Parent to Parent
If there is one sound every parent knows with absolute certainty, it is the plaintive wail of their child in distress. It’s the cry that jolts parents of toddlers out of a deep slumber, or threatens to stop the heart of parents with teens when heard through a phone line. Stronger and more effective than ten shots of espresso, God wove into the fiber of parent’s very being an innate ability to hear and respond to our children’s cries. With three sons, I have plenty of stories of heart stopping distress calls (and the grey hairs to prove it!) stored among my not-so-favorite adventures in motherhood memories.
One such call came, innocently enough, during a visit to a brand new indoor playground when I was seven months pregnant with our third child. Pregnancy and I were never BFFs and this third one was my most difficult one. I had been on partial bed rest with an IV to feed me for six months. Looking back on it now, I clearly see the outline for some sort of horror movie, but at the time I just knew that I felt well enough to take out my IV line, tape up the area around the needle in my arm, and pack up my toddler and preschooler for an outing. They were excited, I was excited. Birds and woodland creatures may have been singing and dancing around us as I buckled them into their car seats. Okay, that may have been my over Disney movie fried brain imagining things, but trust me when I say that we were all excited to get out of the house!
Everything started out just as wonderful as can be. There was a safe check in zone, we were all given wrist bands with matching numbers for safety. The space was climate controlled, and happy children ran and played all around us. The boys made a beeline for a brightly colored maze, the toddler running that adorable little toddler run to keep up with big brother. I followed their progress and was right there to smile and wave at each little porthole window they peaked out of. Feeling a bit queasy, I went to a nearby bench to sit down for a bit. A short time later, my eldest zoomed past me, on to bigger challenges. All seemed well with the world. I’m not sure how much time passed before I heard the wail. As distinctive as a bat signal calling the superhero into action, I knew that sound – my little one was in trouble.
Jumping up, I searched frantically through those primary colored tubes for my son. Finally spotting him way up in a tower of terror I ran to the base of the monstrosity. “Troy, I’m here baby. Look down, see, mommy’s here!” I shouted. My little peanut somehow got himself up into one of the tallest parts of the structure with only a twisting tunnel slide or tiered platforms to bring him back to earth. His wailing increased as I called to him, “go on the slide. Mommy will be at the bottom of the slide waiting for you.” Dark curls stuck to his panicked face as he vehemently shook his head, “no!” Slightly embarrassed by the disapproving glances other parents were casting in my direction I said, “Okay baby, you don’t have to go down the slide, just crawl back down the way you came up. I’m right here to catch you.” His sobs grew louder as he curled into the fetal position, refusing to face the mountain alone.
Looking desperately around for help, I spotted big brother standing nearby with concern etched on his features. “Garrett!” I called, “Please go up and get your brother! Help him down!” With the bravery of a white knight and responsibility bred into first born children, my eldest scrambled up to his shaking and wailing little brother. His little lisp was pronounced as he tried to coax, cajole, beg and then strong arm his brother to sit on his lap and go down the slide with him. Troy was adamant, only mommy could help him. Looking around helplessly, not one adult bothering to make eye contact, I realized I would need to squeeze up the tower myself.
To make a long story a bit shorter, suffice it to say that I did indeed make it up to my boy (I’ve mentioned that I was seven months pregnant, with an IV, wearing a dress right?) with all the grace and elegance of a buffalo ice skating. I took him in arms until he calmed down, and then held his hand as we navigated the way back down the tower to safety. There are several points to this story that are significant to the text we have been studying all week (helping a fellow human in need is a post for another time).
When my child needed me, he needed my arms around him and my hand in his, as we navigated down that play structure. I couldn’t just call out directions; I needed to physically show him the way. That’s our job as parents, to guide and direct our children not as armchair observers but hand in hand. Why is it that we respond to the cries of our children when they are in physical distress with such urgency yet often allow the business of daily life eclipse the urgency to nurture their relationship with our Lord and Savior? Jesus said to His disciples, “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life.” He didn’t say he was one way, like the option of going down a slide or a tiered tower to reach safety, He said He is THE Way.
My friends, your children need this truth spoken to them. They need you to take their hands in theirs and show them the Way, teach them the Truth, marvel with them at the Life that we have in Jesus. Finally, dear parents, I pray that you remember that Jesus is even more attuned to your cries, your laughter, your questions, and your hearts than you are to your children’s. He knows your voice in a sea of voices and will move heaven and earth to come to you. You are not trapped in a scary place huddled and alone. Look down, Jesus is holding your hand, guiding you in His truth, showing you His way and giving you His life.
I know many devout Christians who are terrified to pray out loud. For one reason or another, the thought of talking to God in front of others distresses them, even if it’s just praying out loud in front of family. However, I have never met a parent who doesn’t love hearing their child’s voice. Is there anything better than having your child share their thoughts and dreams with you? If you are the parent of a tween or teen, have you begun to miss the days when your little darling would hop in the car and recount their day for you? As parents, we love our children and long to hear from them. That’s a fraction of how dear your voice is to God. You don’t expect your children to lay out their discussions with you in any particular order, or tell them you will only listen to them if they use the correct words, do you? No! You just want them to talk to you, draw close to you, and share with you.
I have a challenge for you; Try modeling an active prayer life for your child, and involving them whenever possible. Some things we have done in my family include praying out loud whenever we hear an emergency vehicle, stopping to pray prayers of thanksgiving when we are feeling anything but thankful, and reading a verse in Scripture together and praying for wisdom to understand the richness of God’s Word. Honestly, many of these things happen in the car or in passing in our household nowadays, but I want my boys to know that this is just something we do. Even now, actually, especially now, as they are older and the temptations of the world invade more and more. Find what fits for your family, and help your children by praying with them, for them and out loud!
Children's Ministries Director