You know what’s missing in a lot of families?
It’s the kind of thing you don’t notice is gone until it shows up again, out of nowhere.
“Mom, can you stay in for a bit?” My five-year-old looked up at me from her pillow. Hubby and I had just tucked the girls into bed, and like clockwork our little one popped this question. Every night, my girls want me to stay, to sit on the bunk stairs. They want to know I’m there and watching over them while they fall asleep.
And what’s my usual response? Not tonight—Mom has work to do, laundry to fold, books to read. There’s an endless to-do list waiting for me beyond this pink and purple room, tasks reserved for the sleeping-child hours, or should I say hour, singular. Some nights that’s all I get before my brain taps out.
I need my peace and quiet.
But I need to relish my kids, too.
So one night last week, I looked at my daughter’s lower bunk and decided—heck with the to-do list. Mom is wiped.
“Sure, I’ll stay.”
“You will?” She gasped with joy.
“Yep, but you have to move over so I can snuggle in your bed.”
“Yay!” Both girls squealed.
I climbed under a pony blanket, and my baby girl flung an arm across me. Her eight-year-old sister lounged on the top bunk with a chapter book and a flashlight. “Mom,” she whispered, “do you know the German word for butterfly? It’s in my book.”
“Butterfly?” I thought back to my years of German language class in high school and took a wild stab. “It’s buterflagen.”
“What?” The girls giggled.
“Buterflagen.” Pronounced, boo-ter-flah-gen. Naturally.
“Bwaaahaaa!” They cracked up, completely defeating the purpose of bedtime. I couldn’t help but bust out laughing, too.
“No, Mom, it’s schmetterling!” My eight-year-old cackled.
“Buterflagen, schmetterling—same thing.” I rolled on the mattress, savoring the sound of their laughter.
“Buterflagen, buterflagen!” My five-year-old laughed harder each time she said it, presumably because “buter” sounds like “bootay” which is, of course, her second favorite word next to “butt.” After a few minutes, all three of us were roaring so hard, our smile muscles hurt.
“Hey, what’s going on in there?” My husband shouted from the living room down the hall.
“Nothing,” I called back. . . . “Buterflagen!!” Aaaaackhaaaaa! And we started all over again.
I know—it’s dumb, right? A silly word for silly kids. You probably had to be there to appreciate the humor. But the point is, I realized as a mom I take myself way too seriously most of the time. Do you? Maybe we all could benefit from a little more silliness.
“When the LORD brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the LORD has done for them.’ Yes, the LORD has done amazing things for us! What joy!” (Psalm 126: 1–3, NLT).
Most days I’m focused on being the responsible adult, the one God put in charge of two little people who need guidance and training and discipline. I have lessons to teach and wild behavior to curb. Work to do, deadlines to meet, meals to sauté and toilets to scrub. I’ve got grown-up worries, okay, people? Parenting is serious business! No time for goofing off!
Except God has done amazing things for us, has he not? He created these miracles we call children and landed them in our arms to love and cherish. They are a joy. What joy!
Why then is it so hard to act joyful?
Yes, I know, sometimes the kids bicker, whine and disobey—and we don’t much feel like laughing. I get that, I really do. Yet it’s all the more reason to take advantage of the times when nothing is holding us back except our own preoccupations.
Laugh. Smile. Enjoy God’s amazing gifts. It’s okay, more than okay. It’s biblical. Did you catch what happens when God’s faithful ones laugh?
“And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the LORD has done for them.’” (verse 2)
When we are joyful, people see God in us.
And can you guess who needs to see God in us first and foremost?
So laugh, sweet mommas. Laugh a lot. Laugh ‘til your stomach hurts. Make up crazy words like “buterflagen,” which in our house is now the family code for “Mom is super fun.”
My family is a joy. Your family is a joy. Christians should be the laughingest people in all the world. And yes, I just made up another word—laughingest—but hey, at least that one passes for English. My apologies to Frau Brunet from junior year German class. Although, let’s be honest, schmetterling? That’s weird, too.