Last Monday, I went to Hobby Lobby with a list in hand. As I walked from the parking lot to the store, there was a young mother walking in front of me with a little boy who was probably three or four years old. He was crying and she had him by the hand and was pulling him along with her. He was not happy and judging by her body language, neither was she.
Some days it’s really difficult to be a parent. I know that. When my three children were small and my days were an endless cycle of holding, feeding, dressing, bathing, homework and laundry, I felt like I would be exhausted forever. I suspect many parents have felt that way at one time or another.
I felt badly for the young mother and for the child. I wanted her to stop and hug and comfort him. From experience, I know that our words and actions toward our children have such an important impact on them.
On Wednesday, I watched a movie on Netflix called “Ragamuffin.” It’s based on the life of Rich Mullins, a Christian singer/songwriter who grew up on a tree farm in my home state of Indiana. Rich spent his entire life struggling with insecurity and brokenness that was a result of growing up with a father who couldn’t or wouldn’t show him love. His father was very hard on him and his father’s words haunted Rich throughout his life even though he was an incredibly gifted musician.
I thought about Rich Mullins and his story all day yesterday while I worked at the pharmacy, then last night, I watched American Idol. It’s the 15th and final season and Kelly Clarkson, the very first American Idol, sang on the show.
She sang a song from her latest album that she wrote with Gregory Kurstin about her father leaving when she was just six years old. In the song called “Piece By Piece” she says that seeing the kind of father her husband is to their own daughter has helped to restore her faith in men and in fathers.
“Piece by piece, he restored my faith
That a man can be kind and a father should be great”
~from the song, Piece By Piece
All of this has made me reflect on the important privilege of parenting this week. I wish I could tell the mother from Hobby Lobby what an important role she is playing in her young son’s life. I wish I could tell her how quickly those busiest parenting years are over.
We care for, worry about, and love them for years and then one day, they are all grown up and gone and our houses are quiet. No one needs their noses wiped or their shoes tied or want to sit on our laps anymore. There’s no one asking for help with homework or for gas money or for advice in choosing a college.
And we miss it. We miss the little hands in ours and the sweet faces of the children who called us “mama” or “daddy” and trusted us completely. We miss the teenagers who surprised us with a hug or a long chat or a “thank you” for something we did so very willingly out of love for them.
I wish I could tell that young mother to savor this time with her child and to make every moment count. Because one day, she will think back on the days when he was growing up and she will wish she could do it all again, piece by piece.