All kids have “love tanks” – deep wells within their hearts which hold the fuel they run on: love.
What happens when those tanks run low? I’m no expert, but I can tell you what happens when my Jubilee’s tank is low.
“Mom, what did you buy at the store? Hi Mom. Mom? Mom, where’d you go? Mom, do you have an itch on your leg? Mom, Mommmm? [knock, knock] Mom, are you going potty? Did you have a dream last night? Mom? Hi Mom.”
[Insert something about me feeling INCREDIBLY smothered and frustrated]
When her tank gets low, there is little that can be done but drop everything I’m doing and fill it. That is sometimes quite inconvenient, particularly if we have an engagement for which we cannot be late, or if I must get the gratin potatoes into the oven in time for dinner guests, or if I am literally in the shower with shampoo threatening to run into my eyes.
But there is a better way: prevention. My mom taught me this lesson when I first became a mother myself in 2005.
“You give them 10 minutes of your undivided attention every day, and they will give you hours of space and time,” my mom said.
Wise words, I’ve found. Ten minutes is not that much, but so often we don’t give them even that. I’m not talking about a hurried question in their direction while we push them through the grocery store. I’m not talking about asking them how they slept while we rake a brush through their hair during the morning routine. What my mom meant was completing an entire puzzle together, or sitting down across the table with them and drinking entire mugs of hot chocolate.
Or washing broccoli together, as was the case for me and my little Jubilee this week. For the umpteenth time that day, she followed me to where I was going, stopped where I stopped at the refrigerator door, and asked, “Can I help you, Mom?”
This time I didn’t say no.
“Sure,” I said. “How about you wash the broccoli?”
Rarely have I seen her get more excited. She jumped and squealed with pure delight. And then she quickly switched gears. She was all-business with that broccoli, I tell you, running each small green tree under the water and scrubbing it with her deft brown hands, before piling it carefully into the steamer basket in the pot. I was impressed, and I told her so. She beamed. We talked about lots of things while we prepped for the meal, just Jubi and me. It was a precious parenting moment, and I dare say it was life-giving for her. I could almost see her tank filling before my eyes.
And all the next day, Jubilee did not follow me everywhere I went. The day was marked with peace, and quick hugs on the fly. It was glorious.