I was such a busy mom.
I hope I haven’t lost you already by using the b-word or given you the impression you are twenty-five words into an Op-Ed piece entitled Back in My Day.
Still. I raised my children in a day when busy was admittedly less busy than busy is today. It was a time when disposable diapers were just emerging, a play-date meant seeing cousins at the occasional birthday party, soccer moms hadn’t yet been invented and social media wasn’t in the dictionary.
But the busy I was guilty of practicing is the worst kind of busy of all–the most destructive busy.
I was busy in my head.
I didn’t realize it then, in those pre-diagnoses days, how un-present I actually was or how disconnectedly I navigated my life.
I’m tempted to sling around some caustically self-deprecating content right here but I’m going to refrain and include, instead, that I remember being an affectionate mother who took good physical care of her babies. I definitely wasn’t the worst as mothers go. Motherhood was my purpose and provided me with an identity, which dear reader, is an entirely separate confession and conversation for another time.
The sad truth is that my parenting style was geared less to each individual child and more group directed, like that of an overbred dog tending her litter of pups.
As a grandmother, on the other hand, I am and have always been all in when it comes to being engaged and present. When my grandchildren appear, my face reveals the joyous love I have for them and the extreme delight I take in being with them. When I’m with them they are all that I see; they are all I care about at that moment. They don’t get my absentminded uh huhs and preoccupied that’s nice honey.
To enjoy them is effortless and obvious.
Child cannot live by grandmother alone so I’m happy my perfectly wonderful little cherubs have parents who provide the discipline and limits I do not. I’m equally happy to produce the pom-poms their parents don’t always have time to shake.
And, the truth is, I secretly hope that in some small way my children’s observation of me with their children might serve as a balm of comfort to any wounds I inflicted upon them.
The adage is true,
You survived childhood so you can survive anything!
And here’s why I mention this at all. I’m not so sure abuse and emotional neglect had as much of a devastating impact on my life as growing up without the assurance that I was loved and wanted and enjoyed. Without those components, which I believe we were created to require, I did not come to know that I had worth as a person, that I was an individual with God-given dignity, separateness, and the security of one fully welcomed and embraced.
Knowing that you belong to the human race or to your family is different than knowing you are an individual who knows what it means to be enjoyed.
My granddaughter Ruby was born six years after my daughter gave birth to her third son. Each of Leah’s children was joyously anticipated but Ruby’s arrival was extra special because she was a daughter! This little girl-child was born into a company of people who absolutely adored her and from day one of her existence, this joy cherub was surrounded by the faces of beaming brothers as well as parents, relatives, and friends who delighted in her. Their responses affirmed her desirability.
Ruby was nurtured in a way that left her absolutely certain, even later in the face of life disruptions, that she is loved, desired, delighted in, and deeply enjoyed.
“For the Lord your God is living among you…He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zeph. 3:17 NLT
I was a few decades into my life with Christ before I could truly wrap my heart around the concept that Almighty God is a real Dad who wants me around; that He loves spending time with me; that He delights in me, nurtures me and rejoices over me…with songs even!
During my emotional seizures, this truth doesn’t sit neatly inside me. In those times of imbalance, I am too easily able to produce fickle reasons why it is true for everyone else but not me. I have learned, even while in the throws of periodic mental health storms, to accept this fact. It’s not always easy.
I must remind myself that my experiences and emotions cannot strip Truth of its truthiness.
I can’t go back and experience a better childhood and I’m not allowed a do-over for the ways I neglected to assure my children of their desirability and wantedness.
In my post-parenting state of regret, I’ve determined to display delight in my adult children when I’m with them. Hopefully, my enjoyment of them is palpable for them.
Do you find yourself unable to wrap your heart around the truth that God delights in you, enjoys you and loves you with a heart of gladness? May I challenge you to write Zephaniah 3:17 on a piece of paper and read it out loud every hour, on the hour, each day, for twenty-one days? Oh no! Another formula you say! I dare you to try it!
You are desired and you are enjoyed. You truly are loved with God’s heart of gladness and delight.
There’s another good reason to make peace with our need for experiencing what it is to be enjoyed. We get to pass it down and pass it along. How much do you suppose it would encourage those we come into contact with if we greeted and/or received them with genuine expressions of delight? What if our countenance and our actions expressed a message of:
There you are! It’s so good to be with you! Tell me everything.
I think you’ll agree that this world is full of hurting hearts and scrappy upbringings; full of people who could use a few more reminders of their God-given immutable dignity and right to be enjoyed.
We can do this.