“Mommy play with me?” I sighed quietly, staring at my desk in my home office, where piles of unfiled music and work stared back. My 3-year-old had fed, changed and walked her dolly all over the house in seven minutes. The dolly went nappie and my busy girl needed the next thing. The process of putting away and getting out toys repeated itself every ten minutes. One day, I let her just move from toy to toy with no clean-up in between. The chaos of sorting mixed up Little People, Duplos, baby dolls, play food and puzzles made a disheartening mess to eventually deal with.
Ministry tasks that should have taken an hour or so often took twice that time because my thought train consistently derailed whenever my sweet girl was around. Juggling the duties of ministry and parenting never ended. I felt like I dropped a lot of balls, all the time. In my last post I mentioned my failures prioritizing church work over mothering. Sometimes they were colossal, as I reflect back on those days of young motherhood. Praise God, my child never became bitter towards the church, no thanks to me. Many p.k.’s resent their church because it seems to be their parent’s top priority.
Too often Ken and I left our daughter alone at home or shipped off to friends so we could accomplish ministry tasks. For a child whose love language is quality time, this caused pain and loneliness more often than I like to imagine.
One of my favorite story themes is time travel. I love the movie “Peggy Sue Got Married,” in which the main character relives high school with the advantage of possessing adult experiences, wisdom and knowledge. With adult eyes it’s easy for her to see mistakes and wrong turns. Here’s what this Peggy Sue would change about my young parenting years:
- Prioritize my daughter during her awake hours. My most productive time is early morning til about 2:00 p.m. Instinctively I tried to do all my music ministry work in the mornings when my girl longed for a playmate so much. Instead of spending my evenings reading or watching television I could use those hours to work, instead of constantly fobbing off my daughter during her prime time. I’d ask God to honor my desire to parent my child better and equip me to work efficiently after her bedtime. In spite of my poor example, or maybe because of it, my daughter is a champion in this area. She makes the most of the awake hours of her three critters and still manages to teach college courses in composition AND maintain an outstanding, popular blog. (letterinoctober.com) When does she do cerebral work? My early bird girl (the two of us are often texting by 6:00 a.m.) plugs away during the evenings, after long days of mothering and housekeeping.
- Include her more in ministry work and events. I could have allowed Jennifer to work with me more. Yes, it might take a little longer to accomplish tasks, but if you ask Him, God is a fountain of creative ideas for blending work and parenting. My daughter does excellent work in this area also, but I can assure you she didn’t learn it in our home. A wiser, kinder me would now accept jobs slower and less perfect in exchange for making my child feel important and welcome to work alongside me sometimes.
- Say no to more invitations. Church folks and friends will come and go but your children will never stop being your children. Sometimes I prioritized other people’s needs over my own child. Accepting too many invitations left my girlie with sitters too often, again. I become teary-eyed when I think of the many times I left her for weddings, funerals, anniversary parties, etc. My fear of offending anyone caused me to say yes to much. Now, Ken and I would set appropriate boundaries for such things. Expecting yourself to attend all of those events in your situation will set you up for failure somewhere else, probably at home. Weddings especially, need firm boundaries as they involve the rehearsal and the wedding itself. People might be offended by your boundaries if they so choose, but remember your job is to please the Lord first and love your family second. All else comes after.
King David ruled his kingdom wisely but it seems that his parenting duties were sadly neglected. He chose to produce many children by several different women but there seems to be no evidence that he spent time with many of them, teaching them God’s ways. The fruit of his neglectful parenting is horrific, resulting in rape and murders within his own family and even an attempt to seize the throne by one of his sons. The latter part of David’s life, as recorded in 2 Samuel, is tragic for his family due to seeds sown when they children were small.
If you are a young parent, I plead with you not to make your children feel like they are less important than your ministry. Your actions will communicate far more to them than your words. Are your children grown and gone and maybe you have some regrets like I do? It’s still not to late too prioritize your sons and daughters, if you are welcome in their lives. If not, pray. Seek forgiveness and reconciliation. If you and your children are on good terms, then set aside some vacation time to be with them or do a vacation together. Invite them for meals or some other activity you both enjoy. You may have missed your chance to share their interests and passions when they were young so there might be some awkwardness there until you find some common ground. Press through. It’s up to you to decide whether your family will look more like King David’s or the Waltons.