When my son, Ben, was four years old a friend of ours came and visited for the afternoon. For hours, the two of them wrestled, told jokes to each other, and laughed at Randy’s Looney Tunes impersonations.
That night, when I asked Ben what he loved most about Randy, he said, “He just be’s wif me.”
It rocked me hard, that statement, “He just ‘be’s wif’ me,’ and I had to ask myself a hard question: Do I ever just ‘be wif’ my children?
Sure, I clean them, feed them, teach them, clothe them, but how often do I sit down (without impatiently glancing at my computer, phone, or book) and just ‘be?’
Giving myself is the hardest thing to give. Let me busy myself cleaning you and/or your clothes/dishes/room. Let me buy you Lego battleships or American Girl dolls. Let me take you to Disneyland or cart you to music lessons or enroll you in karate. Just don’t ask me to just ‘be’ with you. Don’t ask me to listen to, and laugh at, your jokes. Don’t expect me to listen to last night’s dream down to its last excruciating detail. Don’t demand my after-eight hours, my pre-bath moments, the only 15 minutes of the day I get to read. Please.
A friend once admitted she was a great human ‘doing,’ but not a very good human ‘being.’ I so hear that. It’s hard to purposely create empty space. Being at peace with silence, and even boredom is sometimes where ‘being wif’ someone starts. When we’re rushing to and fro, racing through our days, only the most persistent child is going to get our attention.
Kids don’t give a damn about our accomplishments, how clean the house is, how we stack up against the Joneses. They don’t care about shiny hardwood floors or matching Pottery Barn quilt sets or contrived Norman Rockwell scenes.
They just want us.
My parents (who attest to many parenting mistakes) gave us that. Mom was nearly always home, puttering around doing motherly things. When I got home from late nights out, I’d find her reading on the couch and ready to talk. We spent many hours in the car driving back and forth to violin lessons talking. Every night she came up, sat on our beds and talked. I can’t think of a time I felt I was interrupting or annoying her. Dad, who would be horrified at a ‘daddy-daughter’ date, took us everywhere with him, from cutting wood in the National Forests of Washington State to making ice at the ice plant to installing cabinets to target practice.
They didn’t have much to give, but they gave us themselves.
Emmanuel, God with us…did a lot of doing, but also a lot of being. He walked, talked, ate, drank, and rested with the people. He washed dusty feet, touched the filth of lepers, let perfume be poured on His head.
Our Abba Daddy spent Himself being ‘wif’ us.
I want to be wif my kids more.
And I don’t mean just my body.
My ears. My eyes. My attention. My heart.
No matter what else is on my kids’ Christmas list, I know what they really need.
(P.S. I will be silent in this space for Christmas week to do just this. Merry Christmas, peeps!)