My Children Are Real People

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?”

“Mom, Mom!”

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.


  1. Amen, dear friend. How I long for God to graciously “shut off other concerns” as you said and enable me to tune in wholeheartedly to my sweet little ones. Their joys and concerns ARE so big to them, and by His grace, they’re becoming bigger to me too. But I want more of that. I don’t want to be that mom either–and God’s grace is the only way to avoid it. Amen again! Thanks for another iron-sharpening post.

    • Johanna says:

      Yes, I find that too. When I take the time to be interested, I become genuinely interested.

      As they say: Act the way you want to feel, and eventually you start feeling that way!

  2. Ugh. I agree that I don’t want to be that mom but so many times I am. Thanks for your honesty.

  3. I think you’re being unfair to the other mom–and to yourself. Here are two loving moms who took the time for a family outing to the park. You’re both already giving generously of yourself to your children. Do you really have to give them every, single moment?

    Distraction is a huge challenge of being a mom. And it’s hard to be mentally present all the time. But being a mom is such a gift of self that sometimes we need those moms of privacy and reflection. I don’t think there is any need to judge others or ourselves for taking a mini mental holiday. It’s those moments to ourselves, even if they only last a few seconds during a walk in the park, that give us the energy and strength to be there for our kids when they really need us.

    • Johanna says:

      I agree, Alison, that we don’t need to be with our children constantly. That is why I said they don’t need us every waking moment. In fact, taking breaks from our kids is very important (I have written about that before).

      But I am talking about when we put our kids interests and excitements as secondary and are not “all there.” I have no idea what that mom was going through. I almost included that, but adding in all the possible reasons was crowding out the main message of the post.

      I do not mean for this post to come across as judgmental to the other mom or to myself. Only a reminder to be present. That is where God’s grace comes in–grace to help me be present, and grace when I neglect to be present. That is, I hope, the spirit of the post!
      Thanks for your perspective!

  4. Oh, I so agree! It can be so hard to really focus and to turn off other distractions. I am not good with interruptions and being a mom involves a LOT of interruptions! :) When I am really involved in something that I need to focus on and think about, it is so hard to give the proper attention to whoever is wantint it!

    I also try to remember that when I see someone else such as the mom you saw, that I do not know what hard issues that person may be dealing with in their life. I don’t do nearly as well at this as I’d like too. Once again, I’m so thankful for grace!

    • Johanna says:

      Yes, I try to be very gracious to others, and I actually was to this mom as well. Unfortunately, I think this came across wrong…I didn’t mean to not show grace here. Just lessons I learned because I saw myself in it so much.

      • I think it is hard to always convey your meaning in print, because there is no tone or expression like when we are speaking!

        I didn’t mean to sound like I thought you weren’t gracious towards her. It was just a thought that came to me when reading about her!

  5. Heart convicting article…Especially when you’re tired from disciplining all day, it’s easy to check-out and not enjoy the sweet moments God gives.

  6. Oh! You hit such a nerve! My fussy baby is very fussy today, my mischievous little one is very mischievous. . . And yet the Lord has called me to them. I like your title. Real little people.

  7. I so know how you feel, and can relate with what you’re talking about. Beautiful post. They are real people, indeed.

  8. This is so good and so true Johanna…I love this.
    (but it also makes me sad).
    Our oldest daughter is closing-in-on-twelve and is hitting that stage…
    How often I miss opportunities for good conversation because I am so distracted.
    I was just praying about that last week when I realized we were in the market shopping for groceries and I wasn’t putting much effort into a conversation she wanted to have. I know I would never treat a friend that way.
    I’m her mama first, but I also want our friendship to grow…and that takes MUCH nurturing and effort and taking the time needed to dig into her world and let her know I want (SO want) to be and stay apart of it.
    And so…I will talk about which American Girl doll is my favorite… again.

    • Johanna says:

      OH, I love this illustration! I actually just had a similar conversation about this with my husband. We would never just ignore a friend who was standing next to us talking, and yet so often I ignore my kids. Sometimes I just need a good dose of kindness, and remember to treat my children like I would want to be treated.

  9. Thank you for such a thought-provoking post. I pray that was not the normal interaction between that mother and daughter. That would be incredibly sad for both of them.

    I think we are all “that mom” at one time or another. Life is very loud. Even my distractions get interrupted. I pray daily for God to help me with my priorities and to help me be plugged into the needs of my husband and children despite the other pulls on my time and energy. Being really present in the moment doesn’t just happen. It’s definitely a big part of living intentionally.

    • Johanna says:

      “Life is very loud.” — So true! I think that is why this is something we have to work on even more in this generation. So many things to interrupt. I agree, it is all part of intentional living. Thanks for the comment.

  10. Beautiful and touching! Thank you for sharing.

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