While tweaking my Facebook timeline the other day, I came across an old video I posted years ago when my son was only 5. He was sitting on one end of the couch, leaning on our (then) puppy. I was on the other end. In one hand he held an apple; he twisted the other in the long and shaggy fur of that dog. He was looking right at me as I recorded our talk.
With a smile that reached his eyes, he told me he had a loose tooth. I asked if I could touch it and he looked at me sideways and told me not to pull. My hand appeared on camera as I gently wiggled that bottom baby tooth. The puppy jumped up to sneak a lick on the apple. My sweet boy broke out into a giggle, free and fun. I laughed, too.
That three-minute video encapsulates the relationship I have with my son. I love how relaxed he was, how quick he was to smile. And I love that we had that time. I love that I sat with him to talk about his tooth and that we watched the dog try to catch a snack. It is not the video that I so adore, it's the moment itself.
It is a reminder to me of what is actually needed. We often hear from the world around us that we must provide for our children big, BIG things. We feel expected to offer expensive vacations and floods of material goods. We hear from others that we must know the right words, share meaningful wisdom, and know, at all times, what we should be doing. While we all wish to give good gifts, the most important gift for us to offer is our presence.
Our kids need us, not our stuff. They need us present with them. They need us to notice them, and touch them, and hold them, and hear them. They need us to know about their adventures and about their dreams. They need us to wiggle their loose teeth and to laugh at the dog. They need us to revel in their very being just because they are here. We help our children to see God and that does not happen from a distance.
They need us to remember and to remind them that they are made in God’s image and are gifts to us. They need our attention and our direction, our discipline and our delight. And it does not matter at all how old our children are; the affirmation is needed, just the same. Our God did not leave us on our own--he came down to dwell among us and show us what love looks like. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)" (Matthew 1:23). This is what love looks like: God went the distance to draw us back into fellowship.
Watching a video of my 5-year-old son helped me remember this truth. Life with our children is not so much about doing things as about being with them today. Because all of those moments we share together add up to a history shared. And there will never be a material good or an expensive trip that can substitute for what a parent's presence means in the life of a child.
Our children need us with them delighting in relationship. This how we point to our God who rejoices over us with singing.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra