After weeks of sickness in our home, I am freaking exhausted. It’s been weeks since anything resembling a decent night’s sleep has graced my husband or me. Life doesn’t care if your kids are up all night. Work and responsibilities don’t let up to give you time to recover. The kids don’t understand that they aren’t the only ones who are miserable and need attention. The baby one has no pity on the toddler one, and the older ones just want the little ones to stop whining. As do I.
A few days ago, my sister-in-law posted on her IG account about how her daughter, who is a freshman in college, came home for a few days because she has been sick and wanted her mom to take care of her. I remembered how so often when I am ill, I still wish my mom would come over and play with my hair while I lay on the couch. And then I realized something that has changed the way I forever want to approach my exhaustion-induced frustrations while caring for my suffering children: how I care for them now will directly affect how they will come to me in their moments of need later in life. Not just when they are sick or hurt physically, but more so when they’ve been hurt emotionally, or when they need advice and want to talk to someone who they feel “safe” with. I don’t know why I’ve never thought of that before. But it’s really caused a mindblown-mom moment.
I know so many people from different walks and in different stages of life who have the fondest memories of their mothers taking care of them when they were sick as children. Their moms were nurturing and compassionate. They went out of their way to make sure that wounds were cared for, hair was held back, pillows were fluffed, and the remotes were nearby. My mom would be sure to rent the Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea movies every time I was home sick. Every. Time. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I have an *almost* unhealthy
obsession connection with Anne Shirley and her crazy antics. Those movies, to this day, make me feel at home. They stir warm feelings of comfort and peace and I just love them. I truly believe a major reason why is because of the memories they trigger. Those movies were a tangible, practical way my mom loved me and took care of me when I was hurt/sick. I love her for that. And I cried tears of joy the day I spent $50 to have my own copies on DVD in addition to my VHS versions.
But I also know a many people from different walks and in different stages of life who don’t give one thought to wanting their mom around when they are in need. They didn’t experience the tender, attentive warmth that I did. Their memories or even current reality is of their “neediness” being inconvenient or bothersome. Their sickness always was at the worst times, their injuries were a financial strain, or their mom simply lacked the empathy to be able to see beyond her own full plate. And now, as grown-ups, they don’t want their moms to know of their hurts. They don’t think to consult her when they are struggling. They don’t long for her presence or wish they could snuggle into her shoulder. Whether in physical sickness/pain or in emotional hurt/brokenness, they don’t see the value in their mother’s touch or comfort.
I want to be the mom that my kids long for when they are grown. Not in a creepy “Bates Motel” sort of way, obviously, but in the way that when they are exhausted or at the end of their rope or too sick to stand, that the thought “I wish my mom were here” comes into play at some point! I want them to learn now in these foundational and forming years that they are my priority and that even in my exhaustion, even when it is inconvenient, that serving them is a joy. I want them to know that no matter what plans I have to cancel, no matter how few hours I may sleep, no matter how many times I have to drive to the Doctor’s Office, that in their moments of need I was there, and I loved it. I hope that these memories will carry through to their teens, twenty-somethings and beyond and that they will never question my desire to support them. I pray that they will never fear letting me into their brokenness, their struggles, and their heartaches. And I hope that I will continue to show grace, that I will have a heart that is turned toward my kids even when they are grown, and that when things get dicey in these early years I will remember to do a mental flashforward at what I dream my relationship with them is like in 5 or 15 years.
I am starting to learn that there isn’t really a time when parenting isn’t all about self-sacrifice. It may morph in how it looks. It may be less hands-on as the kids grow more independent and create their own paths. I might become more of a cheerleader and less of a coach, but I will always be on the sideline. I have to be so filled with patience and a love greater than myself in this season that when the time comes that my five children have the choice, they will choose to invite me to the game. I’m not sure how this became all sporty, but I think you get my point. It all matters. Everything I do now will somehow have an effect on what I am able to do later. I must remember this and I pray for Divine wisdom, strength, and grace to love them all well.
Now, off to another Dr. appointment!