I had this great moment of realization and reassurance awhile back.
My oldest was asked to babysit for a friend. Her boys are at just the right age for his first experiences babysitting for someone other than his siblings all on his own. I was impressed to see how enthusiastic he was in this adventure and her boys were happy to have a “boy babysitter”! The thing is that I recognize how rare of an opportunity this is. No matter how much of a natural instinct boys have for caring for children it is always going to be the girls that will get a call to babysit first. I get it…when Sam and Jake were still young enough that they needed a sitter and the girls were just little I didn’t feel quite comfortable having another young man in the house to make sure they got into their jammies, tucked them in and give them a snuggle if they needed it. Somehow that worked okay for a young woman to take care of those things with my boys but not the other way around. Having said that I have met a few guys over the last few years that I may have reconsidered for and my experience as a momma of older boys has given me some perspective on that as well.
The thing is, there are important things that happen in the evenings when kids are settled in at home, safe and secure surrounded by familiar walls. There are routines that are followed and discussions about life that don’t need to be rushed. These happen as kids are getting ready for bed, winding down from their day and remembering the many different occurences both important and unimportant and they feel the need to release them before closing their eyes to rest. In these moments, as a parent, I am able to see into the depths of their heart, feel the anguish at the struggles they’ve faced and rejoice in the successes they’ve experienced. Then I can bring them before our Creator, the one who feels and sees all of it better than me, and ask for His guidance, protection, wisdom, and blessing on their lives.
But when I’m not there I know it doesn’t happen the same…they do it for each other or the sitter that we’ve entrusted them to does their best to emulate those moments but his/her job is more about supervision, care, ensuring the routines of pjs, teeth brushing, eyes closing are followed. Sometimes I’ve wondered, do these young people even value or understand those moments before these precious children close their eyes and the comfort they find in the words spoken over them. Do they know that they have the ability to influence, powerfully the view their charges have of their own faith.
Sam’s first experience, helped me to know that all the moments we’ve spent praying together, the young people we’ve had in our home who have cared for them and the routines we’ve established in our own home have, indeed, given him perspective on how important prayer is, even when it feels like those prayers have become redundant.
As he came home, ecstatic with his newly acquired wealth, he laid out his night for me. “We played this and that, then we did this, then that. So and so got into bed and then got out. But they did good.” It was clearly a great experience. Then I asked for the lowdown on bedtime. Curious to know how my son handled getting two youngsters into bed that would likely be more inclined to listen to him than his own siblings. What routines did he follow, was he patient, kind, understanding, etc. Then he surprised me with a little tidbit.
“I prayed with them to mom.”
“What, sorry, you prayed with them?”
“Yup, just a quick prayer after they climbed into bed.”
A moment passed and as I looked at my sweet, young man I realized that in those many moments of night time routines, the most significant things I was able to give him was my time and my faith. Even if the words I prayed over him were the same seven nights in a row because I was too tired to give more thought to my prayers, that few minutes of giving him back to his Heavenly Father resonated so deeply in his soul that he knew it was something to be passed along. Not just for his siblings but for those other children entrusted to his care.
I was struck by how little I understand of my impact on my children and how that branches into the lives of the many paths we cross, over the years. While I still sometimes roll my eyes and sigh when the kids ask me to climb into bed and pray for them, snuggle them, talk with them and I still act selfishly on those really exhausting nights, when I know that 9:30 signifies “my time”. I have this little nugget of discussion that helps me to get back on track and reminds me to value the short time I have with them in my home. And even better, I have evidence that God is working even when I’m not:)