I turned off the car and slid out from behind the driver’s seat into our tiny garage. Inched towards Abby’s door and slid it open to reveal her cute, and definitely saucy, face. “No!” she shouted. “Shoes!”
No mommy I don’t want to get out. I took my shoes off. Get them.
I took a deep breath, one of about a hundred paused moments when I chose patience with my daughter that day. She’s not yet two, learning discipline. Obedience does not come naturally to this girl.
I breath, look into her eyes. I can feel the steel in mine. “Abby, don’t. yell. at. mommy. I will put your shoes on and then you have to get out of the car and stand by mommy. Okay?”
She puckers her lips at me. “No. Noooo!”
I don’t even know why she’s yelling at me but I can feel the disapproval in my eyes and the set of my jaw and she is looking, looking, looking at me. Something nudges and I look back over the day, the way I’ve been distracted, the terrible head-cold I’m fighting, the toad-like voice I’ve had to croak with all day long and I see, for a moment, what she must have been feeling. Have I even looked at her much today? Or have I simply rushed her through the routine?
Up, kiss, breakfast, mommy cries on phone to Aunty (is she happy with me?), clothes on, play on patio (where is mommy? cleaning kitchen), lunch of old hot dogs from freezer that taste bad, no ketchup, mommy keeps mentioning store but we never go, out the door to Hudson’s preschool, can’t stop to look at the doggy, can’t stop to look at the roses, can’t run into the street, can’t climb in van on brother’s side, can’t crawl around in the car, can’t go into the library, can’t can’t can’t. Back in the car, must go home so Stryder can sleep, mommy is rushing me.
It’s something about the look in her blue eyes that tips me off. Sure, she’s being naughty but I think I can see why. The past few days we’ve spent real time together, playing on the floor, naming things, counting, brushing hair. Hudson, Abby and I in their room together enjoying time spent together. It’s a resolution of mine to play more with my children. But it was a busy weekend and I came down with one doozy of a cold. Today Abby missed out on mommy time.
I pick up her little pink shoes from the van floor, taking my time. I don’t rush but I put them delicately back on each little foot. Before I loose her buckles I look closely into her eyes, let her feel my attention. I speak to her in a patient, slow voice. She begins to calm, melt into what I’m saying. She obeys immediately, coming to stand by me while I get Stryder out of the car, tries to help me carry the bag.
It’s like night and day. What she seems to need from me is… me.
I read somewhere that rushing hurts children (Anne Voskamp? or Kari?) and I can understand this. Who wants to be pushed around, rushed, because the place to be is more important? Is that how the little one feels?
So as I put on Abby’s shoes I resolved this: not to rush her, but to let my calm, my patience and my attention show her how important she is. And on the way back from the garage we stopped and looked at the roses. She pointed at an airplane, I let my steps slow. We sauntered along together, two girls and baby brother bundled up on mommy’s chest and we enjoyed just being together. Later on the couch, she held my hand.
I was reminded today that love is in the little things. It’s in the choices I make every day to prefer my children above myself, to listen as Brian tells me about what he’s learning in the ICU, to stoop and look into little eyes, put my work down to cuddle little bodies. Love is in these little actions.
All the great stories tell of mighty actions done in the name of love. But what of all the little actions that make up a life of love? The courtesy, patience, preference required to grow a love that endures? This is not the stuff of great stories. This is staying up late with a sick child. This is listening to little stories even though your ears are ringing and your head hurts and you have no energy. This is simply giving what my loved ones crave the most: my attention.
A favorite passage of mine from a book called A Severe Mercy says this,
“Whatever one of us asked the other to do–it was assumed the asker would weigh all consequences–the other would do. Thus one might wake the other in the night and ask for a cup of water; and the other would peacefully (and sleepily) fetch it. We, in fact, defined courtesy as ‘a cup of cold water in the night.’ And we considered it a very great courtesy to ask for the cup as well as to fetch it.” (p.39)
For quite a while now, Brian have used the phrase ‘a cup of cold water.’
“Brian, would you get me a cup of cold water?” *wink* He knows I don’t really want water, I usually mean a cup of tea. Or his might be, “Babe, would you please help me with this? A cup of cold water?”
In this way we prefer each other, acknowledge our parternship. He for me and I for him. There is no danger in preferring another before yourself when you are also preferred.
And so I am now resolving to remember this principle with my children. They need to know that I am with them because I love being with them and I love who they are, not just because some accident of biology tossed them in my lap. They will learn from me and their father that they are worth cherishing, they are not obstacles, they were and are our chosen occupation every single day.
The only authentic way to prove this is to live it. And the reason I know the power of being preferred is because those who love me have preferred me. Thank you.
And thank YOU for being here and reading, dear friends. I pray you are able to receive and give love in all the little things today.