"Muh...Muh..." My 16-month-old daughter, who we've affectionately nick-named "Sweet Pea", was pointing at the fridge. Favorite pink blanket wadded up in one arm, and the beloved stuffed Kitty in the other, hair all fuzzy with bedhead. She looked at me sleepily and said, "Peeeeeez?"
What a picture! I had no choice… how could I deny such cuteness? Of course she could have her morning milk. She melts my heart, but when she asks me like that, I'd be likely to give her the whole gallon if she wanted it!
My three-year-old loves his milk just as much, but learning to ask nicely has taken a lot more work. He used to throw a fit if it wasn't served to him (warm!), the second he opened his eyes! Now I get a sleepy grin from him, and I'm always glad to get his milk.
We mothers make efficiency such a priority that we totally pass over moments like my morning milk moment with my Sweet Pea. When our children bring their sweet, tender, trusting requests to us, why are we so prone to barking, "No, Mama's busy!" Their questions, needs, and wants are bothers to us, rather than opportunities. And why don't yesterday's mothering regrets inform and improve today? Day after day goes by. We want so badly to make room for our children in our day-to-day...and in our hearts. It just never quite happens the way it should.
I know how I want to respond. I want to listen to them. Answer them. CONNECT with them. But...what if they keep coming back and bugging me? Maybe it's just easier to hold them at bay.
It is....but it's not. Because I end up cheating myself out of all the good stuff.
The reward I get for answering their questions, really making time for them, is that they come back again. Not go away. Let me say that again. The reward for really listening to my kids IS THAT THEY WILL BE BACK. In about 4 seconds, if they're toddlers.
But really, if I could learn to bend that much, it would mean I'm generous. Available. Good. Kind. Fun. Listening. Plus, they'll like me! Not that I need my kids to verify my existence, but shouldn't moms want their kids to enjoy them? Doesn't every mother want to be like the woman on the Cheerios box who glories in all her motherhood as her children giggle, gaze adoringly at her, and wait for their bowl of cereal to be poured?
As an added benefit (No small thing, mind you!), all that whining, fussing, and complaining seems to melt away when I show interest. I'm glad to see them, so they're glad to see me! Simple. We all know the difference... between showing up at your best girlfriend's house and being greeted by shrieks and hugs...and showing up at a distant relative's house for a formality visit. Blech.
I noticed this pattern recently in a verse from the Psalms, the Bible's collection of poetry. The writer is dedicating a poem to God. In the beginning, he declares his love to God because God heard him and bailed him out of some problem. Later on, he says he's going to give something back to God for helping him out. Guess what it is? Calling on him AGAIN! Isn't that weird?
Here's the portion I'm describing. See for yourself:
I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. (Ps 116:1-2, 12-13)
Seemed weird to me. At first. Now it makes perfect sense. It's amazing to have someone call you a second time because they loved being around you. Why? Because it means...they think YOU are amazing! It's a compliment.
And a child compliments his or her mom when it’s safe to ask her for anything. Even small, silly things.
"Mommy, would you please fix my toy."
"Mommy, could I have water."
"Mommy, I would like to go outside."
"Mommy, look where I bumped my toe."
She can be trusted. She’s listening.
How often do I imagine God like a cranky, distracted mother! But that’s totally wrong. God not only hears. He invites, he welcomes, he urges us to approach him! The welcome sign he hangs out is his Son Jesus. Jesus was all for God's plan, even though it killed him. He described God's welcome in his own words so beautifully:
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:27-30)
God loves helping us out. He's never too busy or too important. And the only way we can pay him back is to ask...again and again. Because it means he's awesome and shows off his incredible love and generosity toward us, especially in sending Jesus for us.
I want to be a mother like that, don't you???