Last week, I wrote a post on knowing your children, really knowing them. “If You Only Knew,” spread like wildfire. Apparently I am not alone in the realization that daily distraction has the capability of preventing us from truly “knowing” the people we love the most.
I am willing to go farther than that today. I am willing to share with you how easily daily distraction can take priority over relationships, relationships that we claim mean “everything” to us. I am willing to share a painful disclosure that I cannot put into words without crying.
The truth hurts, but the truth heals.
My hope is that one person reading this today will see his or herself in this post. And when reality hits, I pray change occurs, change that will save a life, a precious child’s relationship with his or her parent.
I only ask that you read this message in its entirety with an honest heart, setting all excuses aside.
This is my story…
My four-year-old recently graduated from 4K preschool. She stood on the stage in her light blue cap and gown singing beautiful songs about growing up and going to kindergarten. I will admit I cried. I will admit to tears, but there was something more. Something very painful that I had never allowed myself to fully acknowledge until I saw my sweet baby standing on that stage.
As she stood there beaming that beautiful smile, waving to me and looking directly into my eyes, I felt the urge to fall to my knees.
I wanted to thank God that I wasn’t sitting at her high school graduation looking at a child I did not know. I wanted to thank God for waking me up before I sped through eighteen years of her life not knowing what I was missing. I wanted to thank God that I had been given a second chance.
Because I had been frighteningly close to missing it all.
You see, I lost two years with my daughter. It was not because of a personal tragedy, an illness, or because I was incapacitated. No, tragically my two year absence was of my own doing.
This is not one of my shining moments as a mom, but I share it in the effort that one person reads this and says, “That is me. I am on the verge of losing something sacred that I will never get back.”
I share my story so that one relationship can be saved…
When my youngest daughter was two-years-old, her older sister went to kindergarten. I had spent the previous five years as a stay at home mom moving to several new cities in a short time period, focusing solely on my babies and my family.
So when my oldest child went to kindergarten and my youngest was no longer a “baby,” I dove into things that stimulated my mind, allowed for use of my God-given talents and engaged me in conversations with other adults…activities I had been desperately missing.
Well, as many of you know, once you display leadership abilities to a volunteer organization, school or a church, you begin receiving multiple requests to head things up. This is exactly what happened to me. And with each successful event, I felt validated. I felt like a productive citizen. I had taken on an identity other than “Mom.” I was filling a five-year void.
But I took it too far.
And while I was doing good for so many, my family got lost….especially my two-year-old daughter with strawberry blonde hair who smiles with her whole entire face and has a voice like an angel.
She is so good, so content, and so “easy,” that she allowed me to shuffle her around, sit through long meetings, patiently tolerate unending workdays, phone calls, and endless emails.
She didn’t complain; she never once made mention of the completely distracted and overly occupied lady she called “Mama.”
My sweet two-year-old just went right along with my overscheduled life, not knowing she was missing the heart, the focus, and the company of her mom.
She had no idea she was being given the leftovers, the worthless scraps of her stretched-too-thin mother.
I had a nagging feeling about how much I was doing outside the home, but I justified my bursting-at-the-seams calendar by arguing that my involvement was desperately needed at my church, my daughter’s school, and in my community. I completely denied the fact that these activities were consuming my life, my health, my happiness, and my wellbeing. I refused to acknowledge how much my activities were costing my little curly haired girl and my family.
And then last July, my Breakdown Breakthrough moment occurred when I finally admitted the REAL answer to the question people continually asked me.
“How do you do it all, Rachel?”
With tears streaming down my face, I forced myself to acknowledge that in order to “Do It All,” I missed out on life.
I missed out on the good parts of life.
I missed the Sunset Moments.
And then with the kind of pain that takes your breath away, I realized my two-year-old daughter, who was not yet in school, was the greatest victim of my admired ability to “Do It All.”
In that painfully honest breakthrough moment, I vowed things would change. I vowed I would change.
And by the grace of God, things have changed.
In the days between July 2010 and now, I have been making up for lost time. I have fallen utterly and completely in love with my four (almost five) year old daughter. I want to spend every waking moment with her; I just can’t seem to get enough of her. And in spending time with her, I have gotten to know her, really know her.
And nothing pleases me more than to introduce you to my amazing daughter, Avery…
She is ticklish right under her chin, in that tender spot beneath her little round face that still holds a soft layer of cushion.
Her upper left tooth is a little crooked from sucking her thumb since she was two days old.
When she laughs too hard she gets the hiccups, which manages to make her laugh even harder.
She has this deliriously happy laugh when she pulls open her pajamas drawer to find her “panda ‘jamas” freshly washed at the top of the stack.
She says “meed” instead of “need,” and I can’t bear the thought that someday soon she will pronounce it correctly.
She truly believes she owns a magic stuffed bunny.
She refers to dandelions as “wishing flowers” and makes the same exact wish every time she blows on one: “I hope I can live in Disney World.”
She would choose her beloved “straight arm” Polly Pockets over any toy in the world.
She believes in the power of a handmade card and will spend an exorbitant amount of time drawing the pictures while saying, “This is sure to make her feel better.”
She generously offers to help me make muffins and cookies, and then magically disappears after she licks the beater.
She gets this dreamy look on her angelic face when she hears stories about herself as a baby.
She will instantly put her hands together and say a prayer if she learns that someone she loves is hurt or sick.
She can’t quite get the two-finger F chord on her tiny ukulele but the C sounds like pure heaven.
She listens intently to songs on the radio and looks quite disappointed when she has to inform me of things like, “Katy Perry doesn’t really have a very good voice, Mama.”
She makes her hands into little balls when she runs.
She falls every time she tries to run in the pink sandals.
She loves to put on a hat and say, “We’re twins now, Mama.”
She gets overly excited when pouring her own milk into a glass.
She is an excellent salad maker except for the fact that she eats all the red peppers before they make it into the bowl.
She loves to entertain a crowd…the bigger the better.
She used to have two warts on her thumb that somehow magically disappeared.
She is terrified of tornados and commonly asks if today is a “tornado day.”
She puts her shoes in their proper spot without being asked.
She voluntarily asks to take a nap when she is tired.
She considers riding her bike around the cul-de-sac major exercise.
She loves the distinct flavors found in hummus and sushi rolls, but claims toothpaste is “too spicy.”
And I know…
She somehow smells like gumdrops when she first wakes up (even though she refused to use the “spicy” toothpaste).
She sings made up songs and somehow makes them sound like the most beautiful melodies.
She can actually make my heart stop when she wraps her arms around my neck and whispers, “I will never get sick of you, Mama.”
This is only a fraction of what I have come to know about my beautiful curly haired girl in the past year.
It is only a fraction of what I will come to know about her in the years to come.
And when my beautiful, eighteen-year-old daughter stands proudly at her high school graduation, I can say, “That’s my daughter Avery; I know her. I know every good and precious and miraculous thing about her.”
And through my tears of happiness, I will remember just how close I was to missing it all.
Thank God for second chances.
I am simply the messenger in this journey to grasp what really matters. It is by the grace of God that I have this message to give:
You can’t truly “know” your child from the seat of your recliner, from the stands of a ball field, from the comfort of your beach chair, from behind the screen of a computer, while talking on your phone, while watching TV, or while you are multi-tasking.
You can’t truly know your child when he or she is last on the “To Do List” of your overscheduled life.
The only way you can know your children or grandchildren is to spend time with them: Talk to them, listen to them, and do things together that will create lasting memories. Do these things with all forms of technology turned off.
When you live life distracted, you miss more than life.
That sentence bears repeating: When you live life distracted, you miss more than life.
If asked to introduce your children, what would your “I Know” List look like? How descriptive could you be about WHO they are as people (not what they DO for sports or hobbies)?
I urge you to take a moment and evaluate your life. How are you spending your days? Do you ever say, “I will spend time with my kids (or grandkids) on the weekend?” Or “I will spend time with them when we go on vacation?” If you do, I urge you to reconsider how you are spending your precious time. You cannot push your child off your priority list forever, making time for him or her only when it is convenient for you.
Unless, of course, you want to watch your child (or grandchild) accept his or her high school diploma and wonder who that person is.
If you feel this is a worthy message, please share it with someone else.
The Missing More Than Life by Hands Free Mama, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.