This past weekend my son went to spend some time with my in-laws and his cousins. We sent him two hours away for a few days of bike riding, trampoline antics, little-boy rough housing and the typical adventures that await a weekend at the grandparents.
He left on Friday. But on Saturday afternoon my mother-in-law called to tell me he had a fever. Immediately, I became anxious and worried. My instinct was to hop in the car and go get him. Not because he wasn’t in capable hands—on the contrary, he was probably in the best place he could be apart from our home—but simply because he had a need, and I wasn’t there to meet it.
One of the hardest challenges and yet perhaps one of greatest blessings of being a mother is the basic fact of being needed. When they’re little, our children rely on us for everything; as they age and grow in independence, those needs change and lessen. I have three kids aged five and under, so I’m still in the early years of parenting. And although I’ve watched my almost-six-year-old son grow in his own personal independence, the reality is all of my children are still completely dependent on me and my husband for even their most basic needs. I have little hands tugging on me and little bodies hanging from me at all hours of every day.
Meeting the non-stop demands of these early years is often messy, frantic, chaotic and exhausting. The endless diaper changing, the middle-of-the-night sheet stripping, the frequent nursing, the little messes, the tiny fingerprints smeared on glass surfaces, the endless laundry, the haphazardly strewn toys, tears dried, noses wiped, behavior disciplined, hearts encouraged. This neediness, this constancy of having to be everything for these little people can certainly take its toll. It’s deep-in-the-trenches work with barely a break, and sometimes when we’re in the thick of it, it’s difficult to see beyond the moment.
But on that weekend when my son got sick and I wasn’t there, I also realized what an immense privilege it is to be needed during this season, because I got a glimpse at how fleeting this time is.
When my mother-in-law called to tell me my son had a fever, she put him on the phone. “Do you want to come home, sweetie?” I asked. “You can just say a simple yes or no. If you want us to come get you, just say yes, and we’ll be there.”
I was certain his resolve would melt, and he’d burst into tears asking for me to come get him, to meet his needs, to bring him home. After all, I’m his mom.
But then he said it, and my heart sank: “No, Mama,” he said. “I don’t want to come home. I really don’t feel bad. I want to stay.”
In that moment and with startling clarity I saw him growing up. And I realized his reliance on me to meet his every need is beginning to wane.
Although there are days when the never-ending task of meeting my children’s needs can feel more like a curse than a blessing, I realize that this season is short-lived. These little ones will only be toddling around, napping in my bed, requesting to hold my hand on the potty, crying when I leave … for so long. All too soon they will grow in their independence, cultivate life skills and pursue relationships, callings, families of their own.
It’s so easy to get weighed down by the day to day, to feel like no one sees, to be disheartened by the monotony of daily service to our family. It’s difficult to see the glorious privilege of this calling when dirty diapers, after-dinner dishes, spilled Cheerios and filled-to-the-brim hampers cloud our vision. But then God gives me a moment like He did on that weekend with my son, and I get the blessing of perspective.
Ten, 20, 30 years from now, when I look back on these days, I will see them through a different lens. The memory of the day-to-day hardships will have faded a bit, and I will remember the blessing of being needed by my children in a way that no one else could satisfy. The chubby-arms-round-the-neck hugs, the I-love-you-to-the-moon sentiments, the little bodies curled asleep beside me, the scribbled crayon drawings adorning the fridge … this is what I will cherish when I reflect upon this season.
So today, I pray that God gives us eyes to see the miraculous in the mess. May we see the glorious rising out of the gritty. May we do the hard work and discover that we are doing holy work. May His grace find us in the midst of the mundane, and may we pour that abundant grace out to our family.
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