Friday afternoon John had swimming practice. Like most kid activites, the bleachers were full of waiting parents and siblings. I sat near a woman who I had chatted with the previous week when we were both alone. She had been very friendly and nice. This week she remarked on the book I was reading (The Narnian) and then began chatting with another mom sitting near by. I had David and Ruth with me and my attention was divided between the book, the two of them and watching John swim.
She also had a younger child with her that day. He was being fairly good but antsy. An hour is a longish time to sit on the bleachers with not a lot to do. At one point, I was watching John swim when I saw him go up to her to ask a question. She was talking to the other mom and turned to him and snapped “WAIT!” with her hand stretched out. It’s hard to convey what that word sounded like but it was harsh and impatient. It said “you are bothering me.” It said “this other person is way more important to me than you”.
I’m not writing this to condemn that other mother. She seems very nice and I saw other interactions with her son that were loving and kind. It was more that what I saw was like a mirror.
How many times do I tell my kids by my tone of voice or actions or body language or words that they are less important to me than ______________. Fill in the blank with any of the following: the person on the phone, the stranger I am talking to, a friend at church, the book I am reading, the computer.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that parents should ignore everything else or that kids should never have to wait. There are times when I’m on the phone with a patient’s parent and my kids have to wait. I’m trying to teach them not to walk up and interrupt when I’m talking to someone at church or when H. and I are talking. But I do need to remember to speak at least as nicely to my kids as I would speak to anyone else. I can teach them to be polite without resorting to being impolite myself.
More importantly, I need to look at what I’m doing and whether or not my kids need to wait. Talking on the phone to a patient? Yes. Checking my email? Not so much. I’m trying to be more intentional in putting down what I’m doing when I can and not making them wait for me. Thinking about this the last few days reminded me of one of my favorite Sara Groves songs. She often says what I’m thinking but in a much more eloquent way (and with a catchy tune). She’s just awesome.
There’s always just one more thing
There’s always another task
There’s always I just have one more small favor to ask
And everything is urgent and everything is now
I wonder what would really happen if I stopped somehow
I’ll be there in a minute
Just a few places to go
You wake up a few years later and your kids are grown
And everything is important
But everything is not
At the end of your life your relationships are all you’re got
And love to me is when you put down that one more thing and say
I’ve got something better to do
(Sara Groves, Just One More Thing from All Right Here)
Full lyrics here..http://www.saragroves.com/lyrics/allrighthere/justonemorething/