Stolen Moments

photo-179-150x150"Mom...MOm...MOM!" The voice of my six year old grew louder and more demanding with each impatient howl of my name. I was just stepping into the shower.“Oh for heaven’s sake,” I said exasperated and out loud, “can I not get five minutes alone?” And before I knew it said six year old was pressed up tight against the other side of the bathroom door. I could hear the heavy boy-clunk of him drop down and belly up against it. Funny that I should know exactly that sound. But I do. Clearly, he wasn’t the first to imprison me in my place of sacred shower. My son, Connor, with his lips pushed tight against the door’s crack proceeded to unveil a muffled anecdote of grave injustice which had apparently occurred only moments before at the hands of his older brother. He seized the opportunity, knowing he had my undivided attention -- at least until the water ran cold. I was trapped. I was going to hear all the dreadful details whether I wanted to or not. Why is it when we step into the shower or sit down with a cup of coffee or attempt to catch five minutes of peace on the porch we are needed so desperately? With five kids ages 5 to 17, I have learned this is just how it works. It is how it will go down no matter what tactics we use to duck and take cover. I could stand in my command center kitchen ready and waiting for the great-beck-and-call of my kiddos and there would be nothing. Nada. But given the chance for a stolen moment, a thin slice of time to myself, and a frantic summons is a sure thing.

When we moved into our house a few years back we were all enamored with the new intercom system. I was enamored for exactly thirty minutes. What I thought might be a tool to call children to dinner or my husband to the phone, turned quickly into my worst new house nightmare. Immediately I began to hear, “Mom? MOM? MOM!” Apparently this intercom wasn’t for my use, but for their need to constantly connect with me (i.e., hunt me down). I would be up in a bedroom peacefully putting away laundry or on the phone making a doctor’s appointment and all of a sudden I’d hear, “MOM? Mom, do you know where my jersey is? Mom, is there any more peanut butter? Mom, the dog’s eating your cell phone. Mom, Connor is running around the living room with the brownie batter spoon AND HE’S NAKED.” (Connor was barely two at the time -- it’s probably best that I point that out). In those first few weeks of living in a house with an intercom I learned something about myself: I really am perfectly okay with not knowing some things. In fact, I don’t mind all that much being kept in the dark. I didn’t need to know about the brownie batter or the naked boy.

Do I dare admit I’d actually prefer not to know?

Is this terrible parenting? Perhaps. But what can I say? I just flat out didn’t want to know every move or mistake or mess of my children. Not with five of them. I mean isn’t there something old fashioned and kind of wonderful when an unsuspecting mother waltzes in and FINDS the naked child dancing with his spoon full of brownie batter?  Did I really have to be informed by a tattling sibling? Wasn’t she kind of spoiling the delight of my isn’t-he-darling-kind-of-surprise? We’re not talking about life and death matters here folks, we’re talking about naked toddlers and baked-good batter. Suffice it to say, I’ve never once entertained the urge to install nanny cams or video monitors around my house either. So after week one of the great intercom saga I found myself turning down (or off) the volume in certain (many) rooms from the main control panel. When the system finally went kaputt a couple of years later, I didn’t add it to the list of things to be fixed. I was perfectly happy to return to the archaic way of obnoxious screaming from room to room.

But back to that oh-so-not-relaxing shower. There I was smack dab in the middle of some serious tattling entrapment. As I was listening to my boy’s long litany of grievances, it (oddly enough) occurred to me that someday (yes, someday, not now, mind you, but someday) I might miss this. Someday I will glory in a silent shower or a hot cup of coffee or uninterrupted sleep, but I will, undoubtedly, wish someone was calling me mom. I know they will not always need me and, perhaps, not even always want me around for every little item in their lives. That time, however, feels incredibly distant right now -- or at least it did when I was stuck in the shower. I know the end result is that there will come a time when I won’t have to cut someone’s meat or match someone’s socks or wipe someone’s face.  But that day can seem impossibly far-flung to a mama who has a few young ones clinging to all parts of her body while she carefully steps around the multiplying piles of dirty laundry.

In these years of parenting, there have been a few seasons where my husband had to travel quite a bit. I remember one night after tucking all five children into bed, (approximately a three hour endeavor) I climbed into my own down-comforted cocoon bringing along a good book and a cup of Early Grey. Letting out an“ahhh...” of contentment, I settled back against the feather pillows of our bed. Within minutes I felt a pair of eyes upon me. Staring at me. I looked up from my book to find my young daughter, Sarah, standing quietly in the doorway.

"Honey, what's wrong?" I asked.

"Mom, are you sure you don't mind being all alone tonight?" She tenderly questioned.

I looked down at my book and my cup of tea and my feather pillows and my quiet...

She continued, "I mean, I feel bad that daddy is traveling and you have to be ALL ALONE. You must be so lonely...and well, I was laying in bed and feeling kind of sad for you. Do you want me to sleep with you?”

Now those of you mothers with multiple children reading this are completely aware of what was passing through my mind at that moment:  Hot tea. Good book. Soft Pillows. Quiet. Alone. Really Good.

"Um...no sweetie, I'm good...not lonely all all. Mommy’s just fine. Really.”

“Are you sure, mommy?” She asked one more time, still slightly doubting.

And with added emphasis I answered, “Mommy’s sure, honey.” 

You understand, right? I don’t need to explain how after a day of being available to everyone for everything, we women can be practically giddy with the thought of crawling deep into our alone time. However, this looked quite different from my child's perspective. After assuring her that mommy was not IN ANYWAY lonely, but was really and truly quite content, I persuaded her back down the hall and up into her own bed.

A few minutes later, I settled, back against my feather pillows. My cup of tea was a little cooler, but my thoughts ran a little deeper. I couldn't help but consider the tender heart behind her words. And I was sort of embarrassed with how for granted I can take my life. Embarrassed about how easily I forget it’s a blessing to be needed. It’s a blessing to be an object so desired. It’s a blessing to be a mother sought after. Lonely is not a word on which I regularly reflect. At least not right now.

But “having” loved ones is not something to take for granted, is it?  Having a boy who seeks you out (albeit in the shower) or a daughter who concerns herself with your sadness...well, these aren’t just moments of being “bothered,” these are actually some pretty terrific mother-blessings.  What if no one ever called your name? What if no one ever came to check in? That takes this stolen moment thing to a whole different level, doesn’t it?

       If we were to move through our days completely unneeded, that’s not a stolen moment, but a stolen life.

God created us for relationship. It wasn’t all that long after breathing life into Adam that he announced, “It is not good for man to be alone.” There’s great blessing in having someone or something need you. I am not, for one minute, going to pretend I don’t prefer showering alone -- of course I do. And alone time is absolutely essential, especially for busy mamas. But it is important, at least for me, to stop and remember what a gift it is to be sought after.

Just like God seeks after us. “And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those who are lost.”  (Luke 19:10). He isn’t like a tired mama hiding out in her kitchen, He’s out there vigilantly watching and wanting to know us. He is about the business of drawing us into His most intimate places. His eye is on the sparrow. His righteous hand is outstretched. His invitation has been delivered. Our Jesus is available. Always. There is no  place off limits when we seek His presence. When we arrive at His altar, we won’t find a sign saying “Off Duty” or “Gone Fishin!” We’ll never show up and find our God busy. It doesn’t work that way.

And what’s more, our God doesn’t only seek us, but He wants us to seek Him. He longs for us to call on His name. The Bible is packed full of His invitations. “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find Him, if you search after Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29). Tell me, are there any better words for the one who is needy? For the one who is weary? For the one who is lonely?  For the one who is lost? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7).

One thing I have learned about children in my couple of decades of motherhood, is that mostly what they want is to be heard. Lately, I’ve noticed my youngest has taken up the hobby of calling out my name. Just randomly and for no apparent reason I hear her from the other room say, “Mom?” I asked her about it a few days ago and you know what she told me? She said, “Mom, I just wanted to make sure you were there if I need you.” That was her main reason for the occasional callings of my name. And let me tell you, that is reason enough. Her explanation brought a few tears to this tired mama’s eyes. This little girl who spent her first two years in an orphanage of 3000, she knows the blessing of having someone to call mama. This tiny gal has taught me a thing or two about the blessing of being needed and being called often.

When I get a little worn out from the children calling out my name or crawling up on my legs. (Yes, they do that), I need only think about the number of times a day I cry out to my heavenly Father. Sometimes it seems we have this running dialogue going, this constant back and forth. I don’t think twice about seeking His presence. He’s there for me. He has shown me this over and over. No, He’s not a genie in a bottle, but He’s present and prepared to listen. His answer isn’t always yes, but He always hears.  And that’s everything to the child or grown woman crying out.

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”  ~ Jeremiah 29:12

 About the Author: Jody: stay-at-home mom ... mother of five ... advocate of adoption ... survivor of cancer ... taker of pictures ... teller of stories ... doer of laundry ... holder of hands ... follower of Jesus. Jody writes and speaks on finding finding grace and gratitude in the grit of motherhood, parenting, adoption and cancer. You can find her on the web at http://www.eventhesparrow843.blogspot.com