We’ve had a run of illnesses of late. It’s forced me to put my art on hold and be a servant to my children again. Today my youngest (4 1/2), looked particularly pathetic with his 2pm pajamas, glazed eyes, and that fake smile he uses to make feel better when he knows I’m worried. I stopped what I was doing and just held him on the couch. While I had him captive, I decided to tell him something about his daddy that he didn’t know. There’s something about true stories, personal stories, secret stories, that warms my children’s hearts all the way through and makes them listen with both ears. Each story binds us together with yet another unbreakable thread. I love how I can feel him sink further into me on the couch in the midst of it.
I started with a question, “Do you know how I know Daddy loves me?” Seth quickly answered with, “When he does the dishes for you?” I told him that never hurt. He came up with a few more ideas -- good ones that show he’s paying attention and that some woman is going to be lucky to have him.
I told my sick boy there was another way I knew his daddy loved me, a way he had never witnessed. I told him how at night when his daddy and I are reading in bed, I can’t seem to stop talking. I store up a million things all day -- important things, silly things, stories about the kids, things I’ve read, a difficult conversation with a friend, a fear, an invention I came up with that could make us millionaires. It doesn’t matter how insignificant it is, I share it. Sometimes only seconds pass between interruptions as I follow my own segue-ways and tangents and asides. Seth was giggling now because I was using a magazine to demonstrate what his daddy does with his book each time I interrupt his reading. His daddy slowly closes the book, lays it on his chest, laces his fingers together on top of it, and turns and looks at me. And listens. Every single time. Sometimes I even get a follow-up question. I told Seth that’s how I knew his daddy loved me.
In that moment, God shook me so hard it took my breath away. How many times that week had I failed to pause, put my book down and look into my children’s eyes when they asked me a question or told me a story? How many times did they have to talk to my back as I half-listened while doing the dishes? I kiss them before bed, I am white-knuckled during spelling bees, and I cheer way too loud at basketball games -- but am I truly present in the in-between times? Not often enough. I need to remember that my response to them in those smaller moments has power -- the power to show them they are valued or insignificant. Drew knows.