Children bring poetic justice to a marriage.
Last week, my hubby planned a hunting trip to the cabin. And our seven-year-old was not happy.
“Daddy, don’t go!” She pressed her nose into my husband’s shoulder, clutching his arms and staining his dark shirt with tears.
“Hey, lovey, you’ll be fine. I’m only going to be gone for a few days!” He smoothed her hair and let her climb onto his lap.
“But Daddy, I’m going to miss you!” Her nose dripped onto his camouflage vest, and she squeezed her leaky eyelids in heartache.
“I’m going to miss you, too, sweetheart.” My husband raised his eyes to mine, looking for solidarity or assistance, or both.
“Come on, sweets, Dad has to go now. It’s getting late.”
“Nooo! I want Daddy to stay.”
“Alright,” my husband caved. “I’ll stay here until you fall asleep.” God bless him, he tucked our daughter into bed with a stash of tissues and sat beside her until she stopped sniffling.
Sweet girl. I felt her pain. Truth—I was darn near smug about her pain.
Because it’s my pain, too.
And she could freely express what I could not.
I’ve never been a big fan of hunting trips. Not because my husband doesn’t need the time away—he does, I support it, and he’s a happier guy for it. But let’s be selfishly honest. I miss his company when he’s gone, and mommy life is easier when he’s home to share the load.
So when my daughter fell apart, I agreed completely in my heart, but as her mom I had to buck up and preach the opposite of what I felt. As if my mouth and my brain were at odds.
What I said: It’ll be alright.
What I was really thinking: I hate it, too.
Said: Daddy needs this time to recharge. It’s good for his soul.
Thought: Where’s MY forest hideaway?
Said: I know you’ll miss Dad, but we’re going to have a really fun week together!
Thought: Three days on solo mom duty—heaven help me.
Said: And when Dad gets home on Friday, he’ll bring you a turkey feather. Won’t that be cool?
Thought: Then he’ll feed you frozen pizza for dinner while I escape to Kohl’s for shopping therapy.
When my daughters were younger, I used to mope whenever my husband left overnight. Now that the girls are old enough to miss him, too, they do the moping for me.
And my role shifts.
Instead of pouting, I must be strong.
Instead of complaining, I console.
Instead of expecting to be served, I serve.
Huh. Who does that sound like?
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them,” (John 13:14–17).
This passage comes from the last supper, the final gathering of Jesus and his twelve disciples before he was arrested and crucified. He chose that opportunity to deliver a key lesson—the importance of serving one another in humility.
Now think about that. Jesus knew he was about to go to the cross. So if anybody had a right to throw a pity party at that moment, it was him.
But he didn’t.
He chose instead to look with urgency to other people’s needs—weaker people who needed guidance and wisdom. People whom he knew would need to trust him when everything tanked.
And what did he tell them?
Do what I do. Forget whatever you think you’re entitled to and serve each other.
And then—you will be blessed.
As I read those words in preparation for Easter last week, I couldn’t help but apply it to my own hubby’s-gone-a-hunting grumbling. Jesus is saying that when I shift my eyes from my own wants and heartache to the needs of others, I will be blessed. And it’s true.
Consoling my daughter forced me to find a brighter perspective on our circumstances. Yes, major bummer that Dad is gone, but hey! We can go out for supper and skip the dishes! We can watch movies and eat ice cream! We can have a slumber party in Mom’s bed! And when Dad comes home, he’ll be less stressed and extra happy to see us. What a bonus!
Do you see? Children give us a built-in opportunity to see our lives in a more positive light. When they fret, we cheer. When they fear, we fight for their courage. And somehow we parents glean a little cheerfulness and bravery of our own in the process.
My husband returned on Friday to a messy house and three smiling girls—two daughters, one mom—and together we discovered that caring for each other is, in itself, a form of happiness.
That, and ice cream is a breakfast food.