It was just an everyday nap time.

It had been a crazy morning of managing a cranky newborn and repeatedly chastising my toddler for touching things that she wasn’t supposed to, clawing at my knees, or disturbing my efforts to soothe her newborn sister to sleep.

As my toddler drank her pre-nap time milk on my lap in her room upstairs I cuddled her close as tears welled up in my exhausted eyes. She was already getting so big. Time was passing so fast.

When she finished her milk I set it aside and looked into her innocent bright blue eyes. “I’m sorry mommy didn’t pay much attention to you this morning,” I sincerely told her. “I’m going to try to do better.” She stared up at me with an attentive and wide-eyed expression. My eyes blinked back a sheer layer of tears. “Thank you for being mommy’s helper with the baby. I know it’s hard with how much attention mommy has to give the baby. You’re being so patient. You’re such a good helper.”

She stared up at me with a soft expression on her sweet little almost-two-year-old face. “Yeah,” she quietly replied.

“Mommy loves you SO much,” I said as I pulled her a little bit closer. “Mommy will always love you.”

There was no verbal reply this time. She just curled herself tightly into my chest and cuddled with me for several long minutes.

The tears now flowed quietly out of my eyes.

My daughter was not a cuddly little girl and I felt her affection deeply in that moment. She was emotional as she let me set her in her crib and I prayed with her before I closed the door for her to drift off to sleep. The chaos of the morning faded as I blinked back the tears from my eyes.

Moments later I sat downstairs, in perhaps the first silence of the day, and it struck me.

I am my young child’s primary example of love.

It’s easy in these toddler years to get caught up in my efforts to love my child through training and disciplining. It’s easy for me to become easily irritated at her erratic behavior and to chastise her for all of her mischief.

Discipline is an oh so important part of showing my toddler love (that’s a topic for another time!), but it struck me that afternoon as I choked back my tears that my child also desperately needs to know my affection.

She seems so grown up as she uses her words, eats adult food, and entertains herself. But my sweet little almost-two-year-old girl has only been on this earth for a few short years. What she knows and understands in this world is colored in large part by her days with me.

I love her with a deeply affectionate love, but does she see my affection in the midst of my training? Does she know my care in the midst of the discipline?

You see we are loved by a Father above who puts up with more than just tantrums and whines. He disciplines us, yes, and that is an important part of love. Our blinded flesh certainly needs His correction. However, even more than His necessary discipline God shows us His deep deep affection – He died a brutal death in our stead. He laid down his very life so that we can live forever in bliss with him. He gave up everything for our unmerited gain.

I want my daughter to understand the unconditional depths of God’s love for her. I want her to walk intimately through life with Him. In these early days, in these formative years, she learns to know love as it’s shown her by me.

I want to mirror to my sweet daughter the love of Christ so she can understand better His compassionate care for her. I want to point my daughter to her Savior even before she can understand the whole truth of His saving grace. I want my discipline to help her see her sin and I want my affection to help her see God’s compassionate care.

So my prayer looking back on that day early this week, is Father help me to show my daughter affection. Help me to train my daughter well and discipline her to honor you. However, help me also to model for her what deep affection looks like. Help me to show her what love looks like in its full form so she can embrace YOUR love with deep understanding.

Father help me to train my children well, but help me also to show them my affection.