from an article originally posted May 2, 2014...
Years ago my dear Mickey offered me advice at the just right moment. That advice took deep roots and has followed me through my parenting. Mickey was my greatest champion of nursing my babies. When I felt weary and wanted to stop I would call her for her encouragement.
But she told me children moved from nursing to nussing, as she called it. She explained that even when the special time of nursing stops, the gentle time with mama needs to continue. When Jason and I have our special places to sit and read, my chair is always the oversized one. Simply put, it has space for each of my babies to sit close. And this close time never ends.
Here was the great challenge Mickey gave me, and I offer to you today. She said as girls and boys enter adolescence they try and run from this much needed mama snuggle. Their brains are developing at such a rapid rate, and they are trying to get their own footing in life and cool, that they push away from mama. Mickey challenged me. This is when the hard work of mothering really begins. She said, as mamas we must push, push, push into their space. Hugs, hair brushing, hand holding, anything. But to keep touching, loving moving towards them even if they are abrasive to our pursuit. Don’t let them push away.
What often happens in these years, girls and boys push away and we allow ourselves to be pushed. Then high school comes, and they desperately need our affection, but what feels like an ocean separates us. They don’t have the skills to communicate their need for affection and love so they turn to other places to find fulfillment. When we allow space and distance, it is hard to begin to move back towards it. The time of middle school is critical that we move, move, move towards our children in affection. Then high school come, a natural closeness will remain. The habit of affection will have been established and nurtured. If you have an older child that feels distance, all is not lost. My dear Mickey moved towards me at 17, and I was won. This is not impossible. But if you have young ones, intention now, think on this big love now, pray for yourself now to meet this challenge of affection.
The other day I picked Ella up from school after she had hurt her head. I came to my friend’s house, and sweet Ella practically sat on my lap she sat so close. She holds my hands when we drive in the car. And last night, after watching my friend give me a massage, she asked if she could try and give me one like my friend did.
My friend texted me how she loved how close Ella was to me. She commented how she snuggled in to me. Then I remembered Mickey and her wisdom. It had become so much of the fabric of my living, I forgot that I had been taught this love. I remembered the gentle words from Mickey that changed the fabric of my days, and I realized I needed to share them here. It has not always been my practice. I was the girl that was prickly in middle school and lost in high school seeking affection from all the wrong places. Now, I’m changed—love does that.
Brennan Manning said at a retreat I attended to not SHOULD on other people. I’m sorry to say that is exactly what I’m doing here. But I hope he would give me a pass—as I’m begging us all to move toward love and affection that we all desperately crave.
I see such a difference in Ella compared to me at her age. She is soft, gentle, open to being loved in a way I never was. She captures love well, and she gives it generously to those that enter her embrace. All because a loving mama took the time to explain the importance of affection and moving towards our children and never away, even when they push. That moving is the high calling of parenting. To be adult when our children are edgy, prickly, hard, and move into their space with love and affection is our highest calling.
If my children and I have not connected well for a season, I grab my giant bottle of lotion that smells like Hawaii (I bought it just before we went on the trip) and I quietly rub each of their feet. Jesus washed feet, I rub them, but I believe at the heart of both actions is love. Humble, gentle, I care about you, even if we have not met each other in kindness today, specific love.
Today, I am speaking specifically to mamas. These principals are very true for daddies as well, but today I’m speaking from my mama heart to yours. This was not how I have always been. One kind woman took the time to train me, to show me, and to be my champion. Mickey is a treasured friend that has not only shown me affection, she taught it to me. She is a delight to speak with about any of the troubles in life. She will often prescribe them as a lack of mothering. When she sees someone that needs mothering, she steps right in. She sees love as a never ending well that we as mamas get to pull from. Isn’t it true? love has no limit. None. Zero.
It isn’t simple this moving, ever moving toward our children as they grow. We imagine it will be natural, but it is something we must intention with our children. Moving in love that we may not feel. We may feel the pull of the endless screens and quiet. But children need joy, they need love, they need to see us living. So we move past what we feel, and move toward them. Won’t you join us? Move in love, move towards grace, and meet them in an embrace. They need you. Your BIG love matters!
So plop down closer on the couch than you usually do, brush hair just because, hold hands, kiss a forehead, nuss very close to your kids of all sizes. I double dog dare you to buy lotion especially for bedtime, something soothing, and don’t rush it. Ask questions of their heart, and move near to your children—all sizes. And if their feet are ticklish, do their hands. Big love changes things. It will change you—it has certainly changed this mama. What a privilege it is to get to be a mama of my babies. I’m so richly blessed. I have today; I’m praying I spend it in as much love as I know how.
So where have you met the edges of your children and let them push you away? Where has an attitude, a behavior, an eye roll pushed you away from one of your loves? How can you move toward them today? How can you begin to gently pull them back into your love for them? What areas in your life do you need to repent that has caused you to dislike or move away from a child? How can you ask for forgiveness, and begin to move toward, ever toward that difficult child? Perhaps you were like me, and ran from love at an early age, and beginning to move in gentleness feel foreign to you. Perhaps, these moves will feel uncomfortable for a season; trust me, it will become more natural. Love has a way of being a quick teacher.