I’m not a big gardener, but I grew up watching a vital truth unfold as my mother poured effort into her garden day after day, seeing no visible results at first, but knowing the results would come. I would get impatient staring at bare soil after hours spent tilling and planting and weeding, but she’d say, “Just wait. Keep going. You’ll see some great things in time.”
I was reminded of that recently when something amazing happened with my 12-year-old daughter. Something totally unexpected, but which I realize in retrospect was the result of day after day, season after season, of tilling and planting and weeding in my relationship with her.
Many working moms like me worry about not having quite enough time with our kids, or about missing key moments. We know full well that the line about “what kids need is quality time” is a feel-good cop-out. The sober truth is, we know kids need both quality time and quantity time. They need our availability in their lives on a day-by-day basis – both to simply “be there” but also to catch those moments of opportunity that are completely unplanned. Many is the night that I’ve thanked God I was not on a plane somewhere and was instead there to put my daughter to bed (yes, that is still our routine and I pray it never changes!) and pray with her during an unexpected moment when she dissolved into ‘my friends-were-mean-to-me-again’ tears.
But the fact is: I’ve missed a lot of moments, too. While I was out speaking at a women’s retreat, or at a meeting, or on a book deadline, I have missed many chances to share, and cry, and pray and celebrate with my kids.
And because I have, I’ve tried to be so purposeful about both quality and quantity time during those times and seasons when I am home. My 9-year-old son is still young and distractible enough he is perfectly happy playing just one game of cards and will bounce away to play the Wii with no desire for a longer conversation. OK, then! But I have worried whether my necessary work hours are taking me away too much from my growing daughter as she navigates the perils of middle school, as she develops and changes, and as she transitions into a young woman with an identity all her own.
Which brings me to the moment that I wanted to savor, when God gave me a sweet peek into the fact that despite my many failings, the relationship between my growing daughter and me is being built.
See, she’s only recently begun to enjoy going shopping for clothes and shoes. She has very little patience if she’s with me when I shop for clothes, but if we make it quick she will enjoy looking together for one or two items of clothing for her. After months of pressing for a real shopping excursion for some winter clothes, she finally agreed. So after church last Sunday, we set off for the store. We parked, and as we walked toward the entrance, out of the blue she said, “I like shopping with you.”
I chortled. “Yeah, right. As long as we’re getting you a few clothes.”
Very seriously, she slid her hand into mine (remember, she’s a middle schooler!) and said, “No, I just like hanging out with you.”
Oh, that I could freeze that moment in time. I may not have a physical picture of that moment, but I sure have a mental and emotional one. And in my mind’s eye, that snapshot is labeled, “Keep going. You’ll see some great things in time.”