parents off, right? We knew the parts of us that we believed weren’t welcome in the home. We are all terribly familiar with shame. So we hide or defend those unacceptable parts – not because we’ve woken up to the fact that there ARE actually other seats in the car or that it may be easier to get along with siblings – but because those parts aren’t welcome. In fact, I wonder how many of us are seeking for a place those parts of us we believe are unacceptable, would be accepted.

As a parent, I think something radical happens in us when we make room, space and love for the unacceptable in others. That is, we make it for ourselves.

As a parent of 14 years. I think I’m finally waking up to the fact that this stage of life is as much about my maturity, as it is my kids. They’re learning what being a child is about, I’m learning about what parenting is about. And we’re all learning what it looks like to love and be loved, just as we are, for all of who we arenot just what we do or don’t do.

So let me encourage you to ask yourself an honest and terribly brave question for the next 7 days, and just see what happens. It may change the way you parent your kids. It may help you on your wholeness journey. Here’s the question, you might even find the courage to honestly answer it in the acceptable way you need to:

‘What do I like most about me?’

(Let me know how you go)

David Tensen