It was a beautiful day in north Phoenix. In MAY. That’s saying something. Sometimes, May can melt your socks. But this particular late morning was mid-80′s, sunny and breezy. My husband was setting up lounge chairs and misters, and I was trying to get the kids set up with snacks and toys, content, and playing together happily, so that dad and i could chill and enjoy the weather.
If you’ve ever spent time with small children, you are laughing right now. I got the snack, they wanted a drink; while i was getting the drink, the snack got spilled; while i was getting more snack, a fight broke out. Then we needed more toys. Then we needed this chair over here, then we need more water in the bucket, then less water in the bucket, then there’s another fight, then somebody has to go to the potty, then we need more snacks…you know. It’s never ending.
I’ve always resented, just a bit, that while my husband certainly does his part in the getting and fetching and disciplinary functions of parenthood, the kids don’t seem to be this bottomless pit of NEED when he is in charge. He can sit happily in the sun while they play nearby. He can do pushups and lift weights, or play the drums, while they sit together and look at books, or watch cartoons, or whatever it is that kids do when they’re content. I wouldn’t know. Because i’m the mom. And as most any mother will tell you, kids tend to melt down more quickly, need stuff more urgently, and cling a little more desperately when mom is around. Social evolution does not seem to shift this dynamic. My husband is a stay-home super dad. He does it all, and mostly well. And yet, when mom’s around…well, let’s just say, I was having a hard time making my way to that chair.
In my head, if i could just get them this one more thing, they’d be more content, and i’d be able to soak in more sun before they realized they hadn’t whined to me in awhile. Finally, super dad (watching this chaos from the comfort of his chair) says to me, “just come sit down.” That almost did not compute. I must have responded with a blank stare because he said “It is all the running around that gets them keyed up. Let them do what they’re going to do. Come sit down.” Well. He is a man, what does he know? But I went, because really, i didn’t feel like going back in for more sunscreen, gold fish, and water toys. I sat down.
They whined. They climbed on me. They pulled on my leg. The needed stuff. For about a minute. And then–miraculously, unfathomably–they went about their business. They played, together, contendedly, with what they had, and we got to relax and watch and congratulate ourselves on what perfect children we produced.
Did it last all day? Come on, they are both under 4. It probably lasted all of 15 minutes. But it was a great 15 minutes. And the next time they whined, we said “mom and dad are on vacation.” Which bought us a few more minutes of just that.
And i thought, all this time i have been resenting the ease with which he does this, he has had this secret in his pocket…that they feed off of my energy, and when i cycle down, so do they. Actually, I’m sure he’s tried to tell me as much. But i had to see it for myself. Listen up, mom-types out there. If you think dad has it easier, it might be because he knows this trick and he’s been holding out on you. Secret to the universe, I tell you what–SIT DOWN and see what happens.
It makes me a little more aware of how much i run my head off during the rest of my day–doing, managing, planning, controlling, contriving–when really, what would happen if i just sat still for awhile, and let the pieces fall into place?
Mark’s gospel is famous for its use of the word, ‘immediately.’ There is an urgency to the good news that compels the story along at a clip, that moves disciples to follow and lepers to be healed, and Jesus himself to seemingly jog from one town to the next. Hurry up, someone is waiting for this…hurry up, we don’t have much time.
Parenthood comes with that same sense of urgency. They grow so quickly, we don’t have much time. Let me get just this one snack made, this one conflict dissolved, this one dance recital/baseball season/science project under wraps…then i will rest. Then I can enjoy the ride. But sometimes…well, sometimes, the urgent replaces the important. And we can spend a great deal of our lives focused on that ‘just one more’ thing, and far too little of it in the moment.
Urgent is getting somebody to the bathroom in time; important is how you manage the ‘didn’t quite make it’ times.
Urgent is dispelling the toddler conflict; important is building connections that will make them friends in adulthood.
Urgent is snacktime; important is the family table.
Urgent is getting dressed and out the door; important is that you’re going somewhere together.
There is an urgency to parenthood, just as there continues to be an urgency to the good news. But over and above the pull of every little detail, we hear that occasional call to ‘just sit down” and see what happens. Relax and take in the sight of a thousand little moments coming together for good, not by any running or doing of our own, but by the grace of God. Sure, you’ve still got to rush the toddler to the potty, you’ve still got to get the snack, you’ve still got to find everybody matching shoes… But knowing those little things add up to a beautiful big picture, makes it a little easier to be still sometimes, and just soak it all in.