The Advice that Changed the Way I Mother

It wasn’t a deep meaningful conversation.

I don’t even know her well.  We were just chatting, watching our kids interact. You know how moms can have nothing in common, but talk about everything, sharing the thread of motherhood…

I don’t really know what she believes or what she dreams of or if we’ll ever talk again.

But I will never forget her words.

She looked at me and asked, “Do you know what your kids really want from you?”

Cell phones, I said and laughed.

This mother looked in my heart and her eyes filled, “We spend a lot of time trying to figure out what our kids want and need in this life.”

I thought of how often I try and figure out what’s really wrong. When my kids were babies I spent countless hours and gobs of energy trying to discern hunger from exhaustion. Now that they are older, it’s such an emotional relationship. How do I help them with their friends? She is hurting, what can I do? He needs confidence, how do I instill it? The questions are endless.

I waited for her answer.

“Your kids want you.”

Boom.

“When they say ‘Mom, watch me’, they just want you. When the pull you away from your current distraction, it’s you they want.”

And then the conversation was over. But the awakening in my heart had just begun.

There was such freedom and conviction in her words. My kids don’t need to me fix their problems, they don’t need me to provide more stuff or help them try and keep up with everyone else. How often do they just want me to stop what I’m doing and pay attention? Be present in the moment.

They need me, but even more, they need Him. I need Him because this mothering thing is awesome and hard.

When I look back, I won’t remember the days. I will remember the moments. And I’m thankful for that because there are days I don’t want to remember!

I want to remember the drive on the way to school this morning. The way she laughed. The moment she opened up and shared her heart. The way our hearts connected. The rest of the day-the eye rolls and loud sighs-the ups and downs that have already come, are just part of this job.

Instead of asking myself Is her room clean? Did he ace that test? I’m asking: Did I connect with them in a way that I will remember 20 years from now? Did I listen when she called my name four times? Did our hearts meet for a brief moment? Did he know that even when I couldn’t fix the problem, I was there?

Because the hard days, the challenges in this mothering thing are a given. They are at every turn and easy to find. It’s the connected moments I want to look for, the treasured seconds when we stopped everything and just love each other–that’s what I want to capture.

This Mother’s Day, I’m giving myself a gift. I’m letting go of some of the pressure and the guilt and the “I should haves.” I have one goal: to connect with my children on a heart level every day.

The rest is gravy.

Comments

  1. 3

    says

    It’s simple. So profound.
    And so difficult to remember!

    They love me right now. And sometimes I don’t want them to.

    But that’s exactly what I need and they need in return is the same loving devotion. This is so beautiful.
    Thank you!

  2. 6

    says

    yes! i need to write that down somewhere i will look at it and keep remembering it in the midst of the chaos. it really really really is the truth when i stop to think about it… it was all i really wanted from my parents too.

    my recent post: mostly human

  3. 7

    says

    Beautiful and so true. Connection is all they are looking for…to know that they matter and that we are here for them. All the other stuff we fill the time with matters little. It’s the being there that counts.

  4. 8

    says

    Thank you, thank you, and thank you. This post has blessed my heart tonight. What a simple concept- with a huge impact. Praying that we can all slow down and enjoy the moments.

  5. 9

    Melanie says

    This is so true! Thank you for the reminder! My girls have often told me that the days we go nowhere and just stay home playing games, hanging out together, and just ‘being’ are their favorites. :)

  6. 11

    Debra Stanley says

    Thank you for writing what God has placed on your heart. This is one of the biggest struggles I face – mothering. I cry as I read what you have written and pray that I can let these words and advice get deep into my heart and be the mother that God has called me to be. Thanks for sharing!!
    Debra

  7. 13

    says

    That just brought peace to my soul!!! What joy in having a focus that not about material things are accomplishing something but about letting our children know we see them! I LOVE IT!!!

  8. 15

    Melissa O says

    I wholeheartedly agree! I need lots more practice…putting down the computer or phone and just spend time with my kids. This weekend we went camping for the first time ever and it was AWESOME! No electronics…including MY phone. Just mom, dad, kids, a fire and marshmallows. I want to encourage everyone to give it a try. You can’t beat the price! I saw my kids morph into friends instead of competitors. I saw their father BEING a dad! It was great! We’re doing it again next week :)

  9. 16

    Jana says

    Yes, yes, yes! And it’s SO important to lay this groundwork while they’re in grade school, because that earns you the trust to be heard in middle school and beyond.

    And with teenagers, you can’t really schedule the time when you give them “you”, because they need you at inopportune times. You have to be emotionally available 24/7.

    My kids are 21 and almost-20, and while I didn’t do this perfectly, the times that I did do it are paying off now, making our adult relationship/friendship *so* much better.

  10. 17

    says

    So true.
    I’m a step-mom and my husband and I are acutely aware that we have about 25 weekends a year to spend with the boys. We try to make good decisions about time – choosing to play video games, etc. on our own time…saving our family time for…family. (So, if the wii is on, it’s because someone wanted to play with someone, not by themselves.)

    Do we veg? Sure. We veg as a family. Watching a movie together, or each pulling out a book or the bible and independently reading together. And, we cook together – which is a blessing, too.

    But, what you’ve said, touched my heart. I’m pretty good about being present. But, I think I can do better. I guess, ultimately, the best present is being present. :)

  11. 20

    Caren says

    Thank you for posting this. My father gave me this kind of attention and connection every time we were together. He did not have the luxury of seeing me everyday of my life but when we were together he made it count. And he listened no matter how many times he had to stop what he was doing. He still does 38 years later. Some dads don’t need to read this, some of them live it. Thanks Daddy.

  12. 22

    says

    Very touching! This brought tears to my eyes. It makes me glad we played yahtzee last night as a family & drank homemade milkshakes out of mason jars.

  13. 23

    Jen says

    wow…thank you for sharing this! My preschooler is still so little but already I can drive myself crazy trying to figure out if I’m getting everything right-what a wake-up call to show me that I can get totally wrapped up in the unimportant things. I needed this today! :)

  14. 26

    says

    This really rang home as true for me. I am a single mom of 3 teens, and my 2 oldest are 19 and 18, and especially the 18 year old, thinks I never loved her. This makes me so sad, I thought I was loving her doing things for her, and running her here and running her there. I know its a little late, as she is set to graduate in 1 month from now, but I am going to show her what I should have so long ago. Not just her my boys too. Thank you so much !!

  15. 31

    Jeanine says

    So true that children spell love T.I.M.E. So hard to remember – thanks for the reminder! I recently read about a young man who didn’t meet his father until he was 7 years old, then only saw him sporadically through his growing up years. This young man made a good point when he said, “My father didn’t invest in me when I was a young company, and now there’s nothing in me that wants to invest in time with him now that he’s old and needs me.” I’m currently struggling with that same issue now that my mother is old and disabled. Not that we didn’t live in the same house when I was growing up, but she worked and she gave at the office and there was little time left over for me…I still feel the hurt and have tried/am trying not to make the same mistake with my children.

  16. 36

    Jessie says

    Tears filled my eyes as I read this post.
    What a great awakening!!!!!!!
    Thanks for sharing.

    Jessie

  17. 37

    Christine says

    A wonderful reminder to let go of the guilt of doing and just love them by being there for them. Thanks I needed that.

  18. 39

    says

    Oh, I needed to hear this. I feel a bit like you kicked me in the gut- because so often I don’t respond quickly- try to finish up what I’m doing- don’t give my whole attention- and that’s ALL they want. So humbling. So easy and so hard all at once. Thank you.

  19. 40

    Danisa says

    Are we ever done learning this parenting thing? With a 20 and 18 year old you’d think I should be very close to being done. Wrong. Such simple truth, they just need ME!
    Thank you for easing the guilt/pressures we inflict on ourselves thinking we will ever perfect the skills of living.

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