Saturday, February 13, 2016

You Can't Not

If there's one thing I've learned over the course of two decades plus of parenting, is even though you long ago discarded the child monitor, you never turned it off.   If a child cries "Mom" in the middle of the night, you're up, you're out the door and searching for the kid in question faster than Superman.   It's part of the Mom DNA that gets encoded when you first see that "+" sign on the test, and only gets stronger as the child gets older.

What I've learned is it doesn't matter how old they get, they want the attention.  They want the bedtime story long after they know how to read.  They want to be phoned, to be sent valentine cards and care packages, hugs and their favorite dinner when they're home.  They want to be tucked in, to have the lights turned off for them, feet rubbed, and one on one time.  They want lunch out and an extra t-shirt, folded socks and hot cocoa with whipped cream.   They want infinitely, but what they most want, is time, presence from you.

The internet is full of pieces about what I'd write my 20 year younger self, and what I'd write is this and hope those who haven't yet run through all the years of their children's childhood (and that would include myself), would take it to heart.  Climb the steps. Read the story. Write the card.  Make the call.  These are not to-dos.  They are the flesh and bone to the words "I love you."  It doesn't look like much when it's happening and I know, you're tired. You've given.  You've done it during the day.  But those last few moments, before bedtime?  They're the ones remembered.  They reveal whether it's duty, or love.   Because they're done when there isn't much left, when you have other things you'd rather do, and the choice between you is them or you.   Love is based on sacrifice.  Sacrifice is service, done with a full heart, done even when it costs, especially when it costs.

So even if the phone call takes an hour and your schedule didn't have that time, you take the call.
The purpose of the schedule is to get things done.  The purpose of parenting, is to love.  The modern world constantly talks about balance, "me time" and all of that, but love is the opposite of "equalness."  Love always wants to give more, to do more, to pour out everything.  Love's never about equality, it's about wanting to lavish the other with more.   You use the last stamp and crank out a letter.  You climb the steps and read the one more story.  You nag about taking a shower, you brush their hair and make them change out of shorts when it's too cold and put on shoes even when it's hot.   You can't not. So I'd tell the younger me, and all the younger ones out there and all those not so young, the answer is always "You can't not."

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