To truly know our children, an unintended pause can shine a great light.
I run my fingers through her hair. Each little ringlet curl stretches out and then bounces back perfectly into place. I do this over and over again, mesmerized by how they spring into a curl every time. Her hair is so soft, so smooth, so long. When did it get so long? Before I know it, I’m weeping. I’m not talking a tear or two running down my cheek. I mean a guttural ugly cry that I cannot stop. I run to my bedroom, shut the door, and crawl under the covers. I’m not sure how long I’m there, hiding from myself and everyone else. Slowly, though, I get up and go sit next to my kids on the couch. I hold them as we watch TV.
Two weeks into “shelter in place,” and I am cracked straight down the middle. Three weeks ago, I didn’t even know what “shelter in place” meant. Two months ago, I didn’t even know this would be my life. It seemed that in a matter of hours, minutes, and moments, every single thing changed. As I grappled with the shift that fell upon our family, our community, our world, I began to mourn.
There are many things to mourn in this season. I mourn the restrictions placed on our lives and the world we interact with. I mourn the loss of the spark of creativity that I had been feeding to build a fire. Like a cloud descending over the sun on a bright day, much of my hope for the future got darkened in an instant. I mourn the illusion of stability we had, the loss of my belief that I had everything under control, and all the plans we made that no longer exist.
None of those were the reasons I was brought to tears on that day, though. It wasn’t the endless hours of togetherness, or the way I yelled at my children, or the quick passive-aggressive comment I made to my husband. I had plenty of things that should have brought me tears that day. Instead, what made me crack wide open though, with a chasm running so deep I still wonder if it will ever be filled, was my kids.
Sure, kids make us cry, or me at least, on a regular basis – even more so now that we are together 24/7. The revelation that brought me to my knees that day was one of the few times I felt I truly understood what God was saying as He laid it all out before my eyes: I was so busy raising my children that I didn’t make time to know my children.
I had no idea how much of my children I didn’t truly know. How our baby’s curls are just so perfect. The depths of each of their creativity. How my second born makes goofy smiles when she gets excited to learn something new. How lonely our baby gets when we leave her with a sitter each day. She is so much happier with everyone home all the time, and I mourn that I missed her struggle for so long. How interested our oldest is in history or how our boy is learning to hold his pencil. I didn’t know a million little things about these kids of mine because we were too busy living life instead of noticing life and enjoying simply what is in front of us.
I’m not saying I will reject activities outside of the essentials after this season or that my kids don’t fight or that they don’t demand more of me than I can possibly give them right now. Despite the snapshots in my head and on my phone, it is not always calm and restful around here. Nothing about any of this is easy, including finding silver linings and things to be grateful for right now.
What I’m trying to say is that I’m shaken inside. The kind of life-altering revelation that makes your stomach tie in knots and bile begin to rise up in your throat. Somewhere along the way, I’m not exactly clear how I got so wrapped up in school, schedules, events, activities, spirit days, work, this and that, that I missed what was right before me the entire time. I can’t believe that was who I had become, but I am grateful the scales are removed from eyes to see more clearly now. They are complex creatures, and I struggle to parent them; however, what I won’t do anymore is forget to know them.
So now, I stop what I’m doing and read the book. I sit and color and do puzzles. I go outside with them when they play. I talk to them and listen to them. I don’t need or have to do anything right this second. It’s an odd, but welcoming space to be living in. I’m not sure what it will look like to exit it, but I don’t want to lose the curiosity for my family that I’ve been given.
The path forward out of this season is not clear for our family. Will it even be forward or more of a pivot with some sideways zigzag motions? In many ways, I mourn the future I thought we were working towards. It’s all so dizzying, like living life inside of the spin cycle of a washing machine. I’m not sure when it will stop or when we will feel grounded enough to stand up again. Somehow in the midst of the free fall we are living in, I got the chance to see my kids in a new light. I get to truly know them and spend the rest of my life continuing to know them. My main goal isn’t to raise them to adults and send them on their way, but rather, now my goal is to know them more and more each day. After all, to be truly known is to be truly loved.