It never fails. I pick up the phone and suddenly my children—who had been quiet as lambs ten seconds earlier—morph into wild, bleating sheep desperate for every ounce of my attention.
This is especially lovely on business calls.
“Eeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!” A thud rattled the wall between my office and the living room, and a high-pitched wail rang through the house. My four-year-old came barreling down the hall holding her cheek in both hands.
“Mommy! I-I-I-I hurt myself!” She sputtered between gulps of air. Normally this is when I’d kneel beside my babe, wipe her rolling tears and gush out the motherly compassion. But I was on the line with a long-distance client, and we’d already spent three weeks trying to schedule the call. Terrible timing for personal injuries.
“Shhh, shh!” I cupped my palm over the receiver and held an index finger to my lips. My daughter only shrieked louder. Then her seven-year-old sister rushed in.
“We were dancing in the living room and she ran into the wall! It wasn’t my fault!”
I flailed my arms in maniac sign language. Please! Hush! Mom is on the phone! Can’t you SEE that?
And the answer is—no.
No, they cannot.
Oh sure, they see their mother, they see her holding an electronic gadget to her ear, and they might even hear the dear woman talking but all of this together means absolutely nothing in their “I’m hurt” or “I need a snack” world.
So what’s a mom to do?
Enter their world.
You probably have phone etiquette guidelines in your house. We do, too. Be quiet when Mom is talking. Do not interject with questions about my conversation. Do not beg for chocolate. Do not turn up the TV in annoying attempts to compete with my volume.
So we train. We correct. We start all over again the next time the phone rings. This is good. This is necessary. Someday the phone etiquette will sink in, just in time for our children to birth their own children and experience the joy of poetic justice.
But I’d like to suggest we moms look beyond the rules for a minute. Beyond the frustration, the embarrassment, or the feelings of isolation when it seems we can’t even talk to human beings outside our own walls, aaaaaahhh!
What do our kids want when we’re on the phone or focused on some other grown-up business? Do they want our help? Our sympathy? Another popsicle?
Yes, yes, and of course. But I think it’s even simpler than that.
They want our availability.
“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’” (Luke 18:16–17).
If we were truly like little children, we’d be vying for our Father’s presence constantly. We’d want to sit in his lap, hang on his words, ask question after question and beg him for blessings like candy. But God has a big job, people. He tends to every soul in the universe. He holds together the details of this world. He’s a busy guy, get it? God is always on the phone!
Yet he doesn’t shoo us away.
He invites us in.
God the Father is always available.
What if, instead of getting annoyed at our kids for tugging on our sleeves at the most inconvenience moments, we knelt down and hugged them? There’s time later to reinforce the rules, and you’d better believe I’m going to. But in the moment, fighting with our children will only further disturb our business and hurt their hearts. So why not take it as an opportunity to reinforce their security instead.
Because our kingdom is their kingdom, too.
“Girls, is everyone okay now?” I met them in the living room after I’d hung up the phone. My four-year-old sat on the couch with a stuffed animal pressed to her cheek, watching her sister play a math game on my iPad.
“Sorry we bothered you, Mommy.”
“You can always come to me when you’re hurt,” I said, and kissed her on the forehead.
“What about when we want marshmallows?”
Uhhh. . . about that phone etiquette training. Let us begin again.