Our family was enjoying an evening picnic at the park. The noise of children and families surrounded us. Our own kids eating only a little food, between chasing butterflies, throwing balls, or just running freely. The perfect summer picnic.
Suddenly a scene arrested the attention of both my husband and me. A mom and daughter walking nearby holding hands. The mom staring ahead, obviously deep in thought. The daughter tugging on her arm like a little girl. But her body betrayed her. She was on the brink of young adulthood. An awkward time for any girl. Not always sure if you are a child or a young adult. Sometimes fluctuating between the two, faster than anyone has time to grasp. But for today anyway, she was clearly still a child.
“Mom, did you see what I did? Did you see me jumping on the rocks?”
The urgency of the daughter increased. And yet the mom was still deep in thought.
More tugging. More questions. And finally. Finally. A small shrug of the shoulders as the mother briefly came out of her reverie. Yes, she said.
The girl obviously wanted more, but new that was all she was going to get. With one last pull on her mom’s arm, she dashed off to the creek to jump more rocks.
I breathed out, just loud enough for my husband’s ears, “I hope I am never that mom.”
His response: “Pray for God’s grace.”
I have played that scene over and over in my mind. I can’t get rid of it. My heart aches for that daughter. Today she wants her mom to watch her play in the creek. Tomorrow, it might be a boyfriend. But will her mom listen? And will the daughter even want to share anymore? And then I ache for the mom.
I don’t want to be that mom.
But I am. Thousands of times a day. When my children call my name multiple times to get my attention, I am engrossed in an article. When my son places his hands on either side of my face to make sure I am really listening. When I neglect a teaching opportunity, because I either don’t want to make the effort, or worse, I failed to even notice the potential of the moment.
Habits die hard. And if today I am not taking interest in my children’s concerns or joys, I will not suddenly start doing it when the concerns are bigger. And the greater fear is that my children will no longer bother coming to me with their concerns.
Being a stay-at-home mom is a funny thing. The very fact that I am with my children 24/7 makes it easier for me to mentally check out. To be present in body, but not in spirit. To meet their physical needs, and not their emotional and spiritual needs.
My children don’t need me every waking moment. But they do need a mom that is present in mind and spirit. A mom that knows when to shut off other concerns, and tune into theirs. That knows when to quit worrying about the bills, so that I can enjoy the innocent laughter, and laugh right along with them. That knows when to shut out the outside world, and revel in the joys of a new found skill. That understands that these things are really big to little people. That understands that these are little people with hearts and emotions that are tenderly waking up to the world.
Today, I practice being genuinely interested, excited, and concerned right along with my children. I practice being present, body and mind. I practice being all there.
And how do I do it? I call on God’s grace. My children don’t need to earn my love. They don’t need to earn my attention either. I don’t keep track of whether I have had enough alone time, or enough couple time, or enough good, sweet behavior from my kids. No, I simply freely offer my love, concern for their concerns, and joy for their joys. Because that is what my heavenly Father gives me.