I like you, I like you, I like you just the way you are.
The first time I heard that sweet, simple melody my heart rose like a lump in my throat. I looked over at my three year old boy and saw that he heard it too. The catchy phrase was repeated over and over in that episode and each time it touched deeper and found a place that I had tried to work on, but wasn't having much success.
I started singing it to my boy. My cute, spirited and energetic three year old who can sometimes be found having outbursts that make my blood pressure and temper rise. My lively boy who, when hungry, tired, hot, bored or overstimulated can be found melting down. I imagine it's fairly normal for a three year old boy, but sometimes...sometimes I'm exhausted or overwhelmed or even embarrassed. Sometimes I can see my own inner heart in his tantrums and feel like I too, would like to throw myself on the ground and scream.
My nature is passionate. I can really love something and also really dislike it. I can be extremely happy and incredibly sad. Sometimes within minutes of each other.
I feel. Deeply.
I feel other people's feelings from across the room. I feel feelings they might not even be having or realize they are having. I can sense the tone in someone's voice when it's a little off or be hurt to my core when someone takes a bad day out on me. Even when I know it's not my fault, somehow I think it is. It's dysfunctional. But I'm working through that.
It's not a gift or anything. What could be empathy somehow takes advantage of me (or I take advantage of it?) and it can turn into some serious people pleasing and selfishness.
So, at my core, I am selfish. Like most people, I reckon, but here I am admitting it. And becoming a mom taught me that. Being a mom to Jack specifically taught me that.
When I heard Daniel Tiger sing "I like you just the way you." It hit me. It hit me hard. I looked over at my adorable three year old, took his little cheeks in my hands and kissed his nose. It became our anthem for a month and counting. I sang it before nap, I sang it before bed, I sang it randomly throughout the day and each time I'd search for his little eyes to remind him just how much I did love him, just the way he is. He gets it. He gets what it feels like to be in trouble for just being a kid, instead of for something he did. That reality breaks my heart. First borns do have it rough; they're somehow expected to measure up to this invisible standard that just floats around and is often that of an adult.
Every time I would vent about how embarrassed I was that he hit another kid or was having a meltdown my friend would gently, yet sternly, remind me. "He's three, Melanie. He is three. He's not ten. He's three."
And he is three. And beyond that, he is who he is and trying to have him fit into this mold that always finishes his dinner, loves to try new foods, doesn't have a binky, is completely potty trained, never interrupts when adults are talking and always obeys the first time might not be really practical at three. He'll get there. (or not. That's okay.) But for now, he's three. For now, we take each day as it comes and I choose to love him just the way he is. Even right after he disobeys or cries in the check out line. Even when the worries and stress of the day has me on overload and my selfish person just wants to take it out on someone, I choose to love him just the way he is. Of course this doesn't mean he doesn't have consequences for disobedient behavior, but rather it's about changing my heart attitude. Changing my mentality. Changing my tone and the words that come spewing out of my mouth.
As this mentality grew and as Jesus dove deeper into my heart with this truth I began to wonder. Do I believe Jesus loves me, just the way I am? Am I enough? Am I enough when I argue with my husband, struggle with the same worry that I have for the last four years and struggle with the need to control situations?
How can I let that kind of love come out of me onto my kids and onto my husband, when I don't believe it for myself?
As the week went on and as I sang the catchy tune to Jack, I began to accept it too. Accept that Jesus really loves me just the way I am. And if He can change the way I see my son, see parenting, see loving people truly unconditionally, then can He change other areas of me too?
Can He change the depths of my heart that have long been held captive by fear and worry and anxiety? Can He change that? Can He love me through that? Can He change my entire thought patterns that make me think I'm not strong enough to handle scary situations?
Will I let Him?
Jack and I's tender 3 year relationship needed this healing. Before we began a potential lifetime of labels and unnecessary frustration and lack of grace, I needed this song to stir my heart to see him through Christ's lens and not mine. Jesus doesn't just love our Jack, He likes him too. And that's at the core of most people's heart, to be liked. Being loved is great, but often an obligation, but liked is not a given, it's a privilege.
I long for him to know that his Jesus, who he is just beginning to learn about, loves him just the way He is. I long to truly believe that Jesus loves me just the way I am. Such a simple, elementary truth, but one that somehow I forget so quickly. I know I'm hard to love on days when I'm anxious or angry or tired. Especially hard to love just the way I am. And yet, He does. Somehow He can look past my outer core and search the depths of my heart and He still loves me. It's a mystery I will never, ever understand, but one I am learning to accept.
And He is patient with me and sings over me with His grace. He reminds me that every minute we have a new choice to change. A new opportunity after many failed attempts to trust and choose again. Through that He reminds me that He likes me, He likes me, just the way I am.