I’ve heard it said that in the journey of raising children, parents will learn just as much as we teach. When my children were little, I understood this to mean that I would learn patience and perseverance, and I did. I learned that I could withstand extreme exhaustion, extreme mood swings, and each and every extreme phase that followed. I learned to respond with deep breaths and positive mantras and a whole lot of prayer. I was definitely growing and changing and learning.
But as my children have grown to become little people with big opinions and ideas and personalities, I have learned that they can teach us so much more than just how to be patient.
My 8-year-old son is a natural born cheerleader. Years ago, his daycare teacher told me that he was the only toddler she had ever known who would follow her around the classroom clapping and cheering for her as she did the daily chores. He never cries on his brothers’ birthdays wondering when it will be his time to be celebrated. He once took his cherished soccer medal and gave it to his younger brother on the day the younger one learned to swim because he was just so excited and proud for him. He notices when people are sad and reaches out. And, despite athletics not being his biggest strength, he loves to be on a team for the camaraderie and celebrates each person’s small victories all season. He just genuinely has a deep-seated love for other people.
Every week, he comes home from school to make sure that I know what all we have to do that weekend to meet the demands of his social calendar. He reminds me of So and So’s party and that what they love the best is Spider Man or My Little Pony so we can be sure to get the right gift. He reminds me that his friends are playing in a football game and he’d really like to go watch them play. Most recently, he let me know that a few kids in his class were going to be baptized after church and that we really needed to attend the 10:30 service instead of our normal 8:00 in order to be a part of their special day.
Well… I didn’t want to go to church at 10:30.
I mean I really didn’t. It’s an inconvenient mass time for us and I was so close to telling him no, but something in my heart said this was important to him and we needed to make it happen. So off we went to mass and then to attend the baptism after.
And what I witnessed worked on my heart in a million ways.
I saw an 8-year-old little boy who understood the value in showing up for people better than his mom and dad did. His friends were so happy to see him there sharing in their special day. In fact, I think it made the moment even more special to them because they had a community around them. Not just people who had to be there, but people who wanted to be there. We stayed after for a few minutes and they played and laughed and enjoyed each other and I couldn’t help but be a little embarrassed at my own immediate reaction to a change from our normal plans. He had it right all along, and it was a gift to those other kids that he was there for them.
I have read so many articles, blogs, memes, etc. recently about moms taking care of moms. I think it’s safe to say that the average mom doesn’t feel like she is supported and held up by those around her. She often feels judged and shamed and inadequate, and maybe this is one of those times where we can learn a better way from our kids.
Life is about showing up for people.
Life is about gladly being inconvenienced on behalf of others. Life is about seeing a need and acting. I have had the blessing of having friends who get that. These are moms who will leave a bag of dollar store goodies on your porch when your child is running fever for the third day and you worry you’ll never leave the house again. Women who know that your morning sickness is in overdrive and bring over full meals for your family so that you can feed them something decent without throwing up. Moms who send you a text message to tell you something sweet your child did and remind you that you’re doing a great job at this parenting thing. Friends who will show up with candy and Diet Coke (#lovelanguage) when you’re at your wits end and can’t handle another day of potty training gone bad. The women who will power walk with you when you’re trying to be fit and trim and then meet you at the Mexican restaurant when you’ve decided to abandon your health pursuits for a day. The people who remind you that life isn’t about perfection, but about walking with people right where they are. Sometimes to uplift them when they are in a dark place. Sometimes to make them laugh when life has gotten a bit daunting or heavy. And sometimes just to remind them that they are a person worth celebrating.
Truth be known, I’m a little bit lazy and stuck in my ways. I like for my schedule and my days to go smoothly and without interruptions. I can read blogs and books to get inspired to live better, but perhaps if I’m really watching, my 8-year-old social butterfly can teach me the most about improving my own heart and tendencies.
So share the memes or the articles, but also send the text message, write the letter, say the prayer, cook the meal, wipe the tears, attend the event, and find the joy in realizing that your willing inconvenience actually brought you one step closer to understanding the power of love in action.
That it doesn’t take extreme measures to show someone you’re really there for them. That sometimes a simple kind and encouraging word can go a long way.
Let’s be the people who care. The ones who follow each other around clapping and cheering while we do the chores. The ones who join teams knowing that we’ll probably never score the winning point but that we can surely be excited for the person who does. The ones who attend the baptism because we realize that there is something powerful in surrounding a person with love in their special moment.
Life isn’t always pretty or ideal or fair, but it’s a lot easier to face knowing that people are willing to show up for you.