I overheard a young mother recounting her nighttime ritual as laying her head on her pillow and asking herself: “Did I love my family enough today? If something happens to me tonight will they know exactly how much I loved them?” As an “older, wiser” woman (and more skeptical and jaded, I suppose) my first instinct was to laugh: “Well, of course you didn’t love them enough! How silly! In Luke 6:11-13, Jesus conceded that though we are imperfect parents – evil, he called us! – we still do the best we know how! 1 John tells us that perfect love is only from the Father. Chances are, I did NOT love my family enough today.”
The question haunted me, though, and I continued to turn it in my mind. It seemed less daunting, less accusing, if I rephrased it as: “Could I love them more, love them better tomorrow?” Well, Lord willing, I will be given tomorrow with my family. None of us are promised tomorrow for ourselves or our families.
I have wept with mothers who have kissed tiny foreheads for the last time to send them to the Land Where There Is No Tomorrow, and prayed and pleaded with mothers whose children have been precariously close to the edge of No Tomorrow. Those women know what it is to lay their heads down at night and ask, “Did I love them enough?”
My husband and I have tangoed around the line of calling it quits on “happily ever after.” With our new resolve for our marriage, I am painfully aware of how fragile a marriage can be. I am fully aware of his choice to be here, and am intentional about daily letting him know that I appreciate his choice and all that he is to our family. Thankfully, I have not faced such a horrific loss of my children. But I think I have failed to be intentional about letting them know how thankful I am for them, as well.
1 John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” My loving Father has LAVISHED His love on us. It should certainly run over and splash on my family.
One small thing I realized is that as my children grow, the frequent opportunities to touch or hug them diminish. I don’t lift them in and out of car seats or high chairs any more. I don’t help them in and out of the bathtub, or wipe their faces or even brush their hair for them any more. I must be intentional about meaningful touch for my children. I know that my arms ache when my husband is not in town to hug and touch me. My children need touch and love even more!
I also realize that sometimes I really have to try to listen carefully to what my children say. I am frequently guilty of multi-tasking, which, I’ve come to realize, means doing several things poorly at the same time. It really doesn’t take very long to sit, look into their eyes, and really hear what they are saying – and sometimes you can hear what they aren’t saying, as well. I think about how much it means to me when someone has obviously heard what I said and then later asks me about it. I want my children to know they are valuable enough to get my full attention!
Another thing that I’ve realized means a lot to my kids is to simply sit together and hang out together. Of course, the TV should be off for this (although it’s also a good idea to know what they’re watching and talk to them about it). My kids like for me to talk to them about my day, as well as listen to them about theirs. We dream and scheme, hope and plan.
Meaningful touch, intentional listening, and being together are not huge undertakings. They take a very little amount of time – my kids really like to limit how much time they hang out with me anyway-- and no money at all! I just have to be intentional about doing those things. And tonight I will wonder, “Could I love them more tomorrow?”